The Power of the Purse 

Marketing expert Marti Barletta explains how to reach women – the world’s largest marketing segment
Photo Marketing, October 2004 Vol. 79 No. 10

Men like the bells and whistles of a new product. Women prefer a warranty or service guarantee. Men shop in terms of technology specs. Women shop in terms of how the product meets their lifestyle needs. Men are happy with a good solution; women seek “The Perfect Answer.”

Photo retailers would find an incredible competitive advantage in offering services to save women time, says Marti Barletta.

These are just a few of the key differences between men and women that marketing expert Marti Barletta spells out in her book, “Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach, and Increase Your Share of the World’s Largest Market.”Understanding these differences is crucial for marketers, Barletta says, if they want to reach women – and few retailers can afford to ignore this segment. Women are the world’s most powerful consumers; and they are the largest, fastest growing market in the world, Barletta stresses. President of Chicago, Ill.-based The TrendSight Group, Barletta will be discussing this topic on Thursday, Oct. 21, at the PMA Fall Imaging Conference and Mini Trade Show in Chicago, Ill.

In the photo industry, according to PMA Marketing Research, women are the primary picture takers in most households. And while more men are digital camera buyers, that gap is closing fast. Photo retailers must be savvy about marketing to women and, therefore, must understand what Barletta refers to as the female gender culture. She says a marketing pitch that appeals to a man often will not have the same impact on a woman.

“For example, the phrase ‘Be the first on your block to have a digital camera’ resonates with men, rather than women,” Barletta told Photo Marketing. “Men see themselves as living in a hierarchical world; and when you’re the first on your block to have something, you’re cooler. For women, the point is that a digital camera makes it easier to share photos with your family.”

Why market to women?

Women have a great deal of spending power. In her book, Barletta points out facts sure to catch any business owners’ attention. For instance:

    * Women earn and own more today than at any previous time – as of 1999, 30 percent earned more than their husbands.
    * Women bring in half or more of the household income in the majority of the United States.
    * Women control 51.3 percent of the private wealth in the United States.
    * Women control most of the spending in the household – about 80 percent.

Barletta also points out that single women head 27 percent of households in the United States. As the sole decision makers, women dominate a substantial portion of the market for cars, computers, and cell phones (think cameraphones, too).

“Many companies don’t realize women are the primary buyers for consumer electronics, like cameras,” Barletta says. “Many companies are missing huge opportunities to do better than their competition.”

Regarding the big companies, she says: “I’m amazed how few technology ads I see in women’s magazines. In the media that I use as a consumer, I have very little exposure to these products. Why? If I’m the primary user, why aren’t there camera ads in O and More and Ladies Home Journal? Why do they put all their advertising in the men’s media?”

Looking more closely at the photo industry, marketing digital cameras and related technology to women will be a key to the success of digital imaging. According to a new PMA mini report, Marketing to Mom: Mom in the Digital Era, women printed far more of their saved pictures than did men. And, more important for photo retailers, women are more likely to go online or to a retail environment for their prints. Men are more likely to print at home.

Why market differently?

It’s not just enough for retailers to realize they need to market to women – they need to market differently. In her book, Barletta explains in detail how thousands of studies in fields such as biochemistry, human development, psychology, to name just a few, reveal there are significant differences between men and women.

Barletta says each gender has its own set of abilities, priorities, preferences, and more. Men buy technology gadgets for fun, for example, while women buy for function. Because of that, she says, if the primary buyer of a product is female, the marketing mix better be designed to appeal to women.

“Most [big] companies are not being inclusive of women,” Barletta says. “They are putting ads in places read mostly by men and are using messages to which mostly men would respond. You need some messages about how the products meet the needs of women.”

Companies need not worry about creating two campaigns, one for women and one for men, she says. That’s ineffective and costly. “Just market to the person who’s doing most of the buying,” she says.

To equip marketers with an understanding of the female gender culture and how that applies to marketing, Barletta trademarked the GenderTrends Marketing Model to explain why and how women reach different brand purchase decisions. The model is designed to help readers understand, reach, and increase market share of female consumers. Here is a brief look:

The Star

The Star organizes and consolidates gender differences into a manageable framework. The four star points of the female gender culture are: Social Values (men are soloists, women are ensemble players); Life/Time Factors (men are single-minded and focused, women are multi-minded and integrated); Synthesizer Dynamics (men analyze; women synthesize); and Communication Keys (men connect through competition and one-upmanship; women connect through affinity and exchanging compliments).

The Circle

While the Star captures what women bring to the equation, the Circle represents what the company brings. Keystones surrounding the Circle represent the 12 elements of the marketing mix – advertising, promotion, and public relations, to name a few. The Circle shows women respond differently than men to every element. Combined with the Star, the Circle offers a structure for business owners to organize their thinking about these differing reactions. It also offers a tool to help plan the marketing approach.

The Compass

The Compass helps the reader visualize the concept that each of the four Star points of female gender culture has a potential impact on each of the 12 marketing elements in the marketing mix. As a marketer or owner develops their advertising, for example, they should look at it relative to all four Star points. The first Star point, Social Values, for instance, should change the way a business develops its advertising, website, and other elements of the marketing plan.

The Spiral Path

This component of the GenderTrends Marketing Model represents the consumer’s decision-making process. While a man’s purchase path is depicted as a linear process, a woman’s is shown as a spiral path. There are four key differences in how women and men navigate the purchase path:

  1. Women start the process differently by asking around.

  2. Women pursue a different outcome – “The Perfect Answer” – opposed to a good solution.

  3. Women seek more information and investigate more options.

  4. Women’s influence on a business’s sales success doesn’t end with their purchase. Women have more personal loyalty once they establish rapport with a salesperson.

