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  1. 1. PM_JAN_MAR09_01.pdf Page 1 10/11/08, 11:16 AM BRAIN POWER Why women make better marketers than men PLUS ISSUE #4 2009 JANUARY-MARCH Mind games Bigpond’s big fish Tara Lordsmith How to connect Justin Milne The year’s best with customers 20 makes a splash 32 marketer 45 $5.95 (inc GST) THE AMI NATIONAL AWARDS FOR MARKETING EXCELLENCE 44PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
  2. 2. PM_JAN_MAR09_14 Page 1 10/11/08 10:52 AM PM_JAN_MAR09_14.PDF Page 1 11/10/08, 11:08 AM Mark Ritson WHY WOMEN MAKE BETTER MARKETERS When it comes to marketing, women have considerably more skill, potential and overall value to an organisation, says Mark Ritson. I teach the brand management elective on the MBA program at Melbourne horrible marketing result. Female marketer repeatedly delivers a superior Business School. Each week we explore case studies of companies, both in marketing approach. Australia and abroad. It’s the classic business school approach - learn by It might be something you have noticed too. Chances are the most senior exploring the decisions and approaches of senior managers and let those and best paid member of your marketing team is a man. But it’s equally likely the insights guide your own future strategies. But one of the most common best marketer in your team is a woman. If I list the top 10 marketers I have observations that keeps coming up has nothing to do with strategy and worked with over the past decade the list of women outnumbers the men even everything to do with gender. In a remarkable number of case studies female though the vast majority of my clients were male. marketers seem to out-perform their male counterparts. It’s become almost a Why are women apparently the superior marketing sex? It’s easy to use the running joke in some of my classes. Senior male marketer produces an average or usual offensive stereotypical explanations: women like softer subjects like 14 | PROFESSIONAL MARKETING | January–March 2009PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
  3. 3. PM_JAN_MAR09_15 Page 2 10/11/08 11:10 AM PM_JAN_MAR09_15.PDF Page 1 11/10/08, 11:26 AM marketing and are good at design and packaging. Fortunately, recent advances contact with others as a small boy. The inference is that men, having had their in the knowledge of male and female brain functions provides a far more robust brains bathed in testosterone for seven months, are much less able to establish explanation for the fairer sex’s superiority in marketing. To put it bluntly, women an understanding and connection with others. have a massive genetic advantage when it comes to marketing: their brains are There is, perhaps, no greater skill for a marketer than empathy. While the better designed for it. media and outsiders tend to perceive marketing as a matter of spin and persuasion, the reality has always been very different. Marketing is fundamentally BUILT FOR EMPATHY a challenge of understanding. Yes, later on we create advertising and packaging Imagine walking into a laboratory and finding two human brains. One male, one and other rhetorical tools, but the first and foremost issue for marketers is to female. It would not be hard to identify which is which. The male brain is about understand their consumer and bring that understanding into the organisation. 10% larger than the female brain and has 5% more brain cells. That sounds like Without this basic empathy for the target market our marketing efforts are good news for men but in terms of pound-for-pound processing, the female brain more than makes up for its disparity in size in other ways. For starters, women’s brains are the default for all of us. For the first eight “To put it bluntly, women have a weeks of our existence in the womb we all have a female brain. Then genes and massive genetic advantage when sex hormones take over. In the case of boys, a huge surge in foetal testosterone results in the destruction of cells in the communication centres of the brain and it comes to marketing: their brains the growth of cells in the sex and aggression centres. Meanwhile the female are better designed for it.” fetus, devoid of the surge in male hormones, continues to grow unaltered. The results are drastically different brains. Women’s brains emerge as superior organs for communication and emotional understanding. From an early age girls probably going to be in vain. Women’s brains are, quite literally, better at display much greater sensitivity to the suffering of others than boys and in adult understanding others. Male marketers are more likely to make the crucial error of life have a far greater ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others. assuming their own thoughts and reactions can be extrapolated to that of the Baby girls, as young as 12 months old, respond more empathetically to the market. Female marketers are more likely to get inside the head of the market distress of other people. When asked to judge when someone might have said and base their strategies around the real needs of consumers. something potentially hurtful, girls score higher than boys from the age of seven years old. Women are also more sensitive to facial expressions. They are better at BETTER FOR MARKET RESEARCH decoding non-verbal communication, picking up subtle nuances from tone of If we were to cut a brain in half we would discover a large mass of fibres voice or facial expression, or judging a person’s character. connecting the right and left hemisphere of the brain. This connective pathway is In contrast, men struggle with the challenge of understanding others. One known as the corpus collosum. It is made up of more than 200 million nerve recent study from Cambridge University has shown a link between the amount fibres and acts as a super-highway between the two sides of the brain. The two of testosterone a boy receives in the womb and his inability to establish eye hemispheres of the brain offer very different types of processing. The right side of January–March 2009 | PROFESSIONAL MARKETING | 15PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
