Women control much of the world’s buying power. But some of the top consumer markets—think cars, sports, beer, etc.—are dominated by men. Recently, Adidas has exploded as a go-to brand for athleisure apparel and shoes. Where once their products were relegated to soccer fields and tennis courts, now suddenly every city sidewalk and social media page is teeming with those three white stripes. Its re-emergence wasn’t from targeting the traditionally male customer base — instead, Adidas targeted women.
When it comes to expanding or changing your audience, how can you do so in a way that feels authentic and drives sales? The answer is, it’s not impossible, but your approach has to be smart. Here are 3 things to remember.
1. Show—don’t tell
One of the most effective strategies is to put women—either prominently or exclusively—in your ads. That’s exactly what a once-struggling Adidas did when they unveiled commercials featuring all women in 2016. Showcasing the athleticism of a diverse set of influential women was a key way to drive sales based on not only aspiration but also relatability. Suddenly a whole new group of customers could see themselves—not just a bunch of hyper-athletic men—in the brand. By the end of 2016, Adidas managed to topple Nike’s decade-long reign as producer of the top-selling active shoe, and they’ve remained committed to their female audience ever since.
2. Don’t shun the other gender
When we think of markets that have tried to cross the gender boundary, often diet soda comes to mind. Coca-Cola shares that when they were piloting Diet Coke, they asked people who they imagined would drink the low-calorie beverage. A company spokesman said, “…they responded with names of very masculine movie stars.” Instead, Diet Coke (and diet drinks in general) became a market driven almost entirely by women. Decades later in 2011, Dr. Pepper attempted to market a diet soda to men. The campaign for Dr. Pepper Ten stated in no uncertain terms: “It’s not for women.” Instead of authentically reaching a new audience, Dr. Pepper managed to alienate a lot of people who felt the ads were grossly misogynistic.
When trying to engage a new audience, specifically women, brands must strike a fine balance and not be overt in gender-specific messaging. Sometimes that means keeping the messaging neutral while changing up your ad placement. Placing ads for beer or cars in women’s magazines and on websites women visit will subtly drive brand awareness and likely sales, too.
3. Use a human voice—not a female voice
Sometimes appealing to women isn’t about targeting them more as much as it’s about targeting men less. Especially in today’s market, women don’t want an overly feminine approach; they simply want to be treated as people.
When looking to car companies, for instance, a common trope in the past was to present an image of a “soccer mom.” Nothing could be less effective today than to engage in female stereotyping. Cadillac made this shift by putting women literally and figuratively in the driver’s seat of its car ads, not just as passengers. The brand began to show women as professionals not moms and wives exclusively. With statistics estimating that women command 85 percent of the purchasing power behind cars, this is an area where brands should definitely take note.
Marketers will continue to face more and more pressure to reaching women in male-dominated markets as the social climate evolves. By following a few best practices, making the shift doesn’t need to mean risking the brand.