Speaker 1: Welcome to Ms. InterPReted, her podcast of public relations and strategic communications demystified by Kelly Fletcher and Fletcher Marketing PR.
Mary Beth: Welcome listeners to the Ms. InterPReted podcast. I'm Mary Beth West, senior PR strategist for Fletcher PR, and I'm here with my colleague, Fletcher CEO Kelly Fletcher to talk about the topic of marketing to women. We will also touch briefly on the Me Too backlash that seems to have come with some brands hitching their wagons to that movement.
Mary Beth: Kelly, you've built your agency around this expertise of marketing to women, and not just women in general, but highly specific groups of women. And it's you know a well-known fact that women account for more than 80% of consumer purchasing decisions, everything from autos to homes, vacations, and down to where we're going to go out for dinner tonight. So I've heard your story and I've always been interested in how you arrived at this niche and your agency. Start off by telling us a little bit about that.
Kelly: Sure. So when I started the agency 12 years ago, my background was really heavy into the marketing to women's base, particularly because I had been working for a national home shopping network where our customer base was 95% women. We were constantly doing research, focus groups, traveling around the country talking to women, and I got just really interested in the psychology and the art and science of marketing to women. And since we do control 80-plus percent of consumer spending in the U.S. I thought, well, okay, you know let's do that. It's what I'm passionate about. There's a need for it.
Kelly: 12 years ago when I started the business, there were a lot of companies who were still lagging way behind in the area of marketing to women. I can remember going into meetings in the C-suite or even with VPs of marketing who were shocked when they found out that you know 50% of adult women in this country aren't married in the first place.
Mary Beth: Shocker.
Kelly: Shocker. So if you're marketing to traditional families, which was by and large what was happening 12 years ago, um you are really losing a lot of your market share right off the bat. So we decided um that that's what we were going to do.
Mary Beth: Right.
Kelly: That we were going to help brands figure out how to reach women in a relevant and meaningful way. Um I think a lot of brands and companies are still getting it terribly wrong, and until the day comes that I don't see that happening, then we're going to live and breathe helping brands to get it right when it comes to reaching women.
Mary Beth: Right. Well it's interesting, just a number of weeks ago, I follow the um Alan Alda podcast, you know Alan Alda of M*A*S*H fame.
Mary Beth: Hawkeye, you know. He has started in his career, actually about 10 years ago, he started advocating for stronger communications in the scientific realm. And one of the tweets that I think he put out recently was a reminder that a lot of the scientific research that was done for decades and decades really was research that was only done on men. They did not conduct you know medicinal or medical studies as much on women.
Kelly: That's crazy.
Mary Beth: And so you have all of these medical protocols that were developed really only having been tested with men. So and of course that has a follow on impact for decades as to what you know how medicines are developed or the treatments. And so it kind of falls along our entire society, has you know for so many decades it was really just focused on the male consumer and I think a lot of it was probably unconscious.
Mary Beth: But I want to talk about a little bit here how you decided to capitalize in your branding for Fletcher, the last three letters of your name, the H-E-R, because I think that is a very clever approach to conveying your sense of brand in a subtle way.
Kelly: Well that is a funny story because I paid somebody a lot of money to tell me that the last three letters of my last name, were H-E-R, even though that's what we did every day. And one reason is my last name is Fletcher, my maiden name. So and I couldn't think of anything better to name the company. So we went with Fletcher.
Mary Beth: Oh and if I could interject, that is kind of a Southern thing, too, that we trade on our names you know.
Kelly: It is.
Mary Beth: Because I mean, I had a company for a lot of years that it was my name in the name of the company. So that's kind of a part of that ethic. But anyway, go ahead.
Kelly: Apparently it's also a very Southern thing to name your son your maiden name.
Mary Beth: Yeah.
Kelly: And then when you get divorced, take your maiden name back and then you have all these Fletchers floating around. It's like, I got a son named Fletcher, I got a last name Fletcher, and I got a company named Fletcher.
Mary Beth: The trifecta.
Kelly: So I'm sure people probably think that I'm really obsessed with my name, but I'm not. It just worked and um it's really been very well-received. And so when you see our brand and you see our logo and you see the H-E-R, you get that we're doing something in the realm of women and business.
Mary Beth: Yeah. Well I'm not sure it's as simple as having one rule when it comes to developing campaigns. I mean, obviously you and I have invested our entire careers into this, but if you had to narrow it down, what is rule number one when it comes to campaigns?
