Brands make a play for women

f2_120Targeting women can be a minefield for marketers. While some campaigns and products are proven in their success, others run the risk of being labelled patronising and old-fashioned. They also deliberately cold-shoulder half the population.

Motorola is the latest brand to run the gauntlet. It is launching a jewel-shaped mobile handset aimed at women (MW last week), called the Moto Jewel. It will be available from November, initially through an exclusive contract with the Carphone Warehouse. Motorola is following not only its handset rivals such as Nokia and Samsung in targeting the female pound but also the likes of Nintendo, Apple, Ford and drinks manufacturers.

Last week Ford launched an ad aimed solely at women featuring a pink Fiesta in response to concerns that the car’s appeal to women and younger drivers is fading. The ad attempts to distance itself from the old Fiesta model by establishing itself as a style icon through the use of contemporary art and design.

And Coors UK, the UK’s second biggest brewer, has set up a working group called Eve to investigate beer formulation, packaging and marketing options in an effort to target women – a market not traditionally associated with beer.

The percentage of female beer drinkers in the UK is about 12%, less than half the 25% it is in the US – a region where beer drinking is still dominated by men. Coors says the UK beer market is particularly male-oriented with very few products aimed at women.

Coors has just two products in the UK market that it says are popular with female beer drinkers – Coors Light and Kasteel Cru, which is brewed using champagne yeast. Blue Moon, a dark ale that has been successful in the US, is also being test-marketed in the UK ahead of a launch later this year.

Yet Futurebrand European head of consumer strategy and innovation Adrian Goldthorpe is sceptical. “I don’t think marketing beer to women works. It is a very male product and if you try to make it female it ­doesn’t tend to work,” he says.

Goldthorpe says different spirits appeal to the different sexes, although a few products, such as brandy, can span the genders. The agency recently worked on a project for a Russian vodka for women called Damskaya. He adds: “Vodka can sometimes be feminine, although Archers is clearly a female spirit. But beer is traditionally male.”

PrettyLittleHead co-founder Jane Cunningham disagrees. Her agency helps brands appeal to women, and she says the beer market “like lots of markets” tends to overlook the female consumer.

She adds: “But marketers need to get their heads around the fact that women are important. However, rather than emulating the likes of the pink phone by ‘pinking up’ beer, they need to look at what women are interested in.”

“Pinking up” products by adding little insight or extras is something the mobile phone industry has often been accused of in its attempts to extend its core audience.

Most manufacturers have simply taken a current phone model and “feminised” it. Samsung has a number of women-targeting models including a pink phone with a menstrual calculator and pedometer. Figures surprisingly show that pink phone sales only have a 60/40 majority of women. A source says: “If you just take a current phone and put on a menstrual calender it’s not going to work. It needs to have a unique offering.”

Last year, Nokia brought out L’amore – a range of handsets with a Levi’s 501 tag that were aimed at women but still had some appeal for male buyers. The range never took off. A source says: “It wasn’t single-minded enough.”

But Motorola, which has previously introduced phones in “feminine colours” and has, since the success of the clamshell Razr in 2005, had little to shout about, will hope that the Jewel changes perceptions both about targeting women and its own track record on innovation.
One source says: “It’s a very brave step to take. It’s a strategy that mobile phone companies rarely use.”

As a design targeting only half of the total market, the Moto Jewel is a bold move for the company. Many believe Motorola has failed to innovate since the success of its Razr (the model has become something of a millstone around its neck since sales began to slump).

Although Strategy Analytics director Neil Mawston says Motorola’s new device is a very good marketing initiative, he also says the move is typical of the brand’s “scattergun approach”. He adds that the female market is a “bonus” for Motorola, which “usually concentrates on the male side”. He says: “Anything to give it a boost would be good, but it is targeting only half the market.”

However, Motorola vice-president of marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Andrew Morley says: “The only way to get standout is to have a point of view – something that will stand out from the crowd.”

It is a strategy that Nestlé has successfully milked with its Yorkie chocolate bar. Nestlé Yorkie went against tradition with a marketing strategy aimed solely at men in a market dominated by female consumers.

The £5m tongue-in-cheek “Not For Girls” campaign was launched in 2002, and the TV ads showed women attempting to purchase the bar by dressing as builders in hard hats and gluing on fake beards. Yorkie was originally launched in 1976 in a bid to take on “female targeted” brands such as Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Consistent early advertising featured the famous Yorkie Trucker and positioned Yorkie as a chocolate bar for men.

However, even Yorkie tried its hand at targeting women. For two months in 2003 a limited edition pink bar “for girls” was released. At the time Nestlé said: “The launch is to salute those sacred girls who, against their female instinct, can be blokey enough to indulge in the UK’s chunkiest chocolate bar.” It is debatable how well the campaign succeeded.

Although it is certain to have critics, Motorola’s plans to target women without the accustomed pink packaging could place the handset manufacturer ahead of its peers. As Cunningham adds: “Half the market is a pretty large market to target. It’s hardly niche.”

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