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April 29, 2010
Fundamental Gender Differences and Their Impact on Marketing

Men are, well, men. They live in the "now." They are concrete thinkers who like to consummate, finish. A male axiom is "complete what you set out to do." Men are interested in obtaining power and in looking good, even more than being good. In short, that's the nature of beauty for the beast.

You cannot market to men the same way you market to women. It's not a simple transformation of changing colors, fonts, or packaging. Men and women are different biologically, psychologically, and socially.

Of course, when it comes to attractiveness, both sexes want to garner attention, but each for different reasons. For men, looking good is looking strong, confident, authoritative, and adventurous -- a standout. Men concentrate on looks to the extent that it signals something about what they do, have done, or can do. Regardless of how much women want to attract in the contest of beauty and brains, their focus is on hope and details, and they concentrate on how appearance reflects their inner being.

Consider four fundamental gender differences and their impact on marketing:


Men tend to hone in on what they're looking for quicker than women. Men are not browsers. A male motto is "get what I want and move on." Men shop for what they need now. Women can shop for something and put it away for later. (An interesting reflection of how men and women relate differently to time is found in how differently they follow instructions for antibiotics prescribed by their doctors: Often, men will stop taking antibiotics