Social Movement Marketing – the real way into female consumers’ hearts

Welcome to the advent of the new marketing frontier – “Social Movement Marketing”.

As the Chair of the Marketing to Women Conferences in the Middle East and a marketing professional with years of experience, I have long been a proponent of what engages with women.

The recipe for success constitutes long-term communications which aim to not only to change attitudes through social media and clever content curation, but which also drive hard-hitting measurable change in local communities.

A great example of this is the “This Girl Can Campaign”.

This Girl Can is the name and strapline for Sport England,  the UK’s body dedicated to growing and supporting participation in sport, to encourage girls and women to become more active.

Sport England’s research highlighted that girls and women do not participate in sports because of fear of judgement. Whilst they find the concept of sport appealing, women in the UK perceived that sweating and “jiggling” would make them open to judgement from others.

Since time of launch, 25 million people have viewed the flagship This Girl Can film online and the hashtag is often a top trend on twitter.

Whilst a UK campaign, it has gone viral globally. The communications industry has recognised its power, and has awarded Sport England no less than 9 Cannes Lyons Gold awards at last year’s Cannes Lyons Festival.

What is behind This Girl Can’s Success?

1. It is about real women – every woman is a star 

Real women are clearly sweating and jiggling in sport and in all sporting activities. The campaign does not feature celebrities nor stars. The average woman is the star. No social stratum dominates. Women from all parts of the UK and across the social spectrum feature in its communication.

Interestingly, some celebrities took part in the Twitter conversation, but of their own accord. They deny any payment.

Image: ThisGirlCan website

2. It empowers women with powerful messages

The message is driven home through hard hitting lines. Language such as ‘Sweating like a pig, feeling like an ox’ are used to prompt attitude change. There is nothing politically correct about this campaign. Its honesty and transparency are palpable.

And this is perhaps why it has captured the female zeitgeist – nothing is off limits.

No soft politically correct attitudes around women are stated. The play of words is clear in statements such as “I play with balls. Deal with it’. This provocative language captures the new attitudes to sport that today’s women desire.

3. Real grass-roots activation create local impact

Reading the Twitter #thisgirlcan community conversation, or the dedicated thisgirlcan web portal, Sport England’s message is supported by getting women to announce where they will be exercising, and openly inviting other women to join. Women are also invited to share their sweaty pictures, with no make-up, nor filters. Anyone can be celebrated.

4. It breaks stereotypes of what women can and cannot do

The strategy and execution of this campaign clearly break any barriers on which women can and can’t perform sport. Overweight, disabled, young, old, no characteristics matter. ANYONE can do it.

This democratisation of the message is crucial to its wide appeal.

Sport is no longer the confines for able-bodied, perfectly contoured women undertaking girly sport such as ballet – all sport is open to all and of all abilities.

Football, boxing, rugby, all sports are open to women.

Crucially, the campaign highlights how women feel when doing sports. These feelings drive the attitude change – combining the possibility of doing new sport (even if traditionally being male-dominated) and feeling good are a winning combination. The image of a female boxer with “Under these gloves is a beautiful manicure” just says it all.

5. Conceived by a Diverse Client and Agency Team

Diversity in the Marketing Communications world has been a hotly debated subject. Sport England’s CEO has openly stated that the success of the campaign is also down to a diverse working team – both on the agency and client side.

Whilst the agency creative and copywriter were both male, the pitch team and the lead individuals in the campaign were female which meant the CEO could ‘short circuit an awful lot of conversations”.

Can this girl can translate to the Middle East?

I believe This Girl Can ethos can be adapted to suit the Middle East and the GCC. I don’t believe a cut and paste approach will be appropriate.

A culturally sensitised, locally relevant campaign which used the above 5 key pillars is required. I believe the challenge is fear of shaking the waters.

Fear from brands and their creative teams of pushing the boat out.

Whilst some great campaigns such as Maggie Diaries or Nayomi’s 200smiles, are clearly resonating on the social media realms, initiatives which also encourage grass-roots attitudinal change are non-existent.

Campaigns still rely on the “safe” celebrity endorsement approach. All too often they still fall into the trap of portraying women in the traditional “home-maker”/mother category.

Women in the GCC are changing in attitude and aspirations. They are working in all fields and earning money off their own back. They are driving consumption of products from themselves and their families, yet they feel largely stereotyped.

