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Don’t Just Paint It Pink

How radio marketing can tune women in, rather than out

credit: iStockphoto/fotum Out of the approximately 92 percent of all Americans ages 12 and up who arereached by radio each week, the Radio Advertising Bureau reports that more than 90 percent of women in nearly every age category are listening. Globally, women control roughly $20 trillion in consumer spending and “drive the world economy,” according to the Harvard Business Review 2009 article “The Female Economy.”

Veterans of the radio industry and leading marketing professionals have a few pearls of wisdom to offer station managers and advertisers on the best ways to pursue female listeners. On the top of that list is being practical with the incentives used to lure women to promotional events, and with the information provided about a given product.

“Women would really appreciate prizes that help them save time,” Marti Barletta, author of “Marketing to Women,” told Radio World. “Instead of offering tickets to a conference, offer a promotion with Domino’s for free pizza or a maid service.”

The modern woman is busy and often needs a rationale to attend an event, Barletta argues. Another way of attracting women is to offer a learning component, she added.

“Women are a lot more pragmatic,” said Kathy Sheehan, executive vice president of GfK Consumer Trends, a research and marketing firm headquartered in Nuremberg, Germany (Sheehan is based in New York). “When you talk about innovation, for women it’s much more about ‘show me how this solves a problem.’ Men are more likely to see innovation for novelty alone; it’s just the latest and greatest.”

Corinne Baldassano, a programming and marketing executive at the “Dr. Laura Program,” makes the case for using social media.

“I don’t think a lot of radio stations really understand the power of social media,” said Baldassano. Facebook and Pinterest, in particular, are a great way to engage with women, she said. According to a recent study from PEW, women are five times more likely to be on Pinterest than men; women are also more likely to be on Facebook than men.

“Some stations have Facebook pages, but it’s all promotional — ‘We’re doing this and that.’ You have to connect with the audience more, particularly with women,” Baldassano said. When promoting Dr. Laura’s show on social media, she takes care to include clips and information with which users can interact.

Marketing effectively to women means making them “feel cool and relevant at any age,” said Heidi Raphael, vice president of communications at Greater Media and a board member at the National Association of Broadcasters, in an email to Radio World. In order to do that, Raphael recommends holding informal focus groups to inform their campaign strategy.

Raphael helps lead the Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio Group, which is dedicated to the advancement of women’s careers in radio.

This screenshot of Dr. Laura’s Pinterest page demonstrates social media strategies that can be used to gain your target audience’s attention.
Equally important to the practices radio and advertising executives should follow are the ones they shouldn’t.

Don’t try to get women’s attention by “painting it pink,” says Blaise Howard, general manager at WBEB(FM).

Trying to appeal to women by exploiting extreme gender stereotypes is an obtuse technique that actually alienates more than it draws women in.

It’s about time, too, Raphael argues, that the business move on from sexist gimmicks like booth babes, which remain a fixture at industry conferences.

“I will walk by a trade booth at a trade show — despite how good their product may be — if having booth babes are the only way they know how to promote their product or service,” Raphael said.

Despite the facts and growing understanding that women control the purse strings, not everyone markets to this demographic with the savvy that they should, Barletta says.

Raising awareness and staying up-to-date on best practices is a way that radio executives and advertisers can ensure they are harnessing the airwaves to reach women. Howard has taken that to heart by creating a website singularly focused on advertising to women.

With the tag line “she earns, decides, and buys,” the site acts as a clearinghouse for statistics on female purchasing power, organized by category of product, and also chronicles the latest news highlighting research in this space.

The awareness campaign, Howard says, has helped advertising clients do a better job.

One success story Howard points to is a foreign luxury SUV (he declined to name the brand) that advertised with the station and decided to lend one of its cars to one of WBEB’s female disc jockeys for several months, recognizing that women buy the majority of new cars, according to She-conomy. They created a radio spot using her testimonials from the experience and subsequently became one of the top sellers of that model in the region, according to Howard.

The annual Marketing to Women Conference (M2W) aims to help managers do as its name says; and the conference website,, is a resource for finding leading experts and relevant research.

When it comes down to it, Howard says, if you aren’t talking to women, “you are missing an entire market. This is a growth opportunity.”

Eliza Krigman is a freelancer writer based in Washington. She has written for Politico, National Journal, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic and the Washington Post.