While it may be more commonly used in self-help or religious books, I’ve been seeing the word “journey” a lot in my sustainable business practice research. It strikes me that the word may, as well, be a good term/image both for representing a woman’s buying path AND representing the path by which any brand should be traveling to better reach said woman.
Let me go back to the marketing to women basics a second. The idea is that women tend to buy in a more complex, winding path while men tend to buy in a more linear manner. “Journeying” seems to connote this stop/start, turn right/left, circle back and start over type of process. Both sides of the brain are used – some fact and some emotion – as a woman works her way to a goal (or purchase). Still, she may never get to the originally intended place at all – and that’s OK.
In the same way, the consumer who is aware of social responsibility and sustainable business practices is also on a journey. Each one of us (since this probably includes you) is deliberately taking steps toward a more responsible way of living. Trying to be the “Perfect Green Human” overnight could well overwhelm any one person, so we each must settle for the process. As we each get closer to that end, we definitely have reason to be proud. And, with each step – we may also get more engaged in the effort to keep up the momentum of change: from recycling and switching out cleaning products to better insulating our homes, installing solar panels and choosing never to fly unnecessarily again (if only!).
Who gets “there” (end of journey) first and best has long been the rule by which our culture has operated. But, here’s the thing – we have no idea where that definition of success came from, or if it is really true for our life as consumers or in our brand marketing efforts. I believe that consumers are now leading a charge, with women driving that movement – toward switching the paradigm to the experience of the journey rather than its end.
Why do I say this? Because, women are looking to connect with the human-scale of brands and issues (like the environment). And, just like humans, brands make mistakes, apologize, work to do things better the next time and move forward. As long as the forward/positive progression is visible and authentic, women will have patience and goodwill. Simply stating you’ve reached the industry pinnacle, without visibly going through any process, is a sure sign your brand has not and likely never will reach that pinnacle. The implication, then, is that such a brand can’t be trusted on any front.
Instead, women trust a journey. They make buying decisions along a non-linear, possibly meandering, stepping stone path. The process of getting there is the thing, and it lends itself to more holistic, right with left-brain purchase decisions, that lead to richer brand experiences and greater human interaction along the way. The end may remain in sight, but finally getting exactly to that place may lose a bit of importance.
I predict that we will see this even more, with men AND women, as we watch the sustainability movement gain steam. Many, many consumers are now taking baby steps in the challenging journey toward a new way of living. These people will expect, if not demand, brands to take similarly scaled steps in that direction – and report successes and failures along the way.
Wrapping sustainable business practices around consumer gender trends and how brands serve them is my new self-instigated journey. I am up for the stops and starts, right and left turns, and total re-dos that such a path may lead to, and hope that what I learn will be of interest for your journeys as well.
A few related links:
The David Report’s Checklist for Sustainability: This look at sustainable design insights points to emotion, narrative and value among other keywords – all of which exemplify the right with left brain way that women tend to buy.
A great article by Martha Shaw for GreenBiz.com on the conscious consumer: Shaw says most “green consumers” are women and they are very interested in health, among other tips.