Marketing to Women: What Neuroscience Shows

Last Updated Jan 12, 2011 9:38 AM EST

Forget everything you think you know about how to market to women. Because instinct is what what really motivates women to buy, says A.K. Pradeep, CEO of NeuroFocus, Inc., and author of the newly released The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind (Wiley, 2010).

An engineer by training and former General Electric marketer, Pradeep founded NeuroFocus in 2005 to translate brain science to marketing strategy. Since then, the field has become a bit crowded, with experts divining the implications of hormones and physiology for advertising and marketing. Pradeep's credentials are a bit more grounded than most, as he spent time in the trenches of GE's medical technology division.

Based on basic research coming from university labs and his own marketing tests, Pradeep asserts that women and men are hard-wired differently, and that means that women and men respond to different triggers when considering a purchase.

Pradeep says physiologically, women have brains that are interconnected on a neural level. As a result, women:

  • multitask automatically, constantly and more smoothly
  • more easily cultivate communities
  • are driven to perpetuate the species
Of course, women want products that are functional and reasonably priced. Pradeep isn't claiming that the cavewoman supersedes education, income, preference and personal experience. What he is saying is that underlying all those conscious motivations is a layer of subliminal triggers that marketers can take advantage of.

"Because the hemispheres in her brain are so connected, she filters ideas and concepts through the lens of her emotions. The number one thing marketers need to know is that it's better to come in through emotions than through facts and figures," says Pradeep. "There's a hierarchy of how you get to the emotions. First the eyes, then the lips, then the face, then the hands. "
He says neuroscience suggests the most effective marketing to women will do the following:
Show a woman using or enjoying a product with a few people, not by herself. Evoke the benefits of the product experience through response and reaction to the sensual experience of using the product. How does that work for a service? In the moment of anticipation, says Pradeep. Think of using an ATM. The moment of suspense isn't swiping the card or punching in your PIN. It's that momentary pause while the machine connects with your account to see if you've got enough money to fulfill your request. That metallic ka-chunk of the bills being shuffled into the little tray is the iconic moment of relief. How does that translate to your product or service.

Demonstrate that the company walks the talk. Authenticity and transparency tap into womens' urge to protect the species -- "keep the kids alive," says Pradeep. Kimberley-Clark hit a home run with its "Every Little Bottom" campaign, which lets moms direct frequent-buyer points to donate diapers to needy families. I finished toilet-training my kids two decades ago and the Huggies ad makes me want to buy diapers just to help another mom.

Prove that the company is on the customer's side. A little humor about the tedium of household chores; a flash of empathy for the tuckered-out mom who sees her minivan as a personal retreat; even a little sentiment delivered by the Pillsbury Doughboy in the form of a crescent roll -- all convey that your brand is in sync with the emotional rhythms of your customer. "A woman's brain looks for appreciation and support throughout the day," says Pradeep, who clearly has been eavesdropping around my office. That partly explains why Facebook is custom-made for the female brain: it provides a new arena for friendships and enables marketers to dish out friendly advice, deals and communiques all day long. "What is the core neuroscience philosophy behind Facebook? And who's turning on to Facebook? FB is built on two core principles," says Pradeep. "Appreciate me and support me."

Does this resonate with you? How do you think women respond to marketing compared to men?

Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor clarita.