In a remarkable number of case studies, female marketers seem to outperform their male counterparts. Senior male marketer produces an average or horrible marketing result; female marketer repeatedly seems to deliver a superior approach.
Chances are that the most senior and best paid member of your marketing team is a man, but it’s equally likely that the best marketer in your team is actually a woman. If a list of top 10 marketers is prepared women out number men even though the vast majority marketers are male.
Why are women apparently the superior marketing sex? It is easy to use the offensive stereotypical explanations: women like softer subjects such as marketing and are good at design and packaging.
Fortunately, recent advances in our knowledge of the differences between male and female brain functions now provide a far more robust explanation for their superiority in this arena. To put it bluntly, women have a massive genetic advantage when it comes to marketing: their brains are better designed for it.
If we were to cut a brain in half, we would discover a large mass of fibers connecting the right and left hemispheres. This connective pathway is known as the corpus callosum. It is made up of more than 200m of nerve fibers and acts as a super-highway between the two sides of the brain.
These hemispheres offer very different types of processing. The right side of the brain is associated with more holistic and intuitive thinking, while the left is typically concerned with more logical and analytical functions.
In marketing, and especially in market research, there is a clear need for both types of thinking to be successful. Marketers must be able to use both qualitative and quantitative research in combination to generate insight from the market.
If a marketer uses only qualitative research, for example commissioning a series of focus groups, the results are fuzzy and unrepresentative, and should never be used as the exclusive basis for any marketing strategy. At the same time, other marketers are equally compromised by relying on only quantitative data – a major internet panel survey, for example to understand the market.
The problem with quantitative research is that it may measure precisely the response of the market, but only to the options presented by the researcher. The analysis might provide strong statistical data that variable A is more attractive than variable B, but what if variable C, which was not included in the questionnaire, was the most important one?
The secret of great market research has always been to start with qualitative research and then use the inductive insight that is generated in a more deductive, quantitative piece of subsequent research. It is a simple lesson, but one that evades many senior marketers who appear content to use either one type or the other.
Here, again, the female brain is in a superior position. Most studies of the brain have concluded that women have a larger corpus callosum than men, and therefore show a more bilateral representation of function, which decreases specialisation but better integrates the two halves.
Two marketers, one male, one female, put in charge of a big brand. The male brand manager is likely to review his experiences and successes to understand his new brand and apply existing rules and strategies that he has found to work elsewhere. In contrast, the woman is better able to compartmentalise her experiences and understand the current brand and its unique elements and intrinsic features.
Put more simply, women are able to combine and integrate their thinking between the intuitive challenge of great qualitative research (understanding what is important to the consumer) and the analytical challenge of quantitative work (measuring how important the variables are). In contrast, male marketers are more likely to use one approach or the other and thus fail to generate superior marketing insight.