Kelly: Well when it comes to marketing, my first rule is just don't try so hard. When it comes to marketing to women, don't. Resist the urge to um we always laugh about the pink it and shrink it mentality that some brands have had. Now I think that it's going away from that and maybe the pendulum is swinging in the total opposite direction, which I think is an issue too. But you know women are complex creatures and if you want to market to us um effectively, don't insult our intelligence or don't go into some feminine overboard realm that gets on our nerves.
Kelly: And one commercial that comes to mind right now that is I think really missing the mark when it comes to reaching women, it's a Jergens lotion commercial. I don't know if you've seen it.
Mary Beth: I don't know that I have, but I will after this episode.
Kelly: Yes. Yes, so it's this mom, and I can't remember the actress, but she has a very distinct voice and she's worried about her daughter's dry elbows. So she's chasing her around the house with a bottle of Jergens.
Mary Beth: Every mother's concern.
Kelly: Yes, because she mentions that she has inherited her dad's dry, scaly elbows, and as if that's something completely gross and she's going to be an epic failure in her life and not attract a man if she doesn't get her elbows under control.
Mary Beth: Well, that'll get your blackballed out of the junior league.
Kelly: Yes yeah, for sure. But I don't know about the rest of you moms, but I don't know when the last time you ran around the house with a bottle of Jergens lotion chasing your kids, but it feels so inauthentic and this spot completely lacks emotion. So there's this subtle implication that if you have dry skin and you don't do something about it, it's not sexy. And those are the kinds of scenarios we consult on in our practice every day.
Mary Beth: Yeah, well obviously you can't lump all women into one category. And that is actually one of my pet peeves when I see that happening. Um you know women are so multidimensional, not to mention you know we come in all shapes and sizes, ethnicities, sexual orientation, ideologies, political and otherwise; I mean, you name it. How do you address the individuality aspect that must come with marketing to women, and how are you advising your clients in that respect?
Kelly: Right, right. So funny story, um I was in Atlanta I was probably meeting with an executive from the weather channel, maybe about five years ago. I wish I could remember his name. He was really nice. And he was very interested in the fact that we specialized in marketing to women. And he said, "But you know," he said, "I bet within the next year or two you're going to be marketing to women with like two tattoos on her left thigh and you know blonde hair that doesn't cover her."
Kelly: You know it's so specific and so segmented. And that really is what's happened, is that marketing to women is never a one size fits all approach. I mean, it can never be that way. And that's why there are agencies that are more specialized even than us that reach Latino or African American or LGBT women. Um so it really is about narrowing down the audience and figuring out how to reach them. And when it comes to that, I think marketing to women is actually more of an art than a science.
Mary Beth: Mmhmm.
Kelly: And more than anything it's about finding a way to tap into the emotion of whatever the segment is that we're trying to reach. And storytelling is a great way to do that. We've really gotten to be very high on story-based marketing. And I'm going to go off on a tangent here for a minute, but-
Mary Beth: Please.
Kelly: Donald Miller of StoryBrand fame, if you've heard of StoryBrand-
Mary Beth: Yeah. Of course, yes.
Kelly: And I'm a certified StoryBrand guide, so this is a topic for an entirely different episode and hopefully we'll get Don on the show, but he talks about how story compels the human brain faster than anything. So when we find those stories within those segmented audience of women, when we find those stories that inspire and empower women to take some sort of action. And it's not always about buying a product. It could be about changing behavior or inspiring or empowering a woman to make an important decision. Marketing to women is about finding that emotion, telling the story, and then lifting her up in a way that taps into her brain. And we know that women think differently than men and we process information differently and we make decisions differently. So when we ignore all of that, we've failed as marketers. And that's what our practice is all about, and it's what we spend our time studying and learning how to do more effectively.
Mary Beth: Yeah, I mean, what you mentioned earlier about not insulting women's intelligence; and just it's sort of counter-intuitive because we're talking about developing messaging for a very specific sector of the audience, but at the same time you can't look contrived in that effort.
Mary Beth: Or like you're pandering, I guess, is the right word, pandering to that specific audience.
Kelly: It has to be authentic.
Mary Beth: Right. And I think that that is an applicable standard across any niche market that you're trying to reach. Um no one wants to feel like their intelligence is insulted or that they're being pandered to, it's kind of a universal rule
Kelly: Universal truth of marketing to women.
Mary Beth: Yes, exactly. And it's sometimes shocking how much that goes off the table with ... And I think it does speak to diversity in the profession, in the public relations profession, and those who are actually working in marketing communications and developing these campaigns. I mean, when you have a team that is developing marketing communications who are they don't reflect at all the audience that they're trying to reach, I think that it's a it can be a very inadvertent but almost impossible to avoid misstep because they're looking at things through a very certain lens, and they don't even realize what they're missing on the periphery.
