Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

… or Feminization if you’re American.

At the Digital Minds Conference last Sunday, part of the London Book Fair (from which I’ve only just surfaced, so please excuse the tardiness of this thought) there were three keynote speakers. I’d always thought there could only be one keynote speaker, who would be The Keynote Speaker, but the conference world appears to have left me behind. Or common sense has left them behind.

One of the excellent keynote speakers (there were two) was Jim Griffin of OneHouse LLC. I didn’t know him or what he does, but I listened obediently. And what he had to say was good. I sat up when he announced “Every time someone has to click on your website, you lose half your audience.”

Of course you do! I do it myself! Like most youth, I suffer from diminishing attention span syndrome, and if I find a website is making too many demands on me, I will wander off elsewhere. Memo to self: must ensure that the new iteration of fotoLibra has as few jumps as possible. There’s a great art in this, and for someone as prolix, verbose and effulgent as I am, it is extremely hard to pare what I want to say back to the core. E.g. that 32 word sentence could have been written in seven.

Griffin went on to advocate the feminisation of marketing. In a few swift sentences he describes the shift from the Alpha Male marketing of the late C20 to today’s softer, more insidious techniques. And he’s absolutely right. Ten years ago companies would unblushingly describe their salesmen as ‘thrusting’, ‘aggressive’, ‘potent’ and displaying a ‘robust’ attitude. They might have well as stated their policy as “Wham! Bang! Thank you Ma’am!” Make the sale, move on. Scored! Or as I saw in one memorable, boastful but educated piece of grafitti: VIDI • VICI • VENI ( you can look it up for yourselves if you need to).

When I interviewed Jeff Bezos for The Times back in 1996 he told me that he’d chosen the name Amazon for his company because he wanted it to be the biggest damn retailer in the world and the Amazon was the biggest damn river. It seemed like braggadocio at the time, but they’re on their way. And they’ve done it through the feminisation of their marketing, not through the big swinging dick statements of their founder.

Jim Griffin pointed out that Amazon knows what you like to read. It knows your birthday. It knows the sort of music you listen to, the films you watch. It probably remembers the colour of your eyes and your wedding anniversary. It’s a woman, for God’s sake. And the customers keep coming back. Amazon isn’t interested in a one night stand, it wants a long term, loving relationship. As long as you keep giving it money.

What if you go off and start buying from someone else? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that in the future there’ll be some built-in module to penalise disloyalty.

They could call it Alimony.

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20 Responses to “The Feminisation Of Marketing”

  1. Martha says:

    Very interesting. And I didn’t have to click even once!

  2. A female reader says:

    Are you trying go make the reader feel stupid? Or are you just trying to make us think you are very educated and smart? Latin? Greek? So you talk about not clicking too often- then basically say if you are so stupid you don’t understand what I have just written then click off elsewhere and find out what it means! Vidi vici whatever. Being educated doesn’t mean you can speak numerous languages you know! Or am I just stupid and not as clever as you? Or- are you being just a bit silly. Take your finger out your and actually do as you preach in your article!

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      OK, Female Reader, let’s just call you Differently Educated. “Veni Vidi Vici” is perhaps the most famous phrase in Latin, the world’s commonest and most international language over the past two thousand years. Latin is not scary, and you should not scorn it simply because you don’t know it. Being educated means you will know the phrase. In order for you not to have to click anywhere else it means “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Rearrange this well known phrase or saying to see the point I was making.
      And where’s the Greek?

      • peta says:

        I got it Gwyn.. and I don’t have any formal qualifications. It’s what that Cesar chappy said when he kicked our arses, when ever it was. Though I am guessing that it has been changed to “I saw, I conquered, I came” .. but that’s just guess work. Personally I have always put forward the doctrine that it should not take more than two clicks to get to anything you want on a website… and even that is one click too many, now… maybe if I had been a keynote speaker LoL

  3. Slow down. Publishers may meet, but only read money. Technology is killing the future of books.
    Too fast a pace

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      I disagree. Books will always exist. Delivery methods may change. A hundred years ago we had hardbacks. Today we have hardbacks, paperback and ebooks. Same content, different formats.

  4. Brian Murray says:

    I’d like to know since when did women hit the shops (virtual or otherwise), buy exactly what they need, and get it all done quickly? 1 click, or visits to 15 other shops?

    I agree entirely that a less aggressive sales approach is necessary, but I’m put off by “today’s your birthday, and you like cake” sort of stuff.

    Must be something to do with Y Chromosomes.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      The ebook retailer Kobo irritates the hell out of me with their patronising “Congratulations! You’ve read a book!” approach. It makes me feel I’m being lectured to by a 14 year old girl. But their success must mean that more people like it than dislike it. So I’m in the minority here. As usual.

