“Almost all tech brands struggle to target female audiences.” This is the damning conclusion of Jane Cunningham, marketing expert and co-author of Brandsplaining.
Cunningham, along with her business partner Philippa Roberts, wrote Brandsplaining to explain why marketing is still sexist –and how to fix it. It’s an important read for any company that wants to effectively market to women, including technology firms.
When asked why so many tech companies continue to get it wrong, Cunningham explains: “There’s a lot of stuff that is still stuck, and there’s a lot that’s still endemic in the way that people who think about marketing and advertising, think about women…[it] feels attached to old ideas about what women are like and what it is they really want.”
Quite simply, too many companies tell women what is wrong with them and how their products and services can fix them, rather than listening to women and finding out what it is that they need and want.
This old-school thinking is not only detrimental to women but also to the companies hoping to increase their market share.
Women drive the global economy. In the US 70% of women make household purchasing decisions versus 38% of men. Women have what can be described as a multiplier effect when they make purchases – they not only have the spending power within households but also influence.
For women, failed marketing may not only prevent them from improving their tech wellbeing but it might also increase the gap between them and the men who are getting the full benefits of these new products and services. Not to mention the gaps that already exist in terms of financial status and perceptions in the workplace.
Financially empower women through technology
This is where fintech could really make a difference. Whilst women are in control of purchasing decisions, they also prioritise financial independence, according to research carried out by Cunningham and Roberts.
“We asked women about their lifetime aspirations and the top two across the world, across all age groups are, first of all, to be and feel comfortable in their own skin,” Cunnigham and Roberts said. “And the second is to be financially independent, and that rises to the first-lifetime aspiration in some countries…It’s tremendously important to women that they feel in charge of their finances.”
Sadly though, when it comes to fintech’s marketing to women, the verdict is no better – in fact it’s worse. Cunningham argues that there is almost a perfect storm when it comes to the tech and financial services industries coming together, as they are both traditionally male-led and male-focussed.
International research published earlier this year concluded that a third of women have lower levels of financial literacy thanks to a shortfall in confidence. In the UK, 49% of respondents to Plaid’s The Fintech Effect claimed that fintech apps and services had led them to feel more in control of their finances, whilst 36% said fintech had reduced the fear and stress regarding money.
Imagine if the same fintech companies that had made such a dramatic difference in users’ lives had successfully targeted female audiences, their results may well be double those cited.
Starling Bank is a worthy beacon for those in the fintech space wondering how to market to the female population, says Campbell.
While the “traditional banking brands…have enjoyed a master and masterful relationship…to suggest that they have the knowledge and that they’re there to impress the customer with their knowledge…Starling seems to do something very different, which is to say that actually, we are not your master. We are a branch which is a service to our customers, and it’s up to you to tell us what it is that you need. And it’s our job to make things as easy as possible for you.”
How tech brands should talk to female audiences
So, if you’re a tech or fintech company keen to tap into the female economy and increase your market share, what should you be doing?
For Cunningham, it is quite simple. “Understand me…tell me how it fits in, not tell me how wonderful you are…And again, it goes back to the master relationship, rather than the servant relationship, the brand telling women what it thinks she needs to know, rather than doing what is important, which is listening to women and what it is that they need and then delivering against those needs.”
In partnership with UKTN, social impact media firm Ecology Media is running a special editorial series called A Better View, which explores the ethical and diversity challenges that exist in the world of innovation – and the ways we can fix them.