  4. 4. PM_JAN_MAR09_16 Page 3 10/11/08 10:56 AM PM_JAN_MAR09_16.PDF Page 1 11/10/08, 11:11 AM the brain is associated with more holistic and intuitive thinking, while the left side contrast, are more likely to rely on global rules and generalised principles. is typically concerned with more logical and analytical functions. These differences would present themselves very clearly with two marketers, In marketing, and especially in market research, there is a clear demand one male, one female, put in charge of a big brand. The male brand manager is for both types of thinking in order to be likely to review his previous experiences and successes to understand his new successful. Marketers need to be able to use brand and apply existing rules and strategies that he has found to work elsewhere both qualitative and quantitative research in on the new brand strategy. The female brand manager is better able to bracket combination to generate insights from the her past experiences and to understand the current brand and its unique market. If a marketer just uses qualitative elements and features. She can rely on her extra levels of empathy to understand, research, the results are fuzzy and from the consumer’s perspective, what makes the new brand so powerful. She unrepresentative and should never be used can take those insights and formulate a superior, more appropriate brand strategy as the exclusive basis for any marketing than her male colleague. strategy. Other marketers are equally compromised by relying exclusively on BETTER AT BRAND POSITIONING quantitative data, a major internet panel Another key distinction between the male and female brain is the way we survey for example, to understand the approach problems. Women’s perceptual skills are oriented to quick, intuitive market. The problem with quantitative thinking. Men construct rules-based analyses of the natural world, inanimate THE HEMISPHERES OF THE BRAIN OFFER DIFFERENT TYPES OF PROCESSING. research is that it may measure precisely the objects and events. According to Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron- response of the market but only to the Cohen, Ph.D., they systemise. That’s the reason boys are more interested in cars, options presented by the researcher. The analysis might provide strong statistical trucks, planes, building blocks, and mechanical toys - systems. Baron-Cohen data that variable A is more attractive than variable B, but what if variable C, demonstrated the differences between the genders in a recent experiment in which was not included in the questionnaire, was the most important one? which one-year-olds were exposed to two screens - one showing films of cars The secret of great market research has always been to start with qualitative (mechanical systems) and the other of a person’s face (emotional expression). The research first and then use the inductive insights that are generated in a more boys spent longer looking at the cars, the girls focused on the face. deductive, quantitative subsequent piece of research. It’s a simple lesson but one that evades many senior marketers who appear content to use either qualitative or quantitative research. “The female brand manager is better Here, again, the female brain is in a superior position. Most studies of the able to bracket her past experiences brain have concluded that women have a larger corpus callosum than men and therefore show a more bilateral representation of function which decreases and to understand the current brand specialisation but integrates the two halves better. Put more simply, women are and its unique elements and features.” able to combine and integrate their thinking between the intuitive challenge of great qualitative research (understanding what is important for the consumer) and the analytical challenge of quantitative work (measuring how important the In adulthood this presents another key problem for male marketers and variables are). In contrast, male marketers are more likely to use one approach or another big advantage for female marketers. Perhaps the toughest challenge in the other and thus fail to generate superior marketing insights. branding is articulating a clear positioning statement for the brand. In 10 years of consulting I have seen a plethora of brand positioning attempts - and most have BETTER FOR BRANDS been amazingly bad. One of the main reasons for the lack of traction for a brand One of the biggest challenges in branding is ensuring you understand the unique positioning is that it is too long and complex. Anything more than three words to challenges associated with each and every brand. Every brand is different, literally, define the essence of a brand renders the result pointless. from the rest. Thats the reason that a brand is the opposite of a generic. You Again, you can see the sexual advantage that female marketers have. They cannot take the strategies and approaches that have worked for one brand and don’t fall in love with bells and whistles; they take a more holistic and articulate apply them to another and expect to be successful. Each brand has a distinct view. If I could gather all the brand positioning statements across Australia I bet brand equity, different market segments and contrasting reasons for purchase. you that all the super-complex triangles and wheels come from male marketers One of the biggest mistakes a marketer can make is apply general rules to very and the tighter three word definitions mostly derive from their female peers. specific brands. One of the most pronounced differences between men and women is in the MORE ATTUNED TO THE COMPETITION way that each sex processes information. The differences are clear from Another important challenge that faces marketers is competition. We must childhood. If you ask girls and boys to draw a picture, the girls’ drawings are identify the key competitors in the market and devise strategies against them. much more detailed and focus in on specific elements of what they are drawing Ironically, the reason for female superiority in this area stems from two things that part by part. Boys, in contrast, tend to use more sweeping lines and less detail. men are superior at: focus and aggression. The differences stem from the male and female brain. Women are much more The most noticeable difference between the male and female brain is the likely to delve into the intricacies and specific details of a problem. Men, in amount of grey matter. Recent studies suggest that females have about 20% CONTINUES ON PAGE 18 16 | PROFESSIONAL MARKETING | January–March 2009PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor
