Marti Barletta
Marti Barletta

In my mind, the phrase “marketing to women” conjures up images of football teams offering “Football 101” classes that focus equally on socializing as they do on the sport, and teams outfitting their players in pink for “breast cancer awareness” while caring more about their own bottom lines instead of actually helping to educate about the disease.

So I was a bit skeptical about the intent and outcome of male-dominated industries trying to appeal to women when I attended a seminar on marketing to women at the PACK EXPO International last week. From what I could tell from walking around the showroom floor, packaging certainly seemed to be a male-dominated industry. However, considering the seminar’s speaker, Marti Barletta, is both a woman and an expert in the field, I had high hopes that the talk would offer plenty of insight.

Kelsey Ott
Kelsey Ott

I was right; Barletta, who shared research from her book Marketing to Women: How to Increase Your Share of the World’s Largest Market, talked about women as consumers in a way that rang true.

She shared a graphic that showed a mall floor plan with a stated goal at the top: “Mission: Go to Gap, Buy a Pair of Pants.” The male path entered the mall and went straight to Gap, showing a time of six minutes and a cost of $33. The female path entered the mall and went the other direction, entering every other store before finally reaching the originally intended destination, ending with a time of three hours and 26 minutes and a cost of $876.

Without context, I could see some women getting offended about this graphic, as it could be playing to the stereotypes of women as shopaholics or women as indecisive. But Barletta doesn’t see the long female path in a negative light. She describes it using research rather than stereotypes, explaining how men “prioritize” during a shopping trip, but women “maximize” their options “to get it just right.”

Though of course I can’t speak for all women, this explanation amazed me because of how true it was — I definitely try to maximize “to get it just right” when I shop, and I never realized it’s a pattern. While the mall graphic may be a bit exaggerated, a single shopping goal for me has indeed many times turned into something else after I walk down every aisle or check out each store to make sure I’ve seen everything so I can make an informed decision.

Sometimes I leave with other things, and sometimes I don’t even leave with what I came for, but if I do leave with my original goal then I can be satisfied knowing that I picked the best, and there’s no better option out there.

A trip to the grocery store just to restock my kitchen with the basics could take almost an hour because I take a frustratingly long time looking up and down on the shelves to compare prices and weigh the quality and convenience of the products, and sometimes even take into account the brand or the look of the packaging.

Barlotta gives a reason for this increased eye to detail among women: “Women care about what makes you different from your competition; men don’t.”

This makes marketing and branding ever more important when the woman is the consumer. And most of the time, the woman is the consumer — they do most of the buying in households, and they lead 61 to 72 percent of shopping trips in every channel except convenience stores. Additionally, women tend to spend more money per shopping trip than men do.

In the packaging industry, branding, functionality, product added value and communication are the cornerstones of marketing according to Barletta. Because women focus on the context in which the product is used rather than simply what the item is, being able to show that a product is more useful for a specific task or more convenient is important.

Marketers should also appeal to emotion and highlight personal, relatable qualities that deal with how the product fits into a certain lifestyle rather than impersonal facts and figures.

It’s common to view the typical female shopper as a mom buying goods for her family, or perhaps a young woman enjoying her newfound influx of disposable influx by spending money on the newest trends.

Yet the woman marketers so often neglect the shopper who is also the most important — the baby boomer. Adults 50 years of age and older account for 70 percent of disposable income, and they lead 119 out of 123 consumer packaged goods categories, according to Nielsen.

And, women do most of the buying in older households especially, whether it is for their own consumption or as gifts for their grandchildren, a common shopping goal among this set. However, U.S. marketers only allot 5 percent of ad spending to appealing to the boomer generation.

It’s about time marketers get clued in to that reality — women across all generations can control which products fly off the shelves and which ones fail. We’re smart shoppers, so we deserve smart marketing as well.