Marketing to Women: The Dos and The (Please Definitely) Don’ts

August 21, 2018 | by Maggie Curran

Marketing to men is not a new or novel concept. Marketing to women, well, that’s a different story.

We’re all too familiar with the sad stereotypes of the distressed 1950s housewife in old cleaning product advertisements, but the sexism remains right up until the present-day woman, standing outside of her tub, wearing a towel, shaving her already hairless legs in the majority of today’s razor commercials.

When it all comes down to it, these ads are nothing more than tone deaf to 50% of the population. It begs women the question: why do marketers have such a hard time selling to us?


I Am Woman. Hear Me Sigh.


Whether it’s the unnecessary use of the color pink or the blatant misunderstanding of women’s wants, it seems impossible for marketers to pinpoint where the line blurs between selling to a female audience and patronizing them.

It’s given us a few downright laughable campaigns, such as BIC’s infamously embarrassing attempt to slap the color pink on a pen and label it “For Her”. But what consumers see as laughable is actually a nightmare for the teams that spent hours developing a campaign turned meme. As funny as they are to read, the excess of sarcastic comments in the Amazon reviews for BIC For Her Retractable Ball Pens are a permanent stain on the brand’s reputation, one that tells consumers that they don’t understand half of the population.



Still, there are brands that have mastered the art of marketing to women without subtle misogyny. Just recently, Mattel released a clip for the popular “Barbie Vlog”, a vlog series hosted by everyone’s favorite doll, that explores the concept of people, especially women, apologizing more often than necessary. In it, Barbie claims that instead of apologizing for being an inconvenience, we should thank others for accommodating us and accept that sometimes, there really is nothing to be sorry for.



It’s heavy stuff from a woman made of plastic, but nonetheless she’s right: studies show women apologize more often than their male counterparts. Mattel used Barbie as a means of sharing these findings and teaching young girls to feel empowered. And sure, they did it because they want to sell more Barbie dolls, but they didn’t perpetuate sexist stereotypes or ideals in the process. With a bar set that low, this female-focused content knocked it out of the park.

So, how can you be sure your next women-targeted campaign doesn’t enrage the masses? It’s actually pretty simple.


Some Fairly Obvious Dos and Don’ts


  1. Do Hire Women On Marketing Staffs

This shouldn’t need to be mentioned in the year 2018, but it still isn’t shocking that men and women are not treated equally in a variety of industries. Marketing, unfortunately, is no exception. If you don’t believe me, watch one episode of Mad Men. Literally any episode.

Sure, the days of Don Draper downing a scotch before noon while Peggy Olson slaves away on a pitch (that won’t get half as much respect from the client) may be a thing of the past, but its ghost still remains in the form of predominately-male creative teams trying desperately to get inside the mind of a female consumer.

Here’s a hint: hire a female consumer. She knows herself pretty well.

  1. Don’t Gender Products

Are you selling a notebook?

Does the notebook have a pink cover?

Do you want to label that notebook as made specifically for women?


Some women hate pink. Some men love pink. Everyone can use a notebook. It’s really not that complicated.

  1. Do Empower Your Audience

Now more than ever, brands are capitalizing on the variety of studies and movements that are shaping the future for women. From the Women’s March and #MeToo to insights like the one used in Barbie’s vlog, brands are aligning themselves with women and equality by supporting the issues that affect them directly.

Done right, these campaigns can even add to the successes of a movement or idea. That definitely beats selling pens.

  1. Don’t Market to Women

If you really want to market something to a specific consumer, you have to narrow down your focus further than half of the population. It isn’t enough to market “to women” in the same way we cannot simply market “to men”. It’s too broad, too diverse and therefore too complicated of a category.

So, don’t market to women. Market to people— to their interests, to their beliefs, to their wants and to their behavior— and if they happen to be women, then the mystery is solved.

Are there any examples of marketing to women that you love? Any that you hate? Let us know in the comments below!

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment