IT'S an economy worth $28 trillion worldwide - bigger than the emerging economies of China and India put together twice over. Tapping into it could change our world, says one expert.

With women now making up more of the workforce than ever, as well as typically running the household, female spending power is greater than ever. But Australian "gender intelligence specialist" Bec Brideson says brands and companies are failing to effectively target this lucrative market.

The former advertising executive believes the world remains built for men, and the companies who start innovating for women - who will control 75 per cent of global discretionary spend by 2028 - are set to make a fortune.

"The commercial world was built in an era when men went to work and women stayed home," she told news.com.au.

"With this social movement where more and more women have entered the workforce, and undertaken that dual role of not only working by day but running the home by night, we've seen business maybe not keep up with that same trend.

"A lot of the things we've just accepted and taken for granted are very 'male lens' perspective on the way we buy and consume, and if we were to start afresh now and say, 'how do we design a product or a business that really understands the needs and desires and time poverty of women?' it would look quite different."

Veteran advertising exec and gender expert Bec Brideson says brands could make a fortune by targeting women more effectively.
Veteran advertising exec and gender expert Bec Brideson says brands could make a fortune by targeting women more effectively.

PRAMS, SHOPPING TROLLEYS AND CARROTS

But creating new items that work for women doesn't mean "pinking and shrinking" your product, or patronising them with inauthentic nods to feminism, insists Brideson. She says the savvy female consumer can see through all that.

It's also not just about developing stereotypically feminine items, such as make-up and fashion.

Instead, says Brideson, it's about thinking of the products and services that are integral to our daily lives and starting again from scratch.

"Take the baby carriage," she says. "Once it had four little wheels and it was kind of an old-fashioned looking thing with a big handle, and then it's become more and more ergonomic, the materials have changed ... it converts to clip into your car. Why hasn't a car manufacturer thought about innovating in this space?

"I drive a Volvo because in the back seat they have boosters that allow kids to sit in there at the right height to be safe in a crash without having to have those big portable things you have to clip in and out. Volvo's done it for toddler-age children, but imagine a Volvo pram that it's safe, it's ergonomically correct, it fits seamlessly into your car. Why hasn't Holden or Ford done this? They've lost this sort of manufacturing potential."

Another example is the awkward metal shopping trolley. "Why not a shopping buggy that goes from your boot into the supermarket, back into your boot and into your home again?" asks Brideson. "Things that make life easier, more seamless, that add value, that give competitive edge.

"Even when I look at things like the consumption of news. For me, watching those 30-minute programs has always, there's always the bit of sport that I just have to endure or distract myself until the weather comes on again. News has been designed for people who love to - men - who love to consume that. Even the dailies, front and back page, big headline news, big headline sport on the back, it's really seeing through that male perspective I'm interested in."

She says another good example is pre-prepared carrot sticks, shredded carrot and carrot circles. This became a trend in Australian supermarkets after the wives of a group of farmers in Queensland said the whole lunchbox routine in the morning was really arduous and preparing carrots could add five minutes to their routine. The next thing you know, the farmers' association has gone from selling carrots for $50 a ton to selling them for $500 a ton.

Brideson, who was one of just three per cent of creative directors who were female, says ‘pinking and shrinking’ a product is not enough.
Brideson, who was one of just three per cent of creative directors who were female, says ‘pinking and shrinking’ a product is not enough.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH 'FEMVERTISING'

But women aren't all interested in family and beauty or bored by sport and finance and brands can't rely on cliches, says Brideson. They need to be authentic to connect with increasingly savvy female customers.

Dove was a shining example in this space, with its "real women" adverts featuring diverse faces and bodies. But the beauty brand has since run into problems over its ownership by Unilever, which is also a parent company for hyper-masculine brand Lynx, whose ads typically rely on sexist stereotypes in their portrayals of women.

"Once, Dove was saying the beauty industry are the people who sort of put these unrealistic expectations on to women, but recently they've sort of changed their messaging to say, 'Hey women, you're insecure ... How can you adjust your own thinking?'

"I think that's maybe where they've made a bit of an error, they're almost victim blaming women again rather than saying, 'We're in the industry who created this problem in the first place.'"

Brideson, author of a book on the subject called Blind Spots, says that jumping on a feminist cause and aligning it with your product only works if it's real.

"In some instances, it's done well and in others it feels very tokenistic and very bolted on to the outside of a brand's real purpose and authenticity," she said. "Femvertising is where they say, 'hey, you might just be selling shampoo, but let's try and do it through a feminist lens and rally around something that's important to women,' but they haven't actually changed anything.'"

She believes that meeting the needs of female consumers could be key to surviving the transformation to digital and the threat of online retail giants such as Amazon.

"Commercially, it makes sense to build into any kind of disruption or any transformation that a business is making. It makes sense to build in understanding the needs of your female consumers."

Brideson was one of just three per cent of creative directors in the advertising who were female. Since she started her own consultancy and agency, she's been free to do things her own way.

"We all need to learn how to become multi-lensed, and I know myself, I've learned for my own survival in business to be male lensed because it was the prevailing lens, it was the traditional perspective of the first 20 years of my career.

"Women are equal and different, and different's OK."


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