Gender Matters: Why Marketers Must Use Different Approaches When Advertising to Women vs. Men

News flash: there are big differences between men and women.

But how does that translate to marketing approaches in the digital age?

New research from Nielsen NeuroFocus suggests that while the gender divide between men and women continues to close with respect to workforce and household equality, there are still significant differences when it comes to how we think, react, shop and watch.

“While male and female brains may look alike on the outside, there are differences within them that are directly correlated with how men and women process information, express emotion, interact with others and approach their daily routines—including watching video, using mobile devices and shopping,” Nielsen explains.

According to the NeuroFocus data, women’s brains are hardwired for big-picture thinking, multitasking, “gut” reasoning, social and verbal skills, and worry/empathy. Conversely, men’s brains are preconditioned for concrete thinking, goal-oriented tasks, logical solutions, and competition/defense.

“Understanding these differences, which drive behavioral tendencies, can provide marketers with an invaluable advantage in creating more effective advertising and marketing campaigns,” Nielsen explains.

For example, women aged 13 to 34 respond positively to ads that are upbeat in tone, are aspirational and occasionally silly, but not mean spirited, according to the research. Meanwhile, older women respond favourably to messages that are sentimental, highlight real-life activities, are family-friendly and feature relatable situations. Men, on the other hand, respond best to movement, competitive activities, and suggestive humor.

Here’s what Nielsen says about males:

Men are goal-oriented shoppers. They’re on a mission, and they shop to win or to complete a goal. Men are also inclined to pay a higher price. Conversely, women are more likely to shop around and look for deals. According to findings from the Q3 2012 Nielsen Global Survey of more than 29,000 respondents with Internet access from 58 countries, men are more likely than women to buy designer brands (men 51% vs. women 43%) and pay more for them (men 47% vs. women 40%).

While women are more attuned to discount and promotional news than men (men 57% vs. women 62%), men are more apt to compare prices using their mobile phone (men 37% vs. 30% women), Nielsen’s research reveals: “In fact, men are more likely than women to use their mobile phone rather than their PC, laptop or tablet to get information about products across many product categories. Men also trust mobile ads more than women (31% men vs. 26% women).”

So what does all of this data mean for marketers? When advertising to women, use creative elements and styles that resonate with the way her brain works:

• Using emotion-based visual imagery will be more effective than relying on facts and figures that focus on altruism.

• Don’t use overt messaging such as “offer expires” or “call now.” Women appreciate and pick up on nuance. The female brain is programmed to maintain social harmony, so messaging shouldn’t focus on conflict.

When marketing to men, get to the point quickly, clearly and directly using active, declarative statements:

• Men prefer products created just for them.

• Men are compulsive shoppers, so consider placing messages near the check-out area and demonstrate cost savings at the point of sale.