by Faith Popcorn
HarperCollins pounds 8.99
About five years ago, I was asked to write an article on 'marketing to women' for a trade magazine. Even then, I felt that I had seen so many papers, conferences and reports on the subject that, in a fit of exasperation, I titled the piece 'Do we need another article about women?'
In fact, over recent years I've become more aware of the attention being paid to 'marketing to men' (ie, their greater willingness to spend money on looking after themselves, their search for identity in a role-confused world, blah blah blah).
So, at first glance, a book devoted to 'the most important marketing opportunity of the decade: the female consumer' feels strangely out of date from the woman Fortune magazine named 'the Nostradamus of Marketing'.
However, the truth is that all those articles and papers seem to have provoked only gradual and superficial changes. We may see a few more older women in ads these days, with perhaps more imaginative involvement of women in research and customer panels - and, of course, more women in marketing positions. But ...
Bearing in mind how many products and services are either bought or influenced by women (80% of consumer and healthcare products, as well as 80% of vehicle purchases, claims Faith Popcorn), it seems ludicrous that marketing to women is sometimes treated as a specialist subject. To Popcorn's credit, her book represents the most energetic effort yet to make a female-centred approach the norm. And not just in terms of consumer marketing.
With her characteristic, full-on, brook-no-resistance style, she urges readers to consider the full corporate implications of a female-centred approach - from structural issues and management styles to ideas for product, service and communication development.
Eve-olution has all the hallmarks of previous Popcorn books: memorable phrases such as 'Women and men are as different shop-ologically as they are biologically'; new made-up words to coin a trend (eg, 'perfessional' to describe the blurring of professional and personal lives); and, inevitably, the handy checklist of themes - in this case, 'The Eight Truths of Marketing to Women'.
One of Popcorn's strengths is to package information in a vivid way; she used this to great effect in The Popcorn Report and Clicking, although there is a certain amount of repackaging here.
All these trends are packed with examples and case studies - both living instances of companies getting many truths right (eg, Starbucks), and theoretical examples of her own (eg, her invention of the 'Cocooning Chair', a spec for the ultimate recliner that would be the 'virtual center for a woman's life').
The penultimate chapter is given over to a potential working example of how her eight truths could revolutionise the fortunes of a company such as Revlon.
(It hasn't bought her services, so she allows her imagination to run free - customised cosmetics and services, championing women's health, and 'venture philanthropy'.) Popcorn also bravely unleashes her truths on her own business.
Overall, this is a stimulating, fast-paced, uplifting book for anyone in business to read. I could be picky about the strong US focus and style (although she talks about global trends, the numbers and examples are heavily US-biased), or about the constant overstatements, or the recycled trends and truths. And there is just a token mention of the fact that many of these truths are as applicable to men as women these days.
However, this book will make an impact in brainstorming and product development sessions around the world - and marketing to women is a sensitive subject for companies who sell to women but are run by men at the senior level.
At the end of the book, Popcorn points out that the last three letters in 'believe' are 'eve', and urges companies to believe wholeheartedly in 'eve'-olution. I can't guarantee the book will make you do that, but I can recommend a rattling good read.