It will take a bold brand to seize the opportunity of this attitudinal shift in women and leverage it to encourage local change whilst driving the emotional connection with their female consumers.

This region is full of endless opportunities to do so – as long and the words ‘play safe’ are not part of the brand philosophy for those who take it on.

Perhaps that is one thing that This Girl Can has to teach to local marketers.

Courage will pay dividends.

Why Financial Services firms are losing out on Female Spending Power

Why Financial Services firms are losing out on Female Spending Power

Research world-wide has identified that women feel under-served by financial services companies. Below is an example of why….

I recently received a call from a financial services company in response to an email I had sent to a (female) contact of mine who came referred by my financial advisor. He informed me that whilst his female colleague was no longer working with that firm, we would try to help me. Given that this gentleman was responding to an email I had sent, I was looking forward to a constructive conversation to solve a particularly important financial matter. However, what the conversation soon turned sour. Why?

  1. This advisor had clearly not taken the time to read my email which set out my questions on the specific matter with the precision of a surgeon
  2. Rather than seek to understand my situation, he proceeded to question why I may even be considering doing what I was doing, including why I was researching the specific matter for which I had approached his colleague in the first place.

I became very vexed and had to cut the conversation short. Instead of approaching me as a potential customer, I felt he was aggressively condescending to me. The potentially lucrative relationship for him ended there.

Research from around the world, as well as the GCC has highlighted that women feel underserved when it comes to financial services.

In our last Best Brands Marketing to Women Survey, only 4% of women in the GCC believed Financial Services companies catered well to the female demographic.

Given the above example, it is clear to see why. This was a clear instance of how NOT to sell financial services to women.

For those who are looking to tap into the female dirham, pound or dollar, these are some of the key tenets women are looking for when establishing rapport with any advisor:

  • Empathy is key – if you are a selling (anything, including professional services), you have to understand HER situation. Spend time asking questions and listen! Be patient. Do not question her questions or approach. Take time to listen to what she is looking for. Do not jump in and interrupt her mid-sentence. Like me, she is likely to feel undermined.
  • Watch your language and your tone women’s brains are fine-tuned to capture the non-verbal cues more than men. So, maintain a level of calm interest and slow down. Women do not appreciate being steam-rollered and any potential “aggressive” language and cutting tone will be interpreted as doing just that.
  • Take your time – don’t rush in with a solution. Men like to solve, so resist the urge to jump in and offer your views. Even if you have a specific solution in mind, dig deep by asking questions and take some time to come up with a special solution just for her. Offer to take some time to “research” and then come back to her. She will appreciate the fact that you have made the investment to look into her matter.

I am lucky in that for the last 10 years I have had the benefit of a male financial advisor whose approach offers what I call a Gender Savvy service – an empathetic and service-oriented approach to managing his (female) clients. It is thus no surprise that I would look no further for any issues and have, indeed, referred him to a number of my friends and contacts.

Christina Ioannidis is the Chair of the Marketing to Women Conference. She has extensive  experience and insight into gender science and applies behavioural differences to optimise commercial and business practices.

Why women are natural consumers of technology

Why women are natural consumers of technology

Research in the Gulf region, has identified that the one thing women cannot live without is….. their mobile phone!

The trusted device of connectivity trumps the stereotypically female make up or fashion Items.

Women connect, share and shape in the virtual world. Their use of technology represents a micro-filter on their attitude to life. Why?

Women are connected

Women’s use of technology and digital machines combines entertainment, organisation and connectivity in the home and office. According to Nielsen Mobile, 13.5 million women have adopted the business-born Smartphone. (The number of users has doubled in the last two years).

Women have no off-switch

Women report using different devices (mobile phone, computer, TV, DVD etc) to perform multiple tasks and slot them into their activity list, irrespective of the time of day.
Women Share

Women are the best brand evangelists. Women have taken the ‘Blogosphere to the Stratosphere’: over 40 million women write blogs weekly and
50% of women believe that blogs are reliable sources for information

These blogs act as a platform for sharing the best and worst experiences, both in terms of personal, but also brand-related, experiences. Women’s innate programming for emotional connection with others guides them to harness the power of technology to bring their passions (and frustrations) to the rest of the world.

