Five Branding Characteristics That Connect With Women (Without Losing the Men)


by Megan Stephens

Brands have been focused on engaging female consumers for some time now, and with good reason. Women have truly impressive purchasing prowess—$5 trillion to $15 trillion annually, according to consumer research by Nielsen.

What many brand leaders are missing, however, is that even though women have been controlling the purse strings, men are shopping more.

That means branding and design of packaging, seasonal retail themes, product attributes, etc. don’t merely have to engage women: They need to do it without losing the men.

Branding for women can be people-inclusive. Here are the five characteristics that can make it so.

1. It’s past pink

Turning everyday products “pink” has been the default shortcut to attracting women for decades now. Who doesn’t remember the first pink cell phones and how much fun it was to finally have a color option?

Though many women do love pink, keep in mind it is actually the color option that holds the appeal rather than the specific color. If you have the shelf space to offer color options, mix it up with red, orange, or blue.

In addition to color options, however, products created specifically for women deliver benefits that are meaningful in everyday life. For example, offering a lightweight version of a product in a variety of color options will appeal to women but likely will bring the men along too, because both can benefit from the new features.

2. It’s visually appealing

Women are attracted to beauty, and we look to create beauty in our surroundings. We want the products we bring into our environment to look good.

We welcome a summer-themed box of tissues and coordinating soap dispenser that not only brightens up a powder room but also makes guests feel special and welcome in our homes.

Granted, some male consumers may not actively notice the beauty aspect, but when branding is inclusive, they will still receive the benefit. They also will be more likely to buy that brand because it’s what they are used to seeing at home.

3. Key benefits are clear

Package messaging needs to help women quickly connect with the factors we care about most, but it needs to do it in a way that doesn’t ruin the visual appeal. A common offender is the “starburst” call out that mucks up an otherwise nicely designed package. Remember: Beauty matters.

But the main thing women want to know, from cleaning products to food purchases, is this: Is it healthy?

Whether a product is organic, local, all-natural, nontoxic, without high-fructose corn syrup, or under 500 calories, make sure the package messaging communicates exactly how your product will support our own health and the health of our family. And that’s a concept not lost on men, either.

4. Appeal to both sides of our brain

According to the Nielsen report cited earlier, women remember more, and in different ways, than men do. Layering emotional decision-making opportunities with rational information will increase our purchase intent and strengthen your brand’s “sticking” power.”

Women will synthesize the two types of information (emotional and rational) in making the following decisions:

  • Do I need this? Even chocolate qualifies as a need if it’s positioned in the right way. We often create bespoke candy bars as gifts for clients because we firmly believe in the health benefits of chocolate!
  • Will it improve our lives? Make sure to tell us not only what the product is but also why it matters. For example, if you’ve added aloe to your tissues, connect that in some way to its ability to improve life (e.g., sooth a baby’s chapped skin).
  • Is it a good value? Money definitely matters, but keep in mind that price is only one of many variables we consider when assessing whether a brand is a good value.
  • Will it make my life easier? Tell us, especially if the product will save us time; we will move it to the top of our lists.

When the benefits of your offerings are communicated with the right mix of messaging, our decisions are much more likely to tilt in your favor. When you’ve included emphasis on left-brain messaging, you will have also increased the chances of having men’s decisions tilt in your favor.

5. It’s positive

“The female brain is programmed to maintain social harmony, so messaging should be positive and not focus on negative comparisons or associations,” according to Nielsen NeuroFocus.

That means when we learn about companies that are committed to a cause we care about through our networks, we will support that cause by spending money with that company.

Similarly, when we find a good company, we will want to share that find with our network and recommend products or services with which we’ve had a direct positive experience.

Smart brands will provide us with ample opportunities to share information and make it easy for us to do so.

Understanding what we women really care about is an important first step in communicating with us in a way that will not only attract our attention and earn our patronage but also influence the men in our lives, too.

Communicating with women as people who are looking for products to enhance their lives and the lives of people around them can earn you the collective loyalty of their entire network. And that’s good for everyone.