Male Marketers, Don’t Forget to Target the Single Woman

I was honored to be interviewed by Ashley Milne-Tyte for a story on American Public Radio’sMarket Place® radio show. The focus was on the lack of attention and respect that advertisers show single women.

Guys, simply knowing that women are your market is not enough. You must understand WHO she is to connect with her effectively. You must think in terms of lifestages, not ages. You must listen to her. Engaging the single woman is completely different than engaging moms or even married women without children.

The transcript from the show is below or you are welcome to listen here. Thanks, Ashley, Tracy and Melanie. Great story!

No Advertising Love For Single Women

Marketplace®, American Public Radio™

Kai Ryssdal: The Census Bureau says women control something like 80 percent of all the household spending in this country. Retailers and marketers being fairly quick on the uptake, they have geared a healthy proportion of the ads we all see to women. Ads that are pretty heavy on images of motherhood, family and happy couples. Unless, of course, they are cat food commercials, which seem to be almost entirely the province of the single woman. Thing is, more women are single now — getting married later, if at all, or becoming single again later in life. Ashley Milne-Tyte would sure like to know why more marketers haven’t caught on to that.


ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: I was watching TV the other night when this Lowe’s commercial came on. It shows a bubbly, 30-something woman in her gleaming new home… alone. No handsome husband or adorable kids in sight. She’s discussing her to-do list.

LOWE’S AD: Somehow, updating the bathroom, it just hasn’t gotten crossed off. I’m a grown woman, and I was scared of my own bathroom. Until I went…

OK, I won’t admit to being scared of my bathroom. But I will admit to enjoying the ad. I felt a little glow of pleasure at the thought of that woman happily laying tiles and spreading grout. So how did a cynic like me get gooey over a home improvement commercial?

Melanie Notkin says I finally felt included. She’s CEO of SavvyAuntie.com, a Web site for women who don’t have children.

MELANIE NOTKIN: America seems to talk to all grown-ups as we’re part of an intimate family of a mom, a dad and kids. Single people tend not to be spoken to or tend not to be part of the conversation.

Notkin says most advertisers actually have no idea how to talk to single women.

NOTKIN: When they want the visceral feeling to be happiness, they’re going to show what we qualify as a happy lifestyle, which is family. And people often assume that women who are not married are terribly unhappy.

That’s what was nice about the Lowe’s commercial. The woman was excited about her home, happy and independent. Given how many single women there are, I wondered why so few ads are aimed at us — 44 percent of women over 18 are single, 2 percent more than 10 years ago.

Tracy Chapman directs strategic planning at consultancy firm Just Ask A Woman. She says advertisers want to pitch their products to a broad audience without offending anyone.

TRACY CHAPMAN: They need to justify why they would go after this specific target. I think they want to reach as many women as possible with the amount of money that they have.

But ad industry veteran Stephanie Holland says that’s misguided. She’s executive creative director at Holland and Holland Advertising. She says instead of going for one-size-fits-all, advertisers need to target different types of women or they’re wasting their money. So why don’t they? Because, Holland says, so many decision makers at brands and ad agencies are men.

STEPHANIE HOLLAND: Men have a difficult time distinguishing even among moms, much less coming in and understanding the single female.

She says marketers are missing a big opportunity to target people like me. She says they just need to work on making that connection.

HOLLAND: An understanding of where you are in life as well as tons of other people as single women, and making you feel good about it. And that’s what’s gonna make you feel good about the product.

Take this upbeat approach from Chevrolet. A young woman, fresh from a first date, is picked up by a friend who whisks her away in a bright red Chevy Malibu. They hit the open road.

CHEVROLET AD: He said he was a professional student. No! Of life. Oh, I’m so sorry. Single lane ahead. I’ll be in that lane.

In other words, girlfriends rule. At least for now. I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace. Ashley Milne-Tyte


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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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4 Responses

  1. It’s not just single women that get ignored. It’s us single men too. I can’t tell you how much direct marketing comes to me asking me to buy some insurance or product “for my family.” At least in my business, I’m targeting single women only, so I know how many are out there. I’m a dating coach for women, so I’m probably an exception.

  2. How did I miss this until now? For that matter, how did I miss that episode of Market Place? Never mind, I’ve found you now–but you found me even sooner.

    I recently realized that I had become “a woman of a certain age.” Never married. Knew since I was in high school that I didn’t want children. Don’t own an SUV. Actually, I never learned to drive. The words “luxury goods” make my skin crawl.

    When I purchased my own home (before the bubble, I’m happy to say), I had to fight off telemarketers who insisted on addressing me as “Mrs.” My standard reply became, “My house came with an ancient heating system and, inexplicably, two sets of welder’s goggles in the basement, but no husband.” I almost stopped doing business with one company because a *woman* there insisted that she called *all* female customers “Mrs.” and that of course if I owned a home I must be married. (Fortunately she left the company and the man who took her place calls me “Miss” or occasionally “Ms.”)

    I realize that I am something of an anomaly. Most women (and most men, too) marry at some time during their lives. Most have at least one child, whether they marry or not. But not all of us do–and the number is increasing. It’s very simple: companies can be flexible enough to acknowledge that some of their potential customers might not be a married couple with 2.3 kids and a dog, or they can lose out on those of us who don’t fit their mold.

  3. […] talk a good bit about how all women are not moms. But it would also be wise for marketers to remember that moms are not just moms. They have other […]

  4. It’s sad but true that most marketers are men – at least the ones that steer the direction of the campaign – and when they market to women, the only point of reference they have are their own wives, fiances, girlfriends, etc. As the pressure to shape our lives around traditional social roles decreases, marketers will need to cater messaging to a diverse array of niche audiences. Just one question: is there any data on this demographic’s spending habits?

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