Food shoppers are women, marketers are men: Houston, we have a problem…


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Brennan: “The food industry has an advantage over other industries..."
Brennan: “The food industry has an advantage over other industries..."

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It is well known that most food shoppers are women, but does the food industry get that in its marketing? Not really, says female marketing expert, author and CEO of The Female Factor, Bridget Brennan.

The world over, women are the caregivers; the consumer gatekeepers in around 80% of families. Women make the crucial buying decisions, especially so with food, but it is usually men that make the crucial marketing decisions.

And very often they miss the boat. And very badly. But don’t patronise women with 'pink marketing', Brennan says.

“It is the combination of buying power and influence that makes women so powerful to the consumer economy,” ​Brennan told us ahead of her presentation at Food Vision​ in Cannes, France, on March 20-22.

“But products that are superficially ‘just for the ladies’ or emblazoned in pink can single women out in a negative way.”

That said, “The food industry has an advantage over other industries like say the automotive industry because it has a long history of catering to the female buyer.”

“The food industry has huge opportunities as people become more nutritionally focused. Food has become both a luxury item and a necessity but challenges remain in areas like controlling point-of-sale."

Gender blindness

The fact women make the bulk of purchasing decisions may seem to be somewhat of a given, even as more women enter and stay in the workforce - but Brennan calls out much marketing for its “gender blindness”.

“Throughout business history we have overlooked the subject of gender when it comes to education in marketing and sales,” ​says the author of Why She Buys​.


“Gender differences are not widely taught in business courses in either undergraduate level or MBA programmes.”

“So typically most marketing is focused on income level, age, geography and we have overlooked one of the most important factors of all: The psychology of gender. How does selling product X to a woman instead of a man change the equation? Leveraging gender psychology in business and marketing is still incredibly new.”

Feminism versus female psychology: "Men and women are equal ​and different"

Brennan fingers political correctness around the feminist movement as one factor that has retarded gender psychology education in the business environment.

“What has got lost in the message is that of course men and women are and should be equal in pay and position in the workforce, but men and women are also different. So equal doesn’t mean the same.”

“In 2013 we are reaching a point in society where we can be more comfortable in saying yes men and women are equal ​and different.”

“So let’s talk openly about these differences and leverage them in the marketplace for the benefit of our businesses.”

“Subtle is always best”

Brennan urged company executives who fear alienating their male consumer base with female-centric campaigns, to examine their attitudes.

“My philosophy is that the better job done marketing to women the more you are going to make your male customers happy as well.”

“Because women are often expressing needs that men may want to but are not articulating. It is for this reason that the best marketing to women is very subtle. Subtle is always best.”

“That’s what this is about: Helping you see your business through the eyes of women.”

More of Brennan's work can be accessed here​.

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1 comment

that's nice but...

Posted by Phil Wudikin,

As a longtime observer of advertising, marketing, and consumerism and while it is true that most buying is done by women, and that men tend to dominate the advertising and marketing fields (but probably not for long), there are far more products geared toward women.
More stores for women, more products, services. As buyers, men have become more stereotyped; narrow nitches, with no real appreciation of some of the lesser interests and needs. Women in media are now protrayed as smart, aggressive, and competent, whereas men as not so swift, wondering and wandering, needing guidance, sometimes even bumbling.
A male version of a dumb blonde for the 50's. These role portrayals do a disservice to equality that we all want and appreciate. The subliminal messages convey information that is shaping the minds of our youngsters, and is fostering a kind of "female chauvinism". The young people in the workforce are now already displaying it. I'm seeing confident young women entering the workforce, and less than confident men.
Affirmative action and EEO have reversed the inequities of previous times. Now however, women represent almost 60 percent of college admissions and graduation while men still drop out of school in high numbers, get involved in drugs, alcohol, and delinquency and crime.
Many boys are not graduating from high school even with the basics to function in our society. Reading and basic math skills, social skills, etc. are lacking. What we are doing is creating a new underclass of poorly educated and poorly skilled people, mostly men who will be relegated to low income menial jobs.

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