November 13, 2019

By Laura McCullough, Executive Vice President of U.S. Manufacturer Client Success, Nielsen

Despite the headlines and hashtags, women around the world are fatigued and believe meaningful change is coming too slowly. Nielsen recently took a closer look at the worldwide reality of where women are today and found that there’s an opportunity here for brands. This is a chance to win when many aren’t—with a consumer segment that’s willing to pay a premium for products and services that meet their needs. What’s at stake for brands that aren’t wising up to women? Engagement with the consumer group that some forecast will control 75% of household discretionary dollars worldwide by 2028.

So how do brands ensure they’re making authentic connections with women (the greatest influencers there are)? It comes down to trust and understanding.

While the pace of daily life has accelerated for everyone, women everywhere are still juggling work-life, home-life and society’s expectations, which adds an additional layer of complexity to their lives. I’ve seen it first-hand in my own career and my colleagues’, working across Asia, the U.K., the U.S., in media and now with manufacturers. Women are looking for companies and brands that help them get more done in less time. They crave products and services that simplify their lives, and they want to buy them from companies that actually support their values.

My advice to brands? Be bold. Tell your story and establish true connections with women.

Brands need to understand what matters most to women if they plan on engaging with them. Brand disloyalty has never been higher, and that means consumers don’t have to look far to find other options that might better meet their needs.

Here’s a real-life example: The vast majority of women, 89% around the planet, plan to change what they eat. With more options across health and wellness than ever, consumers around the globe are growing increasingly reliant on technology as a way to validate their choices. End-to-end clarity will provide women with what really matters: trust and transparency.

But it’s not just about improving ingredients, labels or health claims—all of which women are paying keen attention to. Women care about the brand journey—where the product comes from, how it’s made and who it affects along the way. They’re concerned about the environment, and they’re willing to back up their concerns with their wallets. When women see their values and priorities reflected in the products available to them, they’re willing to spend accordingly—even change their behavior. They also feel better about companies that are transparent about where and how products are sourced and made.

The hard news? Brands may only get one shot. Women say they are less likely than men to be swayed to try new products by traditional advertising methods. That doesn’t mean that women aren’t trying new products. In fact, compared with five years ago, they are more likely to say they try new brands than men at 47% vs. 44% globally. Companies that miss the authenticity mark or don’t reflect who we are and who we want to be, aren’t the partners we’re looking for. Frankly, in this day and age, we’re happy to move on, speak out, or even start our own companies to get what we need.

Companies that are lagging behind are putting the future of their business at risk. The warning signs are already here. In North America, despite the fact that gender equality has been debated for decades, women don’t see their realities in overarching corporate actions—a worrying sign for all organizations in the U.S. and Canada.

This is just the start of a trend that we expect to sweep through other parts of the world if meaningful change isn’t accelerated.

Our CEO David Kenny says it this way: “Companies must practice what they preach. Women want authenticity, and they’re demanding it. Without that, women will not trust organizations whose corporate values are not in line with their brands’ communication. Action, not words, is what is required.”

We believe that companies must look internally and really challenge the core foundations of themselves and their organizations to ensure that they’re addressing gender equality at a corporate level as well as in the ways they portray their brands as well.

Here are a few questions that smart companies will be addressing:

  •     How does my brand give her back time in her day? Solve her needs? Simplify her life?
  •     How does my brand help her make the choices that are important to her and her family?
  •     Does our communication reflect who she is and how she lives her life today?
  •     How does our brand portray the role of men in her life?
  •     Does our company “walk the talk”? Are our corporate values transparent and in line with our brand speak?

As equality and diversity continue to top the agenda of corporations and social movements around the world—it’s not just the right thing, it’s the smart thing.

 

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