Kelly: Right. That's where testing and research comes in, too.
Mary Beth: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well, when you think about over the span of your career, is there one campaign that you thought you really got it right when it came to reaching you know whatever group of women you were trying to reach? I mean, is there an example that pops to mind for you?
Kelly: Well I hope I don't get into trouble for this one um Mary Beth, because you're a little more conservative.
Mary Beth: It sounds like you're about to get into trouble. Do tell.
Kelly: Mary Beth is a little more conservative than me, and that's why we make such a good team, because I go off on these crazy tangents and sometimes she's like, "No, wait a minute. Like have you really thought about that?"
Mary Beth: Yeah. Let me get my electric cattle prod here and just be share we're shepherding this message and this conversation in the right way for both of us.
Kelly: Well one of the most, I'm just going to go with it because it is my podcast, okay?
Mary Beth: Yes, ma'am.
Kelly: My name's on it, so I can talk about whatever I want to talk about.
Mary Beth: Yes, indeedily-doodily.
Kelly: Well our most award-winning and one of our most effective campaigns was for a spermicide brand called Conceptrol. So we were working with this company out of New Jersey called Revive Personal Products, Kelly Kaplan CEO. Hi Kelly, we need to get you on the show. And they had purchased three or four products from P&G that P&G just wasn't really interested anymore. So Revive took them over and one of them was Conceptrol. It was in a boring, blue box and it was positioned really low on the shelves in CVS and Walgreens and everywhere else. And so they worked on getting it moved higher up on the shelf, more eye-level.
Kelly: And they wanted a campaign that would reach millennial young millennial women.
Mary Beth: Okay.
Kelly: Um that would educate them about what spermicide actually was because they didn't know because it was like your grandmother's birth control.
Mary Beth: Yeah, yeah.
Kelly: However, there were all kinds of benefits to spermicide. It's non-hormonal. It's as effective as using a condom when used the right way and consistently.
Mary Beth: For preventing pregnancy.
Kelly: For preventing pregnancy, yes, and also like if you're nursing, it's a good alternative to keep from getting pregnant. I mean, how many women have you heard got pregnant when they were nursing?
Mary Beth: Oh, I know. Nightmare.
Kelly: I probably shouldn't say nightmare because some women may love having Irish twins, but all right, I'm off on another topic now. So anyways, so what we did is they kept pushing us to be edgier and edgier and edgier.
Kelly: And um you may not know this, but digital gaming, women playing games on their devices, on their iPads and their iPhones, um we are the queens of that. We own that market. We are 75% to 80% of the online gamers. Now, I'm not talking about video games. I'm talking about Candy Crush, Word, Wheel of Fortune.
Mary Beth: Well for me, it's Scrabble. So that's how big a nerd I am. But anyway, go on with your story there, Kelly.
Kelly: So we developed a digital game and we called it Spin the Sperm, and it was educational. And so there were 12 sperms on a wheel.
Mary Beth: That is awesome.
Kelly: And they had different personalities. One was like bookworm sperm, one was jock sperm, one was like um Playboy sperm. And so you would spin the wheel and the sperm would swim over and it would ask you a question, and it would pop up. And so you're learning while you were playing a funny game.
Mary Beth: Yeah.
Kelly: You're getting educated on what this product does. And then you were scored, and based on that score you got ... This was back in the day when you could get a Facebook badge, so you could get Facebook badge to share. And so this campaign, we won two gold ADDYs.
Mary Beth: See and I remembered the name of the campaign because I was sitting in the audience during one of these award programs and, I mean, you can't forget that name when it comes up and it's announced as a winner.
Kelly: So that was a really um interesting and creative approach I think to reaching a very small segment of the population. I mean, we were trying to reach women 20 to 32. So um and we didn't have a huge budget so we had to do it primarily through digital and social, but it also generated a lot of PR because it was kind of out there and we sent out press kits.
Mary Beth: And just the creativity of it. You know that's sort of an off the chart win.
Kelly: So that's really that's my favorite campaign ever.
Mary Beth: Yeah. We mentioned earlier about research and that is absolutely a critical element, um but I'd love for you to talk more about how research does play into the decision making process when it comes to developing and testing a campaign before you go to market. I mean, I think very often that gets left out of the mix, especially if you are going to be going to market with a little bit more edgy or maybe risky campaign concept, you know trying to make sure that before we make this full on investment, is this on target? Are we going to be hitting our marks here? I mean, how can you be, certain campaigns are going to resonate with women particularly?
Kelly: Right. Well imperative research is just imperative to testing your tactics. And with Conceptrol, like I said, we didn't have a huge budget, but we did do some informal focus groups and we sent out a survey. Um so we at least did did have some feedback that it was going to be well-received. It's shocking to me how some of the larger brands, I think they seem to skip over the research phase or the testing phase.
