The Difference Between Men and Women

Women as a market segment, have become increasingly important to marketers, as women buy or influence the purchase of 80% of all consumer goods including family health care and other major purchases. Women own 48% of all shares in the stock market. According to the U.S Census Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2000, the number of women in occupations with high earnings is still growing. In 2000, 47 percent of full time wage and salaried workers in executive, administrative, and managerial occupations were women. There are more than 9,000,000 woman-owned businesses in the U.S, generating 3.6 trillion dollars in annual revenues. Still, many marketers haven’t adjusted their strategies to effectively appeal to women.

Studies by researchers across 37 countries confirm women are generally able to read body language and facial expressions better than men. Medical researchers have discovered the corpus callosum fibers connecting the brain’s left and right hemispheres are more developed in women than men, resulting in women being more receptive to contextual and intuitive brand messages. Therefore, when both a woman and a man view a commercial, their perceptions of the message may be altogether different.

Men and women even respond differently to identical environmental influences.

According to a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin, women notice and recall 70% more detail in their environments than do men. Also, women hear, acquire, and use language in a unique way, accounting for the fact that little girls speak earlier than little boys and articulate their feelings more easily.

Men tend to see life as a series of contests they must conquer to maintain personal status. When a man sees a beer commercial he thinks, “How can I achieve that lifestyle?” A woman who sees the same commercial thinks something completely different. Men are also likely to think in a linear manner and validate themselves though their accomplishments, while women are likely to validate themselves through their relationships.

Men and women differ in just about every way including their buying behavior. Women do have a greater affinity for what we think of as shopping — walking at a relaxed pace through stores, examining merchandise, comparing products and prices, interacting with sales staff, asking questions, trying things on, reading labels and ultimately, making purchases. Even when shopping for mundane everyday necessities, even when the shopping experience brings no particular pleasure, women tend to do it in a thoughtful, agreeable manner. Women take pride in their ability to shop prudently and well. What makes women such heroic shoppers? According to a study conducted by British psychologist David Lewis, “nature-over-nurture” advocates make out that the prehistoric role of women as homebound gatherers of roots, nuts and berries, rather than roaming hunters of game, prove a biological predisposition towards skillful shopping.

For many women, there are psychological and emotional aspects of shopping that are absent in men. Women tend to evaluate the pros and cons of every purchase. Men spend less time looking. It’s difficult to get them to look at anything they hadn’t intended to buy. They usually don’t ask questions such as where things are. They shop to complete a mission, so to speak.

When shopping online, however, it’s a different scenario. Women now comprise 63% of all online buyers, according to Tiffany Bass Bukow, founder of MsMoney.com. Men typically use the Internet for entertainment, whereas women use it to save time. Today’s woman is time-starved and must assume the roles of mother, business executive and “household CEO,” while still making time for themselves. Netsmart’s survey of 1,000 US households found most women rely on the Internet to save time, simplify their lives, and help them make smarter decisions. Online shopping accommodates those needs. When shopping online, women look for a relationship in addition to convenience. Women enjoy websites where they can browse, chat, ask questions and feel a sense of community. Women are more likely to provide personal information online if, in return, they feel it will build a relationship. For example, Land’s End’s site enables “registered” shoppers to exchange ideas and build relationships with each other. They offer four-hour response on customer service inquiries and a virtual model where customers can actually pick their body type to see how clothing might look on them. Repeat visits and customer loyalty are encouraged through these devices. Bottom line, the Internet has empowered women. As a group, they’re more demanding shoppers and seek more information and advice than their male counterparts. So the most important aspect of pleasing a woman online is to develop a site where they can build relationships and feel respected as a customer.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind regarding gender differences and the marketing disciplines:

Women want to feel cherished, whereas men want to feel needed.

Men make impulse purchases; they don’t clip coupons, and they don’t work from lists.

Due to decreasing estrogen levels, post-menopausal women become more assertive, confident and demanding as customers, but they also don’t like to be differentiated from younger women since it makes them feel like they are being categorized as older.

Women tend not to bond with aggressive brands.

Working women are more pressured than men. When men shop, it’s usually for themselves, when women shop it’s for themselves and their families.

Women consider technology a tool and aren’t afraid to use it to seek the information and merchandise they need.

Campaigns that educate, empower and provide reassurance are the most successful campaigns within the women’s markets.

When considering gender, there are many differences that must be carefully considered. The ability to market to both men and women successfully can be a difficult task. Successfully appealing to women is the next step for marketers. Some companies are actively reaching out to women with segmented and carefully executed campaigns. But many companies still use a “one size fits all” approach. Times are changing. Men’s and women’s roles are changing. Marketing must change too.

Mark Levit is managing partner of Partners & Levit Advertising and a professor of marketing at New York University. Partners & Levit's clients include Procter & Gamble, UnitedHealth Group, and GE Commercial Finance. For more information call 212-696-1200 ext.101 or visit www.partnerslevit.com.

Author:.

Mark Levit is the founder and managing partner of Partners & Levit, Inc., a New York advertising agency. He is also a Professor of Marketing at New York University. Mark’s career in marketing spans 3 decades at both major client and agency organizations.

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