I think we’d all agree that men and women communicate differently. It’s almost so obvious it’s often overlooked when thinking about marketing and advertising brands. A myriad of movies, plays, songs and even self-help books have been written about this very topic (Remember the mid-90’s global best-seller, Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus?).
But in my mind, nothing more perfectly captures how women communicate differently than this short clip from the TV show, Friends.
Click here to watch Friends video clip
Now with this scene in mind, here are five key insights about women you can apply immediately:
One of my favorite authors on gender differences is anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fisher. She created a great term for how women think called web thinking. It captures how women tend to think less in a straight-line and more in the context of inter-connected webs of people, thoughts and ideas. One explanation for why women think this way more than men is that the “bridge” between the two sides of the brain, the corpus callosum, is thicker in women allowing for greater communication between the two hemispheres. So women naturally put people, stories and even brands into a context. This has big implications for brands and how you position them. If you don’t put them in a relevant context or frame of reference, she will.
In the case of the Friends clip, Phoebe and Monica immediately re-framed the event from “just a kiss” to the potential threshold into Rachel’s “happily ever after”. (The guys’ “Tongue? Yes. Cool.” exchange? Not so much!) So when it comes to how you think about your brand or category—are you actively using all brand contacts to put your brand in a motivating context? If you’re Delta, are you an airline or a connector of people places and cultures? Is Allstate insurance or everyday protection from mayhem? If the context is left undefined, web-thinking women will do it for you, and sometimes in ways that aren’t best for your brand.
Details create meaning.
While men can spend hours talking about the stats of the quarterback on their fantasy football team, women are much more interested in the details of real people and events. This is because her brain is collecting these details to create meaning. That thicker “bridge” between the two sides of a woman’s brain allows her to send, receive and connect details with ease. And these details create the meaning and the story.
So back to Friends, while Rachel was happy to share the details of “the kiss”, Phoebe and Monica were happily goading her on to share more. This back and forth of open-ended questions and detailed answers is a great representation of how women prefer to communicate. With women, you can never underestimate the power of storytelling in building your brand. And, as importantly, allowing her to share her stories as well.
It only takes a match to spark her imagination.
Perhaps because of a woman’s more inter-connected brain, women are able to make great leaps of imagination. With just a simple emotive prompt of “Ross kissed me” from Rachel, Phoebe eagerly jumped to “Does this end well or do we need tissues??”
Are you communicating in a way that provokes imaginative leaps or merely informs? Rice Krispies cereal dramatically reversed a ten-year sales decline by simply helping her imagine herself as the mom she wanted to be. Not the busy, harried one she so often feels like, but the one that stops (even for just a few minutes) and creates simple, meaningful connections with her kids.
There’s something to a woman’s touch.
Ever heard women are more “touchy, feely” than men? Well, there’s actually research to back this up. Studies indicate that women touch people they know more frequently than men do. Infant studies show that girls reach out to touch their mothers more than boys. In the Friends clip, beyond the description of the kiss itself, notice the importance Rachel placed on re-living the kinesthetic sensorial experience in detail.
How does your brand (literally) feel to the touch? Does your communication evoke the feelings associated with touch? There’s many, many reasons why the soy and almond milk brand, Silk is growing like a weed with women, but my pet theory is that it has a lot to do with it’s wonderfully simple and evocative brand name—Silk. It really stirs the senses, namely a woman’s touch.
She gets by with a little help from her friends.
Women’s deep-seated need for friendship dates back millions of years.
As Dr. Fisher put it, “Ancestral women who made friends and built teams of ever-ready supporters undoubtedly bore more young and had greater access to food and protection as they reared them. Their young survived—and passed along the feminine tendency to regard power as connections.”
We often talk about strength and intellect as part of “survival of the fittest” but Dr. Fisher’s evolutionary theories validate the notion that friendship, especially among women, was key to survival as well. There’s a reason Friends was the #1 show among women 18-49 for a decade. It tapped into one of the highest human needs–friendship.
Would women use words to describe your brand that she would use to describe one of her friends? Supportive? Fun? Intelligent? Encouraging? Sassy? Trusted?
In total, these 5 insights are pretty intuitive aren’t they? Apply any or all of these to any communication with women and see what happens. You might just make a new friend.