Kelly: Um I will have to reference the Gillette razors' Toxic Masculinity Campaign, I can't talk that was in response to the Me Too movement. And you may remember, so this was not maybe not quite two years ago, um they came out with a video and it showed all these examples of toxic masculinity, like little boys fighting. And I mean, it was just it was weird. And what's even weirder about it is it was directed by a director from the U.K. who was a woman. And it had nothing to do with razors. I mean, it was such a disconnect between the brand and the product that um I just didn't get it. And I had to question whether they had tested that.
Mary Beth: Right. And I mean, I think the intent was how to be a better man or I guess someone's version of a better man.
Kelly: Right. Well that was. Yes. Yeah. Don't fight, don't get in a bar crawl fight. I mean, it was a little just out there.
Mary Beth: Well, and I think that from the perspective of men who were the intended audience for that marketing message, I think perhaps they felt their intelligence was insulted, maybe in that case.
Mary Beth: It was a, the question even became in the back of my mind, okay, now who are they pandering to you know?
Kelly: Right. It attacked masculinity, in a way.
Mary Beth: I think that that was so easily that even I'm sure that that was not the intent some aspects of that outcome were not certainly not the intent by Gillette, but it was an outcome. It was rife with opportunity for misinterpretation, I think. And I think that's what you run into sometimes when you're developing a campaign that is uh and this will have to be a subject for a future episode, but this idea of tying in social messaging, politically correct, if you will, or politically-oriented, cause-oriented messaging into product marketing, you're going to be wading into some risky waters and you're going to have you know folks attacking that very easily if they feel like they were targeted or some aspect of their outlook is targeted um in that way.
Kelly: Well it could put you out of business. I mean, you Tweeted about two months ago an announcement came out that um P&G took an $8 billion write off on Gillette, and that just came out two months ago and they blamed it on other factors. Um I don't think that's the case. I think that they waded into an issue that completely turned off their base their customer base. I think you can be polarizing if you do it in a way that you know what the outcome's going to be. Nike would be an example of that. That's a whole show unto itself, uh but I think they knew their customer and
Mary Beth: Yeah, yeah. I mean, if it's working for them, and Nike is one of those cases where I think the numbers are bearing out what their strategy is.
Kelly: They are.
Mary Beth: Now I still being of the political posture that I am, I still have some serious concerns about you know the messaging and some of the underlying aspects of that. And I have a lot of colleagues whom I respect deeply who disagree with the fact that I'm a bit off-put with it, and that's okay to disagree. But yeah, I just think that uh you have to know what you're doing. You have to have done the research, to your point. And if you don't, you can really end up having egg on your face with that.
Kelly: You sure can. And we have an entire episode planned um centered around brand backlash and the Me Too movement. You know I'll only comment on this briefly because we are going to talk about it in another episode, but I think that um it was so overdone that it's actually taken away um some of the credibility and validity and maybe emotion of the Me Too movement. If you Google the Me Too movement now, you'd be shocked at how little discussion there is about it. And I know that we all have short attention spans, but it's kind of faded away from the consciousness, in my opinion. And I think one of the reasons may be because so many brands were trying to capitalize on it.
Kelly: There was an Australian clothing brand that actually came out with a Me Too collection and the call to action was shop now. So when it gets to that point, women are just going to tune it out because it's no longer authentic. Um and it's not that the movement is authentic, but there are too many brands trying to get into an inauthentic conversation about it. And that's-
Mary Beth: It's morphed into something that it was never intended to be.
Kelly: It's morphed into something.
Mary Beth: Again, that starts insulting people's intelligence.
Kelly: It does.
Mary Beth: It's like, okay, we were talking about something substantive here and now you're trying to make a buck off of it.
Kelly: Yeah, and we don't want that.
Mary Beth: Right.
Kelly: We don't want you to make a buck off our movement, so just stop it already.
Mary Beth: Right. Yeah. Well as always, it's been a very enlightening discussion. Thanks for sharing your stories, Kelly, and please follow Fletcher Marketing PR on the Twitter handle @FletcherPR. You can follow me at Mary Beth West. We will respond to your questions and comments, so please post them using the hashtag MsInterPReted, and that's #MsInterPReted, and for the visibility sake, don't forget to capitalize the PR.
Mary Beth: Everyone, thanks for joining us. See you next time.
Speaker 1: Thanks for joining us on Ms. InterPReted, public relations demystified. You can keep up with the latest on the podcast at fletchermarketingpr.com and on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to podcasts. We'll see you next time.