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Big global brands such as Nike, Apple and McDonald’s have adapted their communication to appeal more to women and the results speak for themselves. Picture: PEXELS/RFSTUDIO
Big global brands such as Nike, Apple and McDonald’s have adapted their communication to appeal more to women and the results speak for themselves. Picture: PEXELS/RFSTUDIO

The tone of many discussions about women in today’s conversation are focused on challenges. While conversations and, more importantly actions, are needed to address gender-based violence, inequality and harassment, what most leaders are desperate for are sources of growth and that means focusing on opportunities for growth. We need look no further than women. According to the McKinsey Global Institute report and Accenture’s research into inclusion and diversity, and gender equality’s impact on innovation, it’s estimated that:

  • In 2018, the size of the global female economy was $28-trillion; and
  • Innovation is up to six times higher in companies with more women in leadership — sometimes as little as 30% representation makes a big difference.

With that reality, can any business afford to ignore the data? Sam Reese, CEO of Vistage, one of the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organisation for small and mid-sized businesses, says: “Successful leaders are laser-focused on staying close to their best customers and understanding the strength of their relationship with them”. Yet, with only 7% of executive directors in SA being women, it would appear that we do not have a shared understanding that winning with women is key to unlocking sustainable growth, despite 60% of university students and graduates being women in SA.

The argument we often see for deprioritising this audience is that while they may have scale, they do not have access to enough resources to make them an attractive audience. These assertions are not supported by the data. Aside from the money women spend on themselves, they frequently control the vast majority of household spend through their role as the shopper, making them the de facto gatekeeper to your products and services making it through the door.

By 2028, 75% of global discretionary spend will be controlled by companies innovating for women, and women are more economically active in Africa than anywhere else in the world.

Many fast-moving consumer goods companies realised this years ago and adapted their marketing approaches accordingly. One of the most successful demonstrations was the revival of Old Spice in 2010. Procter & Gamble leant heavily into this insight to turn around a dated brand that had lost relevance in the face of increased competition by explicitly appealing to women in its communication. Their results were undeniable; within six months, Old Spice body wash sales had increased 27% from the previous year and by the end of that year, Old Spice was the number one brand of body wash for men.

By contrast, business-to-business organisations do not appear to realise the face of leadership in SA organisations is changing, albeit slowly. Large businesses such as MTN, Altron and Nedbank have worked hard to transform their leadership and the main decisionmakers are likely to be women, particularly in marketing.

Big global brands such as Nike, Apple and McDonald’s have adapted their communication to appeal more to women and the results speak for themselves. This is evidenced not only in financial metrics such as revenue, profitability and share price but the results of their investment in building brand equity with young women. All three brands received the coolest brand nod from thousands of young women across SA in the 2020 GenNext survey, suggests they are priming themselves for growth.

The question many of our clients ask is how to find the opportunities to innovate for women and grow their business?

The answer is simple but not easy: get and keep more women into your business.

For those looking for a little more, the following model has proved to be useful:

  1. Relevance: Deeply understand how this audience is changing and how that affects the need you aim to fulfil.
  2. Authenticity: Identify the needs you can credibly fulfil.
  3. Competition: Understand how they are now fulfilling that need (as that is your real competition).
  4. Distinction: Focus your innovation efforts on better fulfilling that need, even if that means moving into a different category.

Ensuring a company is guided by insights is the most consistent way to unveil opportunities to drive growth. Interest in the insights that can unlock this untapped market of female audiences is well worth it for any business in the short term and long term.

This article was paid for by Yellowwood.


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