Navigating the Green Marketing Gender Gap

Would you wear a T-shirt that says "I’m an environmentalist"?

Shelton Group's Director of Insight Karen Barnes observed some interesting differences in the answers to this question from men versus women. 

Some of you may know that before I joined Shelton, I worked with a marketing to women consultancy advising major brands on how to understand and reach women. So when I sit behind the glass at Shelton focus groups today, I’m naturally attuned to gender differences -- and believe me, there are a lot of differences to be aware of.

One is how men and women make decisions. Men generally strive for the simple answer, taking the top two or three criteria into account and then calling it a day. Their process is like a straight line: “I need a new mobile phone. This one has the features I want, and I like the price.” Done deal.

Women, on the other hand, want the perfect answer. They want it all and they invest the time into doing the research to make sure they’re making the best decision. They take more things into account, sometimes even starting over. Women’s decision-making process looks more like a slinky, curling over on itself. The mobile phone not only needs to do what she wants it to, and be reasonably priced, but it also has to come in the color she wants, and fit in her purse.

So when we asked men and women in our recent Green Living Pulse focus groups if they would wear a T-shirt that says “I’m an environmentalist,” we got some pretty different answers.

Women responded that they didn’t like the political connotations of the word “environmentalist,” even the ones that considered themselves green. They expressed concern about being asked to join a bunch of clubs and organizations that they didn’t have time for in their overbooked schedules. One woman even said she would wear it, but it needed to be made of organic cotton.

Conversely, the men said, “Heck, yeah -- it’s a free T-shirt!”

OK, it was a little more complicated than that, but not much. The men focused on the shirt itself, and specifically that it was free, whereas the women considered the message, the way the message would be interpreted by others and what the shirt would be made of.

Since women are the early adopters of green, it’s especially important for marketers to understand their decision-making process, shopping styles, value equation and communication styles.

It’s not that men are better than women, or women are better than men. They’re just different. As marketers, we can leverage that or we can ignore the differences and risk not connecting with the chief purchasing officers of most households. Because that’s the T-shirt most women wear without reservation.

As Director of Insight for Shelton Group, Karen Barnes serves as the voice of the consumer for the firm. The original version of her post was published on the Shelton Group blog and is reprinted with permission.

Photo CC-licensed by Flickr user [ Jeremy ].