Marketing Reinvented: How to Engage Women by Ditching Outdated Stereotypes

By Mary Williams, March 31 2023
Marketing Reinvented: How to Engage Women by Ditching Outdated Stereotypes

It’s time to market to women as individuals to empower change.

As someone with extensive experience in the marketing industry and as a woman and consumer myself, I can’t help but feel disheartened when I see businesses, marketers, and the media resorting to cliché female stereotypes. We females are far from a monolithic group of lovely baby-makers, carers, good girls and people-pleasers. So, please join me as I delve into “Marketing Reinvented: How to Engage Women by Ditching Outdated Stereotypes“.

We must shift our focus to truly engage women with our marketing by acknowledging their diverse and multifaceted realities rather than boxing them into an outdated, one-dimensional portrayal. It drives me mad in today’s world.

Mary at My Type of People Marketing and website design covering Bristol & Bath and UK

As a woman in her late 40s, I find it frustrating to be constantly pigeonholed into categories that don’t reflect my true self. 

Marketing and me

Once upon a time, as a young mother, I was bombarded with ads for baby products and beauty items. Assuming that “I” (as a woman) would be the primary nurturing parent who also had to be glamorous and flawless – forgetting that parenting children is a team effort! Things have changed over the years, but barely an advert showed a man about 20 years ago pushing a buggy or feeding a baby.

As I transition into the blissful middle age – marketers seem to assume I’m heading for the dreaded menopausal abyss, and I’m sure they think I am almost past it and invisible. Judging by my long-living grandmother, I probably have the same number of years ahead to enjoy that I have already lived. 

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Yet, now I get targeting with ads for hearing aids, hair dye and funeral plans. It’s absurd. I don’t have any hearing issues, nor have I spotted a single grey hair yet! This approach is not only offensive but also demoralizing.

In today’s progressively diverse consumer landscape, businesses and media outlets must meticulously fine-tune their strategies to connect with various audiences effectively and respectfully. As a critical demographic, me and women like me of all ages possess substantial purchasing power and sway, which cannot be overlooked. If we don’t feel valued or connected as potential customers or we get offended, we won’t be enticed by what you offer.

Marketers and business owners must challenge traditional cliches and stereotypes to resonate with women interested in their products or services. 

This article will delve into the marketing approaches women don’t appreciate and share successful tactics for marketing to women.

Embracing the Unique: A Celebration of Individuality Among Women

Let me introduce myself in more detail. I am a vibrant, intelligent ( I hope!), and independent Gen-X woman in my late 40s with an insatiable curiosity, a positive outlook and a love for exploring new horizons. I happily embrace my natural looks confidently (no filters!) and take pride in my distinctiveness. As a working mum, I sing my heart out in my spare time with my choirs and passionately indulge in my interest in technology and gadgets. I wouldn’t say I like cleaning and cooking.

And most importantly, I like to please myself and have my cake and eat it with my home life, family and hobbies. Unsurprisingly, I am clever enough to make informed decisions about what I buy and do. I carefully research what I want to know.

And I’m me.

However, if you were to believe some media portrayals, you might assume all women are cut from the same cloth – devoted to their families, eager to please, and adhering to stereotypes. But let me set the record straight – we are all incredibly diverse, fascinating, and unique individuals.

Women are not cliches and Stereotypes

The Problem with Cliches and Stereotypes in Marketing

Stereotypes and cliches in marketing have stubbornly persisted, casting women as flawless mothers and homemakers or portraying them as multitasking Wonder Woman. And let’s not forget the double standards, where a female boss is deemed “bossy” instead of being recognized as “assertive” like her male counterparts. I’ve walked in all those shoes.

These one-dimensional representations can be damaging, perpetuating antiquated gender roles and expectations. Views that are hard to shift and hold women back in modern times. The double standards between men and women are very real.

Such portrayals in marketing, tv and media can create undue stress for countless women like myself, who may feel pressured to conform to societal norms that no longer align with contemporary expectations. It’s time for re-education, which begins with marketing, media and TV and will gradually permeate our domestic lives and values.

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Brands that continue to rely on these cliches face criticism frequently and experience backlash for their lack of progress and insensitivity. 

From me, the voice of a content mid-life female who wants to help change and enlighten the world as a marketer myself – please, let’s change the narrative and embrace the diverse, dynamic reality of women in today’s world.

Dispelling The Myth of Female Perfection in Marketing

Marketing campaigns frequently perpetuate the illusion that women can effortlessly “have it all.” According to these messages, I can flaunt flawless skin, hair, and makeup, excel in my career, maintain a supermodel-esque figure without breaking a sweat, and embody the epitome of a “perfect parent.” Talk about overwhelming pressure!

