Corporate Eye

Social Web Branding Not Connecting with Women

First, let’s take a look at some facts and trends:

  1. Statistics tell us that women are responsible for the vast majority of purchase decisions.
  2. Women spend time on the social web.
  3. Brands are not connecting with women on the social web.

Looks like a missed opportunity.

A recent study by ad:tech Chicago and Q Interactive gives us even more insight into the failure of brands to connect with women on the social web.  The study surveyed 1,000 women and reports the following results:

  • 75% of respondents’ purchase decisions are not affected by social networking sites.  Only 21.9% say social networking sites have “somewhat” of an influence on their purchase decisions and 3.3% say they greatly influence their purchase decisions.
  • 52% of respondents have friended brands on social networking sites.
  • 19% of respondents feel negative emotions when they come into contact with brands online, and 17% feel positive emotions, while 64% feel neutral emotions.
  • 10% of respondents engage in brand-related activities on the social web such as finding information and writing reviews.
  • The most common social web activities reported by users are sending private messages, sharing photos, and chatting.
  • 75% of respondents spent more time on social networking sites this year than they did last year.
  • 54.1% visit social networking sites daily, 30.8% weekly, 7.4% monthly, 7.7% once every few months.
  • 66.4% use Facebook, 16.3% MySpace, 3.1% Twitter, and 1.4% LinkedIn.

These statistics tell us a few very important things.

  1. Brands need to find ways to connect with women through the social web, particularly on sites like Facebook.
  2. Current brand efforts on the social web are not working well to attract a female audience and getting them to engage with the brand.
  3. Women use the tools of the social web to be social, and that’s where brands need to find ways to interact with them.  Simply providing information isn’t enough.

And here’s a final thought for you to ponder:

Respondents to the survey cited price (47%) and quality (45.7%) as the top reasons for their purchase decisions.  Brand ranked fourth with just 2% of respondents saying brand is important.  Guess what ranked above brand?  ‘Other’ which 3.5% of respondents cited as a primary reason for making their purchase decisions.  That tells us that the social web provides an open opportunity for brand building.  In fact, that’s one of the biggest opportunities for social web marketers.  The long-term brand building strategy supported by short term marketing tactics is what creates a successful, integrated marketing plan.

Your thoughts?

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Enlightening study to brand managers and social media evangelists. In general, women use the web for knowledge and socialization. We examine price and quality first. Previous to this downturn economy quality was more than likely number one and price second. One key piece that is missing is the age demographic of those surveyed.

My thoughts on shopping and branding? This to me is a question asked by someone who doesn’t do the grocery shopping.

I recall a male Republican president being astonished at seeing checkers scan items at a check-out stand, and I recall thinking the same thing: this guy obviously is so out of it, he doesn’t even know the most rudimentary facts about the world of people who do grocery shopping. Our world, the world of those who keep the home together; the ones who do the grocery shopping.

Whenever I go shopping, I see examples of these men–and it’s usually men: they can’t really handle the grocery cart, and in their trip through the store either crash into things or block aisles. They stand, glazed over for long minutes, at the massive diversity of toilet paper or cereals, unable to make a purchasing decision. They often get way too much of some things and not enough of others. They are unable to mind the children at the same time as shopping. They look uncomfortable. And, they always go for the Brands, the things they’ve seen on TV or the Internet. Over and over. Over and over.

I stopped at one fellow’s obvious dilemma distress and asked if he needed more information. I showed him where he could find the unit price of an item on the shelf sales tag. He never had looked at those tags that closely and hadn’t thought about what might be the better deal. He was staring at eye level goods, not those on the bottom shelf.

Every person shopping to make a home knows that the expensive stuff is always at eye level and the good buys are always harder to reach. I realized cost might not be a consideration for these male purchasers. Cost hadn’t been a consideration for that aging Republican president either. Cost is rarely a consideration for the male party making the purchase or for those whose main goal isn’t to “make a home.”

I include in this group the bachelor who shops as if he were 14. He buys TV dinners and cookies and soda (what I call Corporate Sugar Water). All those things heavily advertised on TV and many well-traveled Internet sites. He buys Brand-name dog food, and Brand-name baked goods, and Brand-name detergent. And Coke or Papsi. Women squeeze by his misaligned cart and grab the bigger bag of dog food from the bottom shelf, the locally baked no-name brand bread, the 100% juice, and the store-brand detergent (again from the bottom shelf).

So, you want to know why women aren’t attracted to brands on Social Media. It’s simple. We’re the ones juggling things in inflationary times, attempting to maintain certain living standards for more than ourselves while our real income drops and drops again. We don’t give a big amount of attention to TV ads that promise us we’ll look like those blonds or live as well as those wealthy looking couples. We know better. We use Social Media to find connections with the real—not imaginary—consequences of a purchase. We sometimes bend to the wishes of a brainwashed child, demanding a cereal marketed for 37 minutes out of every four hours of Saturday TV, but not often.

We have long bought the store brand. We’ve begun buying used things. We have begun clothing swaps and book swaps. We started using Freeycle and craigslist to move our possessions around. We are falling back on stories heard around the kitchen tables from our grandmothers and mothers. We even took a class on canning tomatoes and making pickles.

We have begun living even more inexpensively than we did in the ’60s and ’70s when we experimented with buying clubs and food co-ops and barter networks. We connect and compare and cooperate. Brands are something that don’t even catch our eye except in a negative way. The results of your study indicated this: Brands come in last, after Other as the reason for purchase.

So get a clue. Go grocery shopping. Ask a woman for explanations (if she looks as if she has the time; don’t if she looks harried, hurried, or tired). Get some opinions from the people who are holding this country together while all else fails. It isn’t the men.

p.s. I apologize for generalizing this into black and white. It is stark but important to see the contrast. I know men who know how to shop, and who are more concerned about excessive packaging than about Brand name. They purchase items carefully and conservatively, following Slow Food’s and Michael Pollen’s guidelines for shopping. I am exaggerating this to make a point.

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