  5. 5. PM_JAN_MAR09_18 Page 4 10/11/08 10:56 AM PM_JAN_MAR09_18.PDF Page 1 11/10/08, 11:12 AM CONTINUES FROM PAGE 16 more grey matter proportionate to their brains than males. Grey matter, made up and see press and PR releases as a natural place for them to step forward. of the bodies of nerve cells and their connecting dendrites, is where the brain’s Founders of the brand or the people who actually make the products are heavy lifting is done. The female brain is more densely packed with neurons and usually much better received by the media and generate better PR. Female dendrites, providing processing power and more thought-linking capability. Male marketers are more likely to grasp this fact, whereas the male marketer will reach brains are filled with more white matter. White matter, made of the long arms of for their jacket and tie as soon as the words “press launch” are mentioned. neurons encased in a protective film of fat, helps distribute processing throughout the brain. It gives males superiority at spatial reasoning. White matter also carries WOMEN’S BRAINS AGE BETTER fibres that inhibit “information spread” in the cortex. That allows a single- Women have one final cognitive advantage - they enjoy faster blood flow to the mindedness that spatial problems require, especially difficult ones. The tougher brain and this offsets the cognitive effects of aging. Men lose more brain tissue the challenge, the more the male brain can exclude other things and focus. with age, especially in the left frontal cortex, the part of the brain that thinks Another key difference between men and women is the degree of aggression about consequences and provides self-control. Researchers at the University of they exhibit. Researchers at the Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine observed tissue loss by the mid-40s in men University of Pennsylvania claim they while women’s brains remain untouched by the ravages of age. This means that have evidence that shows there is a as a male marketer passes 45, his ability to control emotions and impulses physiological reason for why men are gradually declines. more aggressive than women. Their The implications for marketers and managers should be obvious. Most people research indicates men are more reach their most senior and influential position within an organisation in their late aggressive than women because the 40s and early 50s. The average Australian CEO is 55 and male. Irrespective of their part of the brain that modulates former glories these men are now likely to be experiencing significant reductions aggression, the frontal area around the in their ability to control their impulses just when they need that skill the most. eyes, is smaller in men than it is in women. Both genders have the same WOMEN HAVE ABOUT 20% MORE GREY MATTER PROPORTIONATE TO THEIR BRAINS THAN MEN. ability to produce emotions, but men “Female marketers are more likely to struggle to keep those emotions in avoid the centre stage and allow the check as much as women. Combining these two differences together with evolution provides us with right spokesperson to represent the the perfect hunter. A man who can stoke up aggression easily and who can focus brand to consumers. It’s an approach that aggression on a particular target to the exclusion of all else. But in marketing, this is exactly the kind of response to competition that can lead to disaster. Too most male marketers struggle with.” often, marketers fail to see the true competitive set because they remain fixated on a single competitor that they deem to be their main threat. Nokia’s current Women, in contrast, who already had a gender advantage in being able to woes, for example, partly stem from their inability to see Google and Apple control anger better than men will only increase this relative advantage as they encroaching because the Finnish firm was too focused on its existing, classic age. Unfortunately, as only six of the current CEOs of the ASX 200 are women, it competitor Ericsson. is hard to demonstrate the relative advantage a 50-something female CEO has Female marketers with their more contextual understanding of the market over her male peers. The sample size is too small. and a cooler head are more likely to properly recognise the true competitive set There are, of course, a couple of important caveats that come with any and to alter that set as the challengers change. It’s a vital advantage to have over argument that women are the superior sex when it comes to marketing. First, it male colleagues who are likely to pick a single, obvious adversary and then devote is not fair to claim that all women are better than all men at marketing. Obviously their attentions and the market budget accordingly. we are dealing in the imprecise world of averages and there are some very good male marketers out there too. Chances are that many of these superior male WOMEN DON’T TALK AS MUCH ABOUT THEMSELVES marketers will actually possess a brain that has more female traits than the usual Women are considerably less ego-centric than men and talk less about themselves male brain. in public settings. The classic male leader is exemplified by Jack Welch or Steve It is also important to remember we are exclusively discussing marketing skills. Gates. Men who like to get onto the centre of the stage and speak for the brand. Just as I hope to have made a persuasive argument that women’s brains make In reality the CEO is rarely the best person to represent the brand in front of them better marketers, it would be just as easy to suggest than men’s brains, with the media or the consumers. Female marketers are more likely to avoid the centre their respective differences, would make them better finance people or logistics stage and allow the right spokesperson to represent the brand to consumers. analysts. Its a matter of fit. Take Rose-Marie Bravo, the fantastically successful CEO of Burberry. In 10 But I remain convinced that when it comes to marketing, women have years at the helm of the British luxury brand Bravo gave virtually no interviews. considerably more skill, potential and overall value to an organisation. Instead she hired a young British designer, Christopher Bailey, as creative director and let him represent the brand to the media. Mark Ritson is an associate professor of marketing at Melbourne Business School and It’s an approach most male marketers struggle with. They seek the limelight a consultant for some of the worlds leading brands. He is also, sigh, a man. 18 | PROFESSIONAL MARKETING | January–March 2009PDF compression, OCR, web optimization using a watermarked evaluation copy of CVISION PDFCompressor