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How Not to Market to Women: Fashion Isn't ALL Women Care About

October 27, 2017

Dear companies that market to women: Stop trying to sell me stuff that has nothing to do with fashion by fashion-washing your ads. I hate this marketing trend! Much in the way that toy companies think little girls will only be interested if it’s pink, brands that sell everything from house paint to yogurt have decided that the only way to market products to women is via association with makeup and clothes. It’s sexist, it’s cynical, and it just doesn’t make sense.

Here are a few of the more egregious examples of this marketing trend I’ve seen in the past year.

The Fage Lipstick Ad

Mmm, creamy luxury! What a great ad for lipstick!

how not to market to women

Wait, what? This is an ad for yogurt?

We don’t even need to get into the irrationality of yogurt being marketed solely to women – my husband eats 10 times as much yogurt as I do. I'm just trying to understand the connection between lipstick and yogurt. This picture doesn’t make me hungry at all. And if I just put on red lipstick, I sure wouldn’t want to smear it up by eating a container of yogurt afterwards.

What the hell are they thinking?

The GEICO Shoes Ad

A really good way to know that a book is written by a woman and intended to be bought and read by women? If it has shoes on the cover.

marketing to women

This one has an engagement ring too! Women like shiny, pointy things!

GEICO – whose ads are usually pretty great – seems to be taking a page from chick lit’s book with this ad:

Women's Marketing

“You spent weeks looking for those perfect pumps.” (No I didn’t.) “Fortunately, it only takes 15 minutes to see how much you could save with GEICO.” I just … don’t know. I have a vagina and feet but I like the caveman ad way better than this.

Marketing to Women

The Benjamin Moore “Life in Color” Commercial

In this commercial, you see a woman buying lipstick and clothes, piling up the shopping bags like a champ before she finally goes into a paint store.

It’s actually CONFUSING. It feels like a commercial for Marshall’s or Macy’s, not Benjamin Moore. And I sort of feel like the more likely you are to be a shopaholic, the less likely you are to be a do-it-yourself-er type. The more time I spend in Sephora, the less time I spend painting the family room.

The Lean Cuisine “All the Rage” Commercial

Here’s another example of a brand making a nonexistent connection between fashion and their product – this time they’re using clothes to (try to) sell frozen dinners:

“Fashion or food, it’s all about taste!” Oh look, the purple cabbage matches the suede platforms! This is just dumb. Nobody buys food because it goes with their outfit.

Crystal Light’s “Mix and Match” Ad

This example is more subtle – at least the imagery is of the actual product they’re selling:

How to Market to Women

This time it’s the language that’s borrowed from fashion: “I like to mix and match.” Because this ad appeared in a fashion magazine, I can sort of get on board with the subliminal connection. It’s the more blatantly obvious assumption that women won’t be interested in paint or car insurance unless you trick them with shoes and lipstick that I find offensive.

Have you noticed this trend? What do you think?

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Sr. Manager of Content Marketing and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.