Advertising for ‘Women’ consumers

Most advertisements present women as being un-separable from their consumer goods. This is especially true in the case of diamonds, skin and hair care, consumer goods, even automobiles where women are portrayed as active consumers. But the fact that women now have high paying jobs, financial independence, are invading previously masculine preserves and the fact that more than 80% of buying decisions are still made by women. This has left most marketers and advertisers in a bind.

Today’s women is a truly resentful consumer, as she continues to see herself portrayed in role stereotypes. She knows every opportunity is being used to sell something. Take Women’s day. What is the special thing for them? Today’s woman is being coaxed too much on Kellogg’s cornflakes to lose weight and drink down a glass of Horlicks to bounce around in her chores. She is also being asked to tune into a special radio station called what else, but Miawo.

Corporate companies are being coaxed by media and advertising agencies to go beyond the obvious. Marketers can no longer just bombard them with messages. Consumers are asking for respect at a deeply fundamental level. The question is do you respect your consumer enough especially when you don’t allow the consumer to get away from her adorable pink packaging?

Long coaxed to ‘think pink’, women have been deluged by persuasive advertisements and meticulous advice from expert towards attaining feminine perfection, conforming to a mythical standard, one that would come wrapped in an adorable pink package. But advertisements don’t just sell products. Through their secondary discourse they sell normalcy values, and ideas.

Marketers must do more than add to token female to their advertisement or offer existing products in pink. Though there is no dichotomy in doing something special around a day in a year, most smart bards have to understand to move beyond it. The question is how much of marketing activity in general is targeted at any consuming group out of respect and how much is done out of respect and how much is done out of a need to sell. That is the broader question.

Marketers continue to think women are pretty shallow and refuse to dwell on the insights that are being offered about the emerging Indian woman. The concept isn’t completely understood yet.

There is no effort to understand that woman have needs more than housewives or objects of beauty and don’t require a brand or product to satisfy them. Most marketers don’t have the nuances, though the recent Tata Tetley ad has taken the Mickey out of the situation and done great justice. The ad has a cloth drawn over her head conservative house wife who has a sip of the tea and decide to out smart her bully of a husband by chucking away her ticket, when asked by the ticket collector if the two are traveling together.

These are some of the smart marketing techniques that need to be adopted by many advertisers to challenge long standing assumptions about who does the cooking and cleaning, who brings home the bacon, and what motivates Mrs Consumer to buy.

The most important consumer segment is women. While brands do act in the spirit of contributing to society, one cannot forget they are also conducting a business.

Citing Hindustan Unilever’s Fair and Lovely career ad, which is vastly different from the one in which the women is seeking a marriage proposal. They denote a different slice of woman. Take Marico’s Parachute which celebrates the women in her multifarious roles, not just as a mother or the fairer sex. These recognize the fact that a woman is a confluence of many roles and applauds her for it.

It is not just women who are at the receiving end. Marketers mad advertisers have driven down the stereotypical role imagery of both genders. It’s a little jaded at the moment. You have an Ariel man happily washing clothes and Dove celebrating the real woman. Then there is Procter & Gamble trying to market the brand as a friend in their Indian site ‘being girl’. Their ‘gang of girls’ site is doing for women what Denim or Axe is doing for men.