      • Brian Murray says:

        Possibly because reading a book these days is seen as a major intellectual achievement?

        Print on demand is big business these days, be it books or personalised greetings cards or calendars. Paper books are not likely to go anytime soon, if for no other reason than people like to see the “one book” they have inside them in physical form.

        • peta says:

          Paper books will continue as you can read them on the crapper where they may get damp and require no batteries, if you lose one, they are generally cheap to replace, and you can lend them to your friends, inscribe the cover etc etc etc.

  5. Judith Martin says:

    This Amazon/feminisation stuff sounds to me like post-hoc reasoning. If publishing is feminising it is only to put chick lit in embossed pink with glitter, to show we women needn’t bother our little brains with anything too difficult. The all-conquering Amazon (not only are they destroying the High Street but have even had the temerity to take over AbeBooks, so if I order something from a far-off second-hand dealer they’re likely to take a cut) is only female in the way of the other Amazons: aggressive and one-sided.
    And it’s not clicking on a website that bothers me, it’s trying to see where I should click while blocking out all the gratuitous advertising (not you, Gwyn).

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Thank you Judith! I agree with you about AbeBooks, it was a great service. But do not dismiss Amazon as another mindless shagger; the staff have thought long, hard and cleverly about how to make their site as easy as possible to buy from. We can all learn lessons from them.

  6. Chris says:

    Gwyn,
    Your observation about the rise of feminization in advertising is true, especially in the US. However, this advertising method has been taken to ridiculous gender “politically correct” levels never intended.

    The Insurance, Banking, IT, Home Building, Home Secutity industries and more are loaded with these goofy PC ads ….

    Progressive Insurance has the alpha-female lead actor with all the answers, and stupid male weak-minded sots as both employee and clients (Progressive Insurance). Retail bank ads are now portrayed by women as the ultimate business investment advisors (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank) while huckster white males are cheating children out of bank gifts (Ally Bank). The clueless investor is always white male; the smartest investor is a minority or a woman (Fidelity, Nationwide, ING). And now home security/alarm systems ads with white males as the perpetrators…. and helpless baffoon fathers being belittled by his wife and kids (ADT Security).
    Also, drunk driving ads are stupid white males pulled over by a minority or female police officer (public information offices state and federal government)
    It’s infected the UK and Australia as well…check out this Australian Home Bulider ad that portrays Dad as a stupid schmuk….wife and kids are smart and cool (JG King Homes).

    But wait, it gets better, the IT industry has loaded up to blast stupid white males…white males have the wrong network and only alpha women can fix the problem (Light-Path).

    And let’s not forget the drug indusrty/ Alieve pain medication runs an ad that shows women knowing more about pain meds and counting pills (verses Tylenol) than the stupid white male.

    Amazon (Bezos) was correct about taking the male confrontational heat out of the ad world….his business model is good…But the ad world has gone off the deep end of the pool trying to play “politically correct” with… 55 million single women.

    “the push-back post 2012” The rise against “man-hater” ads is now starting to take hold; many people have written to the ad companies on Madison Ave and have complained. “Enough”…I know because I’m in close contact with banks and Funds that loan money to many Ad companies; they’re seeing this as a problem that needs to change. The companies themselves are also tired of receiving volumes of anti ad mail….

    Please excuse my writing skills here Gwyn, you’re such a good writer….. just making a point that the ad business will yet make another change back, in the future.

  7. Erik Strodl says:

    quote:”Technology is killing the future of books.”
    Try telling JK ROWLING that!

  8. Mike Mumford says:

    My Grandmother always had a saying, the one about a man “manners maketh the man”. I remember the old nursery rhyme, what are little boy’s made of? “Slugs and snail’s and puppy-dog tails”. What are little girls made of? “Sugar and spice and all things nice”.
    So take your pick, let me explain 75% of my book valuations are from women, they must read more than men. It is in our human DNA man is out hunting, while most women are home builders. They are a man’s best secret investment. Now with business realising the emancipation of women it will target the right social group, we should all do the same.

  9. […] will help us understand markets so much better and … more intelligently.” A few years later, at the 2012 Digital Minds conference, Griffin is quoted as saying, “Amazon knows what you like to read. It knows your birthday. It knows the sort of music you […]

  10. […] will help us understand markets so much better and … more intelligently.” A few years later, at the 2012 Digital Minds conference, Griffin is quoted as saying, “Amazon knows what you like to read. It knows your birthday. It knows the sort of music you […]