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Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008 at 5:51 am

How Women Work

By Holly Buchanan
August 6th, 2008

Guy Kawasaki recently blogged about an article that attempts to explain how women work.

There are some interesting tidbits including why women may be more stressed than men, how Barbie has affected women’s eating disorders, and some cool brain differences.

I wrote about some of these differences in The Soccer Mom Myth.  Differences between men and women DO exist.   It’s ok to say so.   But what’s even more important is to understand how those differences affect our buying decisions and which marketing messages we respond to.

Go take a look and share your thoughts with me.

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Comments (9)

  1. Well, yes, there are difference between men and women. But if a man states this obvious fact, women will immediately deny it or deny it has any effect. You can be sure it will be taken as an insult by women.

    To me, this umbrage at the obvious is emblematic of the female way of work and the female way of communicating.

    The modern woman harbors logically contradictory desires. She wants a handsome rake, and a good provider. She wants adventure, and no risks. She wants riches, and lots of leisure. She wants respect, without accomplishment. She wants the freedom to choose, but wants to share the responsibility. She wants to attain equality, and retain special treatment.

    Women are complex but not complicated. They operate on an unsound logical principle that’s simple to understand, but the flurry of behaviors that flow from that principle are wholly inscrutable.

    Marketing to women is easy: promise to resolve the contradictions in her deepest longings. Give her the rake who is loyal and good provider. Give her the choice, but only half the responsibility. Tell her she is equal, but give her special treatment.

    Indeed, this is how the worlds greatest seducers have always persuaded women.

    Nothing here is new under the sun. Except that women deny it.

  2. Raising both boys and a girl, you learn very early that there is differences between the thought processes and behaviours of the male and female of the species. I think it is best to look at them as differences that can compliment each other, as opposed to which is better.

  3. Hmmm…Jeff, your response is interesting. “The modern woman” you describe sounds very much like women of the ages…like my Mom and Grandmother.

    Like men, women often want what they can’t have. Mostly, we all want to be treated with respect – men and women. Once you reach that level, you do have to approach your marketing with an eye on the gender of your market. Because, at our most basic, women and men think differently… process information differently (as Holly notes; read her book, she explains it well in there), and we react to advertising differently.

    Am I denying your assertion that we want to be equal but given special treatment? Not at all. That’s a human reaction – men do it, too.

    I’m asserting that if you recognize that women are different than men, you are on the right road. But, it’s a long road, with a lot of twists and turns, so be prepared for surprises. I tell people to market to women as a group, but appeal to her as an individual.

  4. Yvonne wrote, “Hmmm…Jeff, your response is interesting. “The modern woman” you describe sounds very much like women of the ages…like my Mom and Grandmother.”

    Really? To me, she is very different than the woman of the ages in at least one important respect. The modern woman denies her own nature.

    Indeed, I seem to have read entire books on the subject of how marketing to women has changed. How peculiar to read now, from you, that women are just the same as always.

    Women are the same as always, and women are different today. Perhaps, I’ve encountered another contradiction of the modern woman?

    Yvonne wrote, “Like men, women often want what they can’t have. Mostly, we all want to be treated with respect – men and women.”

    Your first sentence is true, but it’s a false paraphrase of my claim. I claim that women mostly desire things that are impossible to have. That is very different than just wanting something you can’t have. Contradictory desires can never be satisfied.

    This is why we see such anger in the modern woman (another difference between her and the “woman of the ages”). She lives a life of perpetual dissatisfaction. Not because she wants what she cannot have, but because by satisfying one desire she automatically loses satisfaction of the other.

    Get a handsome rake, lose a stable provider. Anger. Get a sable provider, lose a handsome rake. Anger.

    Gain equality, lose special treatment. Anger. Get special treatment, lose equality. Anger.

    And on it goes.

    As for respect, you assume that men and women desire the same kinds of respect. This is false. In fact, this is a fundamental difference between the sexes. Honestly, if you fail to grasp this point, how can you possibly market to women?

    Yvonne wrote, “Am I denying your assertion that we want to be equal but given special treatment? Not at all. That’s a human reaction – men do it, too.”

    Like all differences, it’s a matter of degree, not a matter of kind. I have noticed that women tend to convert matters of degree into matters of kind, and then to advocate all manner of sophistries from the error.

    Perhaps men want special treatment, but they do not simultaneously want special treatment and the equality of no special treatment. I really don’t need to address this, since it falls out from your false paraphrase of my claim. But it’s instructive to see how the female mind will deny the obvious.

    Yvonne wrote, “Once you reach that level, you do have to approach your marketing with an eye on the gender of your market. Because, at our most basic, women and men think differently… process information differently (as Holly notes; read her book, she explains it well in there), and we react to advertising differently.”

    Apparently not, Yvonne. You claim that we all want to be respected in the same way. You claim that we all want what we can’t have in the same way.

    If I posit a difference between men and women, I feel sure you will deny it — as you have already done. So, we arrive once again at the point: you want differences without distinctions.

    Classic female contradiction. To ignore this female habit of mind would be imprudent for sex-based marketing strategies.

    Yvonne wrote, “I’m asserting that if you recognize that women are different than men, you are on the right road. But, it’s a long road, with a lot of twists and turns, so be prepared for surprises.”

    Not so. Science is simply validating almost all of the old sexual stereotypes that your grandmother and grandfather already knew. Why did we forget them? Because women convinced us that it wasn’t so.

    The are not twists and turns here. The road is straight. The obvious is true.

    Yvonne wrote, “I tell people to market to women as a group, but appeal to her as an individual.”

    I really can’t understand what this means.

  5. Interesting debate.

  6. Jeff says – “Women are complex but not complicated”

    I think it is vice versa, I cant understand them at all.

    Jeff says – “Contradictory desires can never be satisfied”

    What about when you want someone elses woman but know it is wrong, but go ahead anyway? I did it once and I was satisfied

    I agree with Sorcha – and well put, clear and to the point

  7. Interesting points, Jeff and Yvonne.

    You may have something there with the unconscious denial of feminine nature… but you lost me after 5 or 6 sentences.

    A woman’s denial is part of coping with the social environment, I guess.

    Yvonne on the other hand has a good point about women consciously wanting to be treated as a person, and not as a subgroup of women.

    Jeff is talking about the more unconscious, Yvonne about the conscious, both important for marketing tweaking. Taking these parts independently would make marketing amiss.

  8. It’s too bad this debate ended. Who is this Jeff guy? Very, very interesting points.

    Also points that are supported by current biology/evolutionary research. Read Sperm Wars, The Mating Mind, The Red Queen, etc if interested.

    -Dave

  9. barbie has affected women’s disorders? wow I have neer heard that one before but I can’t say I disagree.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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