First comes marketing, then come sales

As Barletta points out in her book, “You can have the best marketing program in the world and deliver thousands of customers in the store; but without the face-to-face follow-through, you won’t get the sale.”

Barletta tells Photo Marketing, once the woman is in the store, a salesperson, particularly a salesman, actually risks offending a woman in the face-to-face contact. Many women are on guard against being talked down to, ignored, or treated with condescension, because it happens so often. “A sales ‘guy’ can behave in ways that are very normal for interaction among men, but inadvertently send signals that tell the woman, ‘You’re not important; and whatever you’re saying, I’m not hearing it.’ He’s not doing it on purpose,” she says.

For instance, a woman will often describe what she wants in a product in terms of a story about her lifestyle, not technology terms.

“That’s not the way men communicate with each other, particularly on products,” says Barletta. “The salesperson doesn’t recognize it as a sales conversation.” So what often happens, she says, is the salesperson tunes out the woman’s story. When she’s finished, he then asks her what kind of product she wants. She’s frustrated, because she’s thinking, “I just told you.”

“When a woman is telling the story of her life, she’s not just making small talk. Listen for the cues in terms of how she’s going to use the camera.”

– Marti Barletta

All business owners must help their sales staff understand why men and women respond differently, Barletta says.

“If I were telling my sales staff what to do differently as the owner of a photo store, I would say the following:

“When a woman is telling the story of her life, she’s not just making small talk. Listen for the cues in terms of how she’s going to use the camera.

“When a woman is talking to you, look in her face. Watch her face while she’s talking and don’t look over her shoulder – which is what guys usually do with each other.

“If a couple comes in and they’re talking about a big purchase, make sure you don’t just listen to him. She’s going to be the primary user. Make sure you ask her, ‘Do you have anything to add to that?’

“These things are not hard to do,” Barletta adds, “but it’s important to understand the background. Otherwise, the salesperson will think, ‘The owner is basically telling me to be polite to people, and I’m already polite.’”

A store risks more than losing a customer if a woman leaves unhappy. “A woman who feels she’s been treated badly feels it’s an affront from the store, not just the salesperson,” Barletta says. It becomes a cause for the woman to tell others how poorly she was treated at that store.

An edge for small retailers: customer services

On the mom-and-pop level, Barletta says, a big, new trend she hopes to see in retailing is advancing beyond customer service (singular) to customer services (plural). New services can offer a way for smaller retailers to differentiate themselves from mass merchants.

“Most of the time, people have no concept of how time-starved women are,” she says. “Seventy-five percent of women ages 25-54 work outside the home. Although things have changed on the work front, they haven’t changed as much on the home front. Women are still doing, on average, twice as many hours a week of child care and home care chores as their full-time working husbands.”

Photo retailers would find an incredible competitive advantage in offering services to save women time, says Barletta.

“They don’t have to be free services,” she says. “One idea is offering copies of a memory book, or family photo album, during the Christmas season that women could give as gifts to family members. What a Christmas promotion that would be.”

Another service is pre-filled forms. “Why do I have to give my address every time I come in to get a picture?” she asks.

As photo retailers add online photofinishing, another idea could be to have gift addresses on file. That would enable the customer to have the retailer send copies of photos to their families and friends.

Retailers need to start thinking in terms of differentiating services, Barletta says. That’s what will set them apart. “I’m tired of everyone saying, ‘What makes us different is our people.’ Everyone says that,” she states.

Other services could include a pickup or drop-off service at the home or the office. This small gesture on the part of a local photo retailer – something any retailer could offer – has made Barletta a very loyal customer.

“I went to the store on a whim, and ended up buying 18 frames. They were heavy and filled two shopping bags, and I didn’t want to carry them home,” she says. “I asked if he could hold them so I could get my car, and he asked, ‘Would you like me to drop them off for you?’ He had my eternal loyalty, and how much did that cost him? Women would flock to a store offering something like that.”

– By Bonnie Gretzner
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About Marti Barletta and The TrendSight Group

The TrendSight Group is a Chicago, Ill.-based consulting and training firm that helps Fortune 1000 companies build sales, market share, and profits by improving their communications to women. The client list includes Volvo, Allstate, Investors Group, New York Life, Wachovia Bank, and others.

President Marti Barletta is an expert and consultant on successful marketing to women, selling to women, and women in the workplace. She has been featured in The San Francisco Examiner, The London Free Press, The Toronto Star, and other publications.

Prior to launching The TrendSight Group, Barletta was vice president, director of Frankly Female at Frankel, a brand marketing and promotion agency. She created Frankly Female, a strategic capability for marketing to women, after spending several years managing the agency’s packaged goods business unit, including clients Kodak, Nestle, Equal, Dial, and General Mills.

Before expanding into promotion, Barletta spent 10 years in advertising.

Barletta to sign books at PMA Fall 2004 Imaging
Conference; book available through PMA

Immediately following her keynote presentation Oct. 21 at the PMA Fall 2004 Imaging Conference and Mini Trade Show, Marti Barletta will sign copies of her book, “Marketing to Women.” Barletta will sign copies in the PMA booth.

The book is available through PMA Business Resources. Member price is $15.  For more information, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or call (517) 788-8100.

Marketing to Mom PMA mini report available
PMA Marketing Research recently released the 18-page mini report Marketing to Mom: Mom in the Digital Era. It can be downloaded off the Marketing Research area of or by using the fax-on-demand service by calling (800) 536-8680 and entering code 8222.

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