According to Nielsen Mobile, staying in contact with family and friends is the top reason women use social media (65% vs. 53% for men). More women also use social media than men as a creative outlet, particularly for blogging and uploading/sharing photos (28% women vs. 23% men) and for entertainment purposes (48% women vs. 45% men).

Women are not only more likely than men to ask for opinions from friends, family, colleagues and their circle of contacts, they are also more likely to volunteer accounts of both good and bad purchase experiences.

As the marketing guru Marti Barletta comments,

‘Because they’ve done more homework upfront, [women] feel more confident recommending their choices to friends and others. … When you convert a male prospect into a male customer, you get a new male customer. When you convert a female prospect, you get more: not only her own greater purchasing role but also a life-long string of referrals’

Women have no boundaries

The lines between work, family and ‘her’ time are blurred – she is accessible 24/7. This blurring is even more pronounced for women who are mothers. In the US, 84% of new mums research products online; this is more than the national average of 78%. 82% of new mums purchase products online.

Women are tasktacklers: they want tools to help them accomplish their tasks and enhance their ability to pursue interests. Women need products which offer solutions or stimulate aspirations to make their challenged lives easier. And the trusted mobile does this perfectly.

Saudi Women Consumer Insights: Quick Facts

Saudi Women Consumer Insights: Quick Facts

We recently laid our hands on a piece of fascinating research by Omnicom Media Group, called Dare to Dream. We have summarized some of the most interesting findings below. 

General Demographics

Women represent 45% of the population of Saudi Arabia.

Nearly a third of Saudi women are aged under 15, a ratio slightly higher than for males.

Despite high levels of education, with 39% of Saudi females enrolled in tertiary education against 35% of males, women’s labor participation ratio is one of the world’s lowest at 17%.

A 2006 survey by Integral-OMG found that 38% of females claimed to be the main decision-maker on what brands to buy across a range of products and services. In 2012, Integral-OMG’s Dare to Dream survey found this ratio had jumped to 60% on average, with variations across product categories.

Saudi Women’s Media Consumption

46% of media advertising targets females specifically.

10 of the top 20 categories in Saudi and pan-Arab media are female-driven and a further eight focus on both genders. This is even more pronounced in FMCG categories, where females are the clear target group in six in the top 10 in investment terms

While men tend to gravitate towards newspapers specifically; women show a stronger preference for weekly and monthly magazines in terms of print media.

Women spent 24 minutes more watching TV in 2012 than they did in 2010, to 6 hours and 34 minutes daily, or an increase of 7%. On radio, listenership dropped by 20% in two years, down to 2 hours and 45 minutes.

30% of Saudi females are Facebook users; almost half a million of 20-25 year old females are Facebook users. 61% of women own a smartphone in the Kingdom.

Women tend to go online every day of the week and heavy users can spend up to four hours a day using the internet.

Hawaaworld, the largest female website, is one of the 10 most visited websites in Saudi Arabia.

Although shopping remains a largely physical activity, it is increasingly going virtual – 20% of female Internet users have shopped online.
Digital is also a source of entertainment, 31% of them watch videos on YouTube.

Leisure and Happiness

77% of respondents regarded family as more important than a career. Yet, 59% believe there is more to them than home-making. In fact, three-quarters of respondents declared an interest in working for a reputable company. Only 14% were openly opposed to the concept of working.
Studying receives a similar endorsement, as two-thirds of the respondents said they would like to study and increase their knowledge.

Happiness comes from leisure activities, usually when they are shared with others. Media based leisure activities such as watching TV, surfing the net or speaking on the mobile rank highly too. Faith-based activities, such as praying and charity, also feature as a source of happiness

Individuality and independence would prevail in a world of their own making, women would drive, travel alone or even live alone. Close to one in five dreams of running a business.

When asked to imagine a trip or holiday, they would travel with family and friends.

Precious posessions – Breaking stereotypes

46% of Saudi female respondents cannot live with their mobile phone.

A laptop is seen as both essential and desirable, confirming their love for technology and connectivity. The car, completed with a driver, is a recurring theme, making both the essential and desirable lists.

Saudi women overwhelmingly choose products and brands they believe match their personality, with 82% agreeing with this statement. The appeal of new is strong, particularly in terms of fashion, but they also research their acquisitions before they physically shop.

Over 75% of respondents know what they want to buy, they are also loyal to the brands they like.

