Please adjust your glasses

Middle-aged white guys have a lot to learn when it comes to designing hammers and homes for women

By Jennifer Campbell, The Ottawa Citizen, February 14, 2009

It’s Valentine’s Day and many men will be racking their brains trying to figure out if she really meant it when she said not to spend any money. Those who conclude she was fooling are wise. She wants all kinds of things: manicures, massages, chocolate, good wine, warm pyjamas (not trashy lingerie), a fit body, and another helping of chocolate.

This is Hallmark’s day for love, and the jammies and chocolate may be on the unspoken list, but unlock the secret to what a woman really wants the other 364 days a year, and you’ll be golden.

Here’s a hint: What women want, according to Joanne Thomas Yaccato, who has made a career out of studying what she calls “gender intelligent retailing,” is to be understood and taken seriously.

“Our research continually reveals that women consumers feel they’re not taken as seriously as men,” she notes. When companies do try to market to women, they tend to create an event –think pink ribbon breast cancer pushes or even Clinique Bonus time.

It’s not effective because the retailers are not seeing the world from the woman’s point of view, says Thomas Yaccato.

The way most businesses and stores are set up, the way products are developed and merchandised, she says, is through the bifocals of a MAWG (middle-aged white guy).

“Women feel they’re invisible in large part,” she says.

“That’s why marketing to women fails because it doesn’t address how products get designed and developed. Marketing to men is the de facto position.

“We’re not suggesting it’s about dumping men and focusing exclusively on women, but it’s about expanding consciously your world view to include women.”

In her book, The Gender Intelligent Retailer, Thomas Yaccato gives endless examples of how retailers can improve their bottom line by considering women’s feelings. Home Depot, for instance, stopped selling pink hammers and started selling hammers with smaller handles; it also started producing boutique-style vignettes in its stores so women can get an idea of how a finished room might look.

“Women are professional consumers, the uber consumer,” Thomas Yaccato says. “For sociological and biological reasons, that is so. Women notice stuff that flies by men. Women can walk into a store and within nanoseconds, they know whether this is a store they want to shop in or not. They have overwhelming intuition: Is it too hot, cold, lights too bright? Is it tidy? Is it organized? How heavy was the door? Men don’t notice those things. If you successfully meet the needs of women, you’ll exceed the expectations of men.”

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