Is there truly something wrong with me that needs fixing? Absolutely not. So, please, stop telling me that I’m inadequate. You may need to fix your advertising!

It’s worth noting that men are rarely subjected to such unrealistic expectations in marketing campaigns. It’s time for a more authentic and relatable approach that resonates with women.

You only need to look at the history of advertising to women to see what we are up against.

Engage Women by Ditching Outdated Stereotypes

What Women Don’t Want in Marketing, From My Perspective

Over-generalization and one-dimensional portrayals. As a woman, I appreciate authentic representation in marketing that embraces our diversity and individuality instead of pigeonholing us into narrow categories.

Unattainable beauty standards. I and many other women are increasingly annoyed with marketing campaigns that endorse unrealistic beauty standards and perpetuate body shaming. It’s time for a change.

Traditional gender roles and expectations: We expect brands to break free from antiquated gender roles and acknowledge that our lives and dreams are not dictated solely by gender. We are so much more than that.

What Women Do Want in Marketing – A Better Approach

What Women Don’t WantA Better Approach
Over-generalizationCelebrate diversity and individuality
One-dimensional portrayalsShowcase multidimensional personalities
Unattainable beauty standardsPromote body positivity and self-love
Traditional gender rolesEncourage equal opportunities and representation
Perpetuation of body shamingFoster self-acceptance and inclusivity
Gender-biased languageUse inclusive, empowering language
Patronising or condescending toneAdopt a respectable and relatable tone
Inauthentic influencersCollaborate with genuine, relatable ambassadors
Ignoring women’s achievementsHighlight women’s accomplishments and successes
Marketing solely to women as mothers, carers or similarAddress women’s diverse roles and interests

Marketing Strategies Embracing Diversity

In their marketing campaigns, brands should aim to represent women from various backgrounds, ages, body types, and abilities. Doing so helps cultivate a more inclusive and relatable message. However, it’s crucial not to overdo it by artificially including someone from every background to check boxes. Strive for a natural representation based on your existing customer base.

I loved Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, an excellent example of a successful campaign that challenged stereotypes. Dove promoted self-acceptance and body positivity by showcasing women of diverse shapes, sizes, and backgrounds striking a much-needed chord with their audience.

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Embracing Authenticity – Celebrate Individuality

Women crave marketing that empowers them, acknowledges their achievements, and encourages them to embrace their uniqueness. Don’t condescendingly talk to them – they are intelligent individuals capable of making decisions—probably my biggest bugbear.

The Always’ Like a Girl campaign reinterprets the phrase “like a girl” to convey strength and empowerment, breaking down stereotypes surrounding femininity. Bring it on.

Acknowledge Diverse Life Stages and Lifestyles

Recognizing a woman’s life’s various stages and choices enables a more nuanced and respectful marketing approach.

For instance, a retired woman with no children will have different needs from the younger career focussed version of herself in her 20s and 30s. This is an entire contrast to the life of the mum of a toddler compared to the mum of a teenager —very different life experiences. 

Love yourself at any age.

I respect any brand which embraces the body positivity movement by featuring models with diverse body types and showcasing their so-called “imperfections,” such as stretch marks and scars. By promoting authenticity and embracing diversity, they build a genuine connection with its audience, setting itself apart from competitors and fostering brand loyalty.

Women friends having fun - Marketing Reinvented: How to Engage Women by Ditching Outdated Stereotypes

Three Tips for Marketers to Break Free from Stereotypes and Cliches from a Woman’s Perspective.

Conduct market research. As a woman, engaging with us and discovering what we want can offer invaluable insights into our needs, preferences, and expectations, helping you create more relevant and impactful campaigns.

Communicate and collaborate with women from diverse backgrounds. Including women’s perspectives in the creative process can help challenge and debunk stereotypes, leading to more authentic messaging that resonates with us. Just talk with us, listen and do something with the information.

Commit to ongoing learning and improvement. To stay ahead and connect with women, consistently evaluate and refine your marketing strategies, incorporating our feedback and staying informed about evolving societal values and trends. It’ll pay you dividends in the long run.

Ditch the women’s marketing cliches – forever.

Ditching those restricting cliches and stereotypes when marketing to women like me is a game-changer for brands. Let’s keep things fun, fresh, and honest! By aiming to create genuine, relatable, and empowering campaigns, it’ll grow your brand following. 

By embracing the extraordinary diversity of women, shining a light on our unique selves, and avoiding the trap of painting us all with the same brush, marketers can spark real, positive change and build deeper connections with us, their lovely target audience. And your brand will flourish.

I hope you enjoyed – Marketing Reinvented: How to Engage Women by Ditching Outdated Stereotypes.

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Mary at My Type of People Marketing and website design covering Bristol & Bath and UK
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