On September 10, 2018, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) released its ‘Marketing Charts’ for the month of August 2018. One of the most popular charts shows the changing dynamics of female consumerism. Based on a monthly sample size of over 100 million American consumers, the charts reveal a clear evolution of buying trends and the rise of the ‘wants’ market’ – a trend which challenges the notion that males and females traditionally buy products which are good for the other gender. As the name suggests, the chart compares the overall popularity of products bought by men and by women, allowing for comparisons across multiple demographics (e.g., millennials vs. Gen-X).
The four to one marketing chart compares the odds of products being purchased by men versus women. As you might expect, the findings are pretty revealing:
- Men are more likely to purchase drinks and snacks, and women are more likely to buy perfumes and skincare products.
- Smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers are more popular with men, while women are more inclined to buy clothes and accessories.
- Video games, music players, and cameras are all more likely to be bought by men, while women are more likely to buy beauty products and fragrance products.
- Men are more likely to go to the bar and restaurant sectors, while women are more likely to go to bookstores, coffee shops, and drugstores.
Based on this evidence, we can reasonably conclude that the future of gender-based marketing and advertising tactics lies in the ‘wants’ market’ – that is, products consumers want and need, as opposed to those they merely need to fulfill some need or desire.
This evolving dynamic will no doubt have far-reaching consequences, not least of which is the changing face of consumerism and the role of marketing and advertising in a digitally driven marketplace.
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The Rise of the ‘Wants’ Market’
According to the 4A’s data, the likelihood of a product being purchased by a woman is 1 in 8. For men, it’s 1 in 4. These are significant differences, which can be attributed to several factors. First, there’s the fact that women are more open to trying new things than men are, especially when it comes to fashion and lifestyle products. Second, men are more inclined to purchase what they need rather than what they want, particularly when it comes to technology-related products. Third, and most important, is that women have increasingly taken the lead in social media, with 66% of millennials using the platform compared to 52% of adults in the United States.
What’s more, in many countries around the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom, the gender divide in digital media usage is even more pronounced – with men being far more active on social media than women.
So, while the marketing industry has been quick to respond to the changing consumer demographic with new products and innovative marketing approaches, the data clearly demonstrates that traditional practices may no longer be effective.
Why Does This Matter?
Let’s return to the subject of marketing and advertising and how these fields have changed in relation to female consumerism. First off, let’s not forget that in the past, advertising and marketing were predominantly focused on men. Women were considered ‘untargeted consumers’ and it was generally believed that they didn’t have the spending power to influence the types of products men were more likely to purchase. Therefore, advertisers and marketers had to adjust their tactics and approach to appeal to this new audience.
What’s more, in the past, most products were created with men in mind. This is reflected in the types of products which were prevalent in the stores. Women were presented with products designed to accommodate their physical limitations or to fulfill some need or desire. So, when it came to marketing and advertising, the goal was geared towards men, because that’s who the industry deemed to be the target audience.
However, as consumerism shifted to the digital age, advertisers and marketers no longer had to focus on gender as a determining factor. In the 4A’s data, we can see how this changed. First off, men were more inclined to use digital media, so it made sense to target them. Second, as we’ve established, women were increasingly leading the way on social media and marketing activities on digital platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, were predominantly focused on pleasing women.
These factors, in combination with the rise of ‘wants’ marketing, created a platform for advertisers and marketers to target females, while also appealing to existing male consumers. Thus, the days of creating ads and marketing campaigns with a pronounced male bias are no longer necessary. Gender, class, and cultural differences can be considered when tailoring marketing and advertising approaches to suit specific groups of people. This level of customization is critical in today’s world of extreme digital fragmentation. As the old adage goes, ‘one size rarely fits all.’
This line of thinking is consistent with the 4A’s data. While men were more likely to buy a drink and a snack, women were the driving force behind the popularization of skincare products and perfumes. These are areas in which gender roles have evolved significantly over the past few decades, with more emphasis placed on self-care and less inclination to participate in traditionally masculine activities (e.g., drinking and dining out).
The Future of Advertising and Marketing
In the coming months and years, we can expect to see many changes and new developments in marketing and advertising. What’s more, this area of study is likely to be one of the most impactful on the social landscape, as new data from Envisioneering reveals. The survey questioned 500 adults in the United Kingdom about their perspectives on marketing and advertising. Below, we’ll highlight a selection of the key findings.