Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cancel Out Implications of Female Inferiority

Retailers might market to women by arousing their social insecurities and then proposing a product or service to correct for the insecurity. It would make no sense for the retailer to intentionally make women feel inferior to men, though. This would irritate the female consumers, making them less likely to buy.
     However, the implication of inferiority can happen unintentionally. And, as I think you’ll agree, with the best of intentions:
     Researchers at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, INSEAD, and London Business School were interested in why campaigns to increase breast cancer screening rates were not more effective. The researchers noticed how the campaign communications often emphasized the woman’s gender:
  • Text messages: “If you are a woman, what you are about to read could save your life.”
  • Direct imagery: A photo of a woman covering with her hands the area where a cancerous breast had been removed
  • Symbolic imagery: A pink ribbon, which has become associated with femininity
     Surprisingly, the researchers found that these campaigns were actually less likely to result in woman getting screened for breast cancer than were campaigns that did not emphasize the woman’s gender. High gender identity salience:
  • Reduced women’s perception that they would develop breast cancer
  • Produced women’s self-reports that they were finding it difficult to understand moderately complex articles about breast cancer
  • Reduced the interest of the women in donating money to fight breast cancer
  • Reduced the motivation to donate money to fight another female disorder—ovarian cancer
     These research findings about the marketing of health behaviors are consistent with other findings about female consumers. Researchers at University of Minnesota, Korea’s Yonsei University, and Canada’s Concordia University found that women avoid situations like automobile shopping, financial planning, and tax preparation because the women feared male salespeople would try to cheat them. The women believed that the men would assume the women’s science, technology, engineering, and math skills are inferior to those of the men.
     Each of these research projects also found a solution to the problem. Campaigns to increase breast cancer screening rates worked fine when accompanying messages pointed out the competencies of women. In the Minnesota/Yonsei/Concordia study, a vanilla scent pumped into the environment made the women feel more competent in dealing with male salespeople for purchases requiring technical skills. Why vanilla? The researchers explained that vanilla scent is found in breast milk, and is therefore deeply tied to feelings of competence in women.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more:
Stem the Tide of Female Shopper Discomfort

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