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Men, Don’t Blink. You Might Miss The Market

Abbie_ConantI’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, which discusses snap judgments and how they are formed in our subconscious. The book explains how we think without thinking. “Rapid cognition” choices and decisions are made in a decisive glance—reactions that are not a result of thoughtful consideration. That reminded me of some common pitfalls I’ve encountered when men make marketing decisions.

  • Men, many of you are making snap decisions and choosing not to listen to your largest market—women. You aren’t hearing what she wants and needs. Don’t prejudge based on your own limited perceptions. Listen to the reality and incorporate it.
  • An equally large number of you are being impulsive when it comes to your marketing presence in the social web. New social media technology is here to stay—embrace it. Don’t be quick to judge because you don’t understand it. These mediums have become the most effective way for you to connect to your female consumers.

I think the example from Blink, where Galdwell tells the story of Abbie Conant, further illustrates my point. Conant a professional female musician who, due to unique circumstances, auditioned with 33 other candidates behind a screen for the open trombone spot in the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980. She played so well that after her audition the board exclaimed, “That’s who we want!” sending the remaining candidates home. Once she stepped out from the screen, the conductor was floored. At that time there were very few women in the orchestra and none playing the trombone. Since she was a woman, she had difficulty getting hired with the same pay as the men due to the gender prejudices at the time. You see, conductors pride themselves on picking the best talent for the open seats in the orchestra regardless of sex or nationality. They had always said that a woman could not play the trombone, a man’s instrument, with the same strength and intensity as a man. Even with all of the long-held prejudices of the committee, nothing outweighed the first impression they had of her first performance. Throughout the next year Conant had to fight, pass tests and even settle in court to secure her position as first trombone.

Similarly, The New York Metropolitan Orchestra, one of the most respected in the world, has prided themselves in staying completely objective when choosing musicians, giving no thought to whether the person was male or female. The decision is made based on how well the person played during their audition. However, 30 years ago the New York Metropolitan Orchestra began blind auditions, putting up screens between the people who were judging the performance and the musician who was playing. In the 30 years since the screens were incorporated, the hiring of women in the New York Metropolitan Orchestra and other top U.S. orchestras has increased fivefold.

Unknowingly, the listening boards had instantly prejudged the women, thinking that they were not as accomplished musicians as the men and had counted them out in their mind before they even started to play. They believed they didn’t have the strength, attitude or resilience. Their lips were different, lungs less powerful and hands smaller. What seemed like a fact was actually a prejudice making the men sound better than the woman in the audition. It was not until the use of the screen that the committees actually heard the true talent of the musician come forth and the best performers were finally chosen.

“When the screen created a pure Blink moment, a small miracle happened, the kind of small miracle that is always possible when we take charge of the first two seconds: they saw her for who she truly was.” from Blink.

So men, I’ll leave you with this thought: Women are the market—85% of it anyway. Let a woman lead your marketing, and you just might end up making beautiful music together.


Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

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