Desires and projected image not in line

Saudi women don’t recognize themselves in advertising. In other words, they believe the image advertising paints of the Saudi woman isn’t what they see in the mirror.

What Saudi women see in today’s advertising is a series of stereotypes, based on partial and old truths. Because of the modesty required from women in the Kingdom, advertisers are treading very cautiously on the inclusion of women in advertising, sometimes too much. E.g., women appear veiled in advertising, even in situations when they wouldn’t necessarily wear the hijab.

What is particularly riling for Saudi women is that few, if any, of the females depicted in advertising are a teacher, a businesswoman or a doctor, in other words something else than a housewife.

As one respondent put it, “what we see on TV isn’t a reflection of us, it is a picture of our grandmothers”.

Saudi women take great pride in caring for their family and raising their children, often taking all major decisions in their households as well as the smaller ones. Instead of reflecting the many dimensions in a woman’s life, however, communications often reduces this down to a stereotype.

The tone and content of advertising also ignore the fact that most Saudi women would like to work for a reputed company and don’t see their role as being limited to house-making. Close to half of the respondents think that advertising should show women in a work environment or in an outdoor setting, playing sports for example.

The New Rules of Engagement in Marketing to Women

The New Rules of Engagement in Marketing to Women

By: Christina Ioannidis, Chair,  GMR Marketing to Women Conference, 2015

A recent survey has found that women hold the power when it comes to consumer spending, influencing 80 percent of all purchases in Dubai. The survey, carried out by the Glasgow Consultancy Group, found that the vast majority of purchases are either directly by women, or influenced by them.

Despite this growth, however, women are still massively underserved as consumers. Their biggest issue? Engagement. The rules of engagement for marketers have changed. It is no longer about just marketing a product with a fluffy name, or even coloured pink. Savvy female consumers are demanding companies and brands engage with them in a deep and meaningful way.

What does deep and meaningful mean though, in a market that is chasing its tail in the midst of a recession? The key mantra – Listen, Understand, Act.


Listen and hear – take the time and speak to her and her inner circle; then act on exactly what she needs to have happen. She needs testament of your promise to her by showing you act on what SHE has told you. Invite women to join you, with their friends to discuss their views on a product or service. You will see the energy conversation is open, honest and flows with personal insight to improve your brand and get her to engage with your brand.


Break down what she has told you into concrete actions. Confirm those with her, follow up with what she told you and consciously involve her in the design process. Don’t think that this will annoy her – on the contrary, she will appreciate you care enough to count on her input.

Beware of using the “replication” formula. Women respond better to intimate, engaging communication and language and not a mass market approach – make her feel special, involve her in the process; act like you mean it and be authentic. Speak to her directly – call her and speak to her, or even tweet her; chose email as a quick, secondary strategy to provide additional information if required. Find ways to involve her in the dissemination of your product – get her to be your brand ambassador.


Adopt technology – women aged 35-49 years old are the fastest growing demographic in social networking and blogging. Women also spend an average of 12 hours researching online before a given purchase. Their first port of call? The internet. And when on the web, she is a rampant review reader and she cherishes information from other female bloggers/users.

So when you are putting your proposition to her, make sure she can read in-depth information and have wide-ranging reviews from other women. Ensure you have an information line as well, where she can turn to to have her questions answered in a friendly, un-patronising way.

Make sure she can reach your site though – women use search engines heavily. Consequently, you need your site to be optimized to appear in organic searches. 52% of women will change their search terms and try again if they don’t find the results they want on the first results page. So knowing what she is looking for, the search terms she will use and making sure your page is at the top of that search is key. This is where the science of search engine optimization comes to the fore.

And finally, engage her senses – provide visual stimuli, such as video (which, will also enhance search engine rankings) to get her involved with your brand. The more you draw her eyes in, the more she will spend time on your site, and the higher the likelihood of her connecting with your brand (and buying…)…

Be creative on how she can use your brand in way that makes her life easier (and sometimes more fun) by also including her inner circle of friends. Women are 21 times more likely to share a positive experience with others, unlike men who are only 2.6 times more like to resort to word of mouth.

The rules of engagement in today’s crowded marketplace are simple: engage her directly to your brand and branded experiences – but first Listen, Understand and then Act. Make sure it is done in that order though – breaking the chain and acting without listening is likely to lead you to repeat marketing faux pas of the past.