Reaching the Gentler Sex: Why Marketing to Women Requires a Holistic Approach. A guest post by Andrea Learned

Posted by on Aug 3, 2009 in emotions, work | 4 comments


I’ve written a few posts on the value of connections and the unique relationships that women have with one another, and with the world at-large. Not only do these connections provide a sense of security and enrich our emotional, psychological and physical fabrics, but they can teach us a lot about how we relate to others and how others relate to us as women.

Midlife is a time when many changes occur, particularly on the career front. You may find yourself reevaluating what you are doing, or better yet, how. I think that Andrea Learned has an interesting perspective on how women relate to the products they buy, because it says a lot about how we relate to ourselves and each other: holistically.

So, when I saw this post on Andrea’s Site, Learned on Women, I asked if she might do me the honours of reframing it for Flashfree. It’s a terrific, informative piece, whether you are interested in marketing or not.

Enjoy!!! And show Andrea some love!

Part of what makes women seem so complicated, from the marketing perspective, is the fact that their purchase decision-making paths can be a bit winding. For most women, there is more to a decision than bullet points listing product features on the side of a package.  They take it all in — from the causes a brand supports, to the friendliness of a retailer’s employees, to knowing that a brand actually does interact with women like them (and so has much better ideas how to serve them).

Women certainly consider the usual suspects of linear product facts: like price and quality.  However, their buying curves give them even more to ponder. They may have checked off everything on their list, be close to a decision, and then hear that your company sponsored the run they participated in last weekend. Boom! She’s sold. Or a woman may be 99 percent decided or buying from a retailer, have a short conversation with a sales team member who was a little too hard-sell — and, boom, the deal is off.

The key to understanding how to reach women buyers is understanding how they think.  And, it is in a very holistic – take it all in – manner.

Not surprisingly, a woman’s more typically holistic buying characteristics are founded in the extra-connectedness of her brain. In fact, in comparison to a man’s brain, a woman’s brain typically has more connecting fibers between cells and a larger connecting tissue (corpus collusum) between right and left hemispheres. (Louann Brizendine’s book, The Female Brain, is a great resource for more brain science information.)

Noted socio-anthropologist Helen Fisher wrote in her book The First Sex: “As women make decisions, they weigh more variables, consider more options and outcomes, recall more points of view, and see more ways to proceed.” Fisher refers to women’s tendency to think in terms of interrelated factors (as opposed to men’s tendency to think more in a straight line or in steps) as “web thinking.”

As a result of web thinking, she says, women have easier access to both sides of the brain in any given decision, and are better able to integrate the emotional (is this company doing well by their employees and the environment?) with the rational (price, features, quality of product).

In Dan Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, the author points out that “the left hemisphere handles what is said; the right hemisphere focuses on how it’s said.” Women can tap right hemisphere concerns (nonverbal, usually more emotional) much more easily, on average, then men.

In fact, as Face Time author Dan Hill found, emotions may play a larger role in the way women think about everything. This is worth noting, as he also mentions that emotion seems to drive reason more than reason drives emotion.


Given this perhaps more right-brained, emotionally-driven thinking, the curved path of a woman’s buying decision-making process makes a lot of sense.  In today’s tough economic and environmental situation – this more holistic perspective comes in very handy.   How and what anyone buys needs to be more deliberate.  And, what I see happening now in terms of consumer behavior is that men are starting to learn these “women’s” ways and use the finer points of such decision-making themselves.

What’s that phrase?  It’s all good.


The above was excerpted/edited a bit from Andrea’s original piece for a building industry publication.  You can see that full article here:

If you are a twitter fan, you can stay easily updated on Andrea’s thoughts/ideas/blog posts by following: @AndreaLearned.


  1. 8-4-2009

    Andrea’s observations about marketing to women are right on. Loved the post!

  2. 8-4-2009

    Thanks Candace – and I just came across a solid discussion of men vs. women leaders that rang true… along similar lines. It’s not about polarizing genders, but about encouraging the best in male/female leadership styles in everyone (holistic/inclusive).

  3. 8-7-2009

    Great article! However, I wonder if men are learning or relearning these “women’s” ways? Could it be possible that society tells young males to shut off their emotional connectiveness?

  4. 8-7-2009

    I think that is very possible, Brandon. And so – much as some women’s groups may not want to admit it is necessary, we should definitely now also study up/stay aware of what we are teaching young men along the way. I think Guyland by Michael Kimmel shares some good insight.


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