Touch the right chord

Touch the right chord

Meet the new age Indian woman. She is a wife, a mother and the person who calls the shots in the boardroom. With the changing times, women too have adapted to each of their roles with efficacy. While an attitudinal difference is already a thing of the past, what is new is how manufacturers of products that target Indian women are changing their communication to retain consumer connect.

Take for instance, Parachute from the Marico stable. The brand has constantly reinvented its product offering and communication campaigns to match the evolving needs of a woman. While the initial focus of Parachute’s campaign stressed on the goodness of coconut oil and the integral part it plays in Indian family life, its current campaign speaks of the growth of women. The tagline reads ‘khoobsurat hai badna’ (it is beautiful to grow) with an advertising storyline that matches. “To get a better insight into women, we have made an effort to recruit more women in marketing,” says Harsh Mariwala, chairman and managing director, Marico, on the sidelines of the inaugural session of TiE Stree Shakti.

To get a better insight into women, we have made an effort to recruit more women in marketing – Harsh Mariwala

Marico is certainly not the only organisation that built their communication strategies around the lives of women. “While working on Fairever, we wanted to capitalise on the change in women’s mindsets. We wanted to communicate that fairness is a means to empowerment,” says Shalini Pillai, director, Brand Idea Consultancy. Previously, Pillai served as director at Fountainhead Communications, Chennai, where she worked on a slew of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands from CavinKare’s Fairever to Coca-Cola Company’s Fanta. “Even with a brand like Fanta that does not cater specifically to women, we used a female protagonist in our communication to break away from stereotypes,” adds Pillai. Although Fanta’s brand ambassadors have changed from one actress to another, the concept remains confidence over aggression, best conveyed by a woman.

Soft sell

The essential difference between selling to men and women is establishing an emotional connect with the latter. “In my experience of selling to women, I have found them to be more emotionally invested while men are rational in their approach,” says Mariwala. “As consumers, as buyers, as advocates, as influencers, as decision makers – one thing is that women are more involved in the purchase as compared to men. Also, a woman will always give greater importance to a product that benefits her family,” opines Karishma Parekh, direct and relationship marketing professional whose portfolio includes brands such as Lancôme, Kaya Skin Clinic and Kirtilal Jewellers.

According to Pillai, the best way for a brand to sell to a woman is to continuously provide value to her. She elaborates through the example of Ponds from the house of Hindustan Unilever. “Ponds cold cream was an established product that mothers handed over to daughters. To retain their connect with the aging consumer, they revamped their product offering to create Pond’s Age Miracle,” she says. “This move clearly communicates that they have something for their consumer, at all times,” adds Pillai.

“Referrals and testimonials work extremely well amongst sisters, friends, sisters-in-law, mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, especially for personal and home care products,” says Parekh. “Word of mouth is very important, especially in high involvement purchases like jewellery as usually three generations buy from the same jeweler,” she adds. The key to selling a brand to women remains a balance between several factors – experience of quality, providing value through a price proposition and the reference of a testimonial from a trusted source.

The great divide

In today’s times, several brands especially in the FMCG segment are going rural. “While targeting women in the rural markets, the idea is to inspire a purchase,” says Mariwala. Pillai concurs while adding, “As literacy levels continue to pose a problem, attractive visual aids need to employed in a campaign that targets the rural woman. There remains certain skepticism about products so touch and feel is an important factor too.”

Much like the urban woman, the rural woman too requires reassurance that the product she buys will enhance the quality of life for her family.

Fast forward

At present and even in the future, products that address home care needs are sure to succeed with women. “The Indian woman will never give up the various roles she juggles in life. What is interesting to note is that the communication aimed at women has become more sensitive,” says Pillai. Moving away from the FMCG sector where women are considered a dominant force, Pillai notes that even male centric sectors such as telecommunications are not afraid to use women in their promotional campaigns. Examples are aplenty- if Sony Vaio’s brand ambassador is Kareena Kapoor, Gul Panag outsmarts fellow actor Aamir Khan in the Tata Sky commercials. “Traditional sectors such as financial services (loans, banking services, investments, insurance) and automobiles that have focused on the men will now also push more women centric products or highlight features to appeal to women,” says Parekh.

As for product innovation to appease women consumers, companies in the technology and automobile sector have taken a step forward. Computer manufacturer Dell, in collaboration with cosmetics maker OPI, has introduced laptops in various colours such as ‘Strawberry margarita’ and ‘Kyoto pearl’. In the same space, Hewlett-Packard has designed netbooks embellished with Swarowski crystals and also introduced a ‘chiclet’ keypad to help women with long finger nails. Automobile manufacturer, Honda, has placed a vanity mirror on the sunguard to the driver’s seat in its new editions, while continuing to actively research the Indian woman’s lifestyle to create a niche offering.

As women continue to scale greater heights, both as caregivers and as career makers, manufacturers and brand builders alike are keen on delivering products that help them get ahead. With women, they seek to grow.