Marketing to female tribes in 2018

Authenticity, purpose and representation is queen…

By Amantle Mokubung

Aware of the level of influence and the buying power that woke¹ women hold, every company is attempting to lure this market in by attaching the tags “female”, “girl” or “women” in all their campaigns. The question is; how sincere are they? As a business owner, it is important for you to understand that it now takes a village of bold, vocal women who share similar values and beliefs to help position your company. However, this requires you to be clear and extremely elaborative about your target market – as consumers will keep digging deeper to make sure that you are being genuine.

What women want

With this in mind, be sure to articulate the value that you genuinely wish to add to the lives of the women that you are targeting. Spend less time crafting the best tag line, and more time on the actual activities that build on to your value proposition aimed at women. Be careful not to generalise and make assumptions about your market’s traits, otherwise you will end up with sour reactions from the streets of Twitter that will put your reputation on the line and risk meeting your sales targets.

Women seek personalised experiences, authenticity and representation. This is quite evident in our actions; from us wearing our beliefs as bold one-liners on t-shirts, to having the choice of the dolls that we buy for our nieces and daughters reflect what we truly stand for and the values that we wish to pass down to them. Women wish to establish relationships with inspiring brands that speak to who they are and their aspirations; and create a breeding ground for honest engagements and collaborative efforts towards positively impacting their lives and that of their communities.

I have been part of a discussion that presented the idea of a practical and sustainable Unilever
sanitary ware drive for schoolgirls in rural parts of the country, particularly those who have to miss days of schooling every month. The idea of such a programme was sparked by the realisation that black women have remained loyal to the company for decades on end. Personally, I would consciously purchase marked items knowing that a portion of my money directly contributes towards a cause that is close to my heart and impacts those that come after me in my community. This would be driven by the knowledge that my impact as an individual wouldn’t have covered the tip of the iceberg with regards the magnitude of the challenge that the programme would address. It would keep me at ease.

Experience is chief

An entrepreneur that I have closely watched for the past couple of months is Gugu Nkabinde, founder of Gugu Intimates; a skin coloured underwear range. As an advocate for having a company shoot and develop its own stock images library, I find it refreshing that she has chosen to feature her customers in some of her marketing campaigns and have them share their personal stories. They strongly reiterate the brand’s essence of promoting self-knowledge, individuality, body confidence and authentic representation. The amount of work that goes into setting up the Sip, Shop and Shoot experience – with a size measurement service and on-site photography for customers to shoot in their new purchases – is probably quite demanding for the business but most rewarding for customers. Through sharing her brand story as what she terms the “Chief Experience Officer”, it is evident that time and effort has also been invested into designing a carefully thought-out customer journey that ticks all the boxes for women’s needs when shopping for underwear.

Foschini is another brand that seems to have long figured it all out when it comes to marketing to women. They have gone beyond just being a female clothing retailer. Not only have the #SebenzaGirl, The Future Is Female and Womandla t-shirts played a significant role in street style and fashion in 2018, but the group has also funded the design of corporate identities for female-led businesses; in addition to hosting an ‘All Woman’ event for entrepreneurs and leaders in corporate for them to connect and inspire one another. For women’s month, the brand will launch an #IAmChallenge which seeks to encourage and instill self love in women through positive affirmations.

Go forth and care

So what does all this mean for your marketing strategy? Merely directing funds towards your CSI initiative is no longer sufficient. Speak to the heart. Purposefully driven actions are everything. Go beyond just aligning your CSI objectives with your company values (side note: it’s time to do away with the wordy “mission and vision”; keep it real and simple). Whether it’s empowerment, opportunities for gender representation, paying it forward to uplift communities, establishing discussion forums or creating a network of female trailblazers who wish to support one another, find out what matters the most to your female target market and what makes them tick.

Remember to make room for more seats at your table – be careful not to alienate your plan from the beneficiaries and the specific women that you target. Women have always been part of the solution; they now do it with brands with a heart. Get to know them and engage with them directly. Consumers love the idea of brands seeing them as individuals, reminding them that they matter the most to the business and inviting them over for thought-provoking discussions that unearth new solutions to the challenges that are yet to be addressed.

¹Woke: A millennial slang term increasingly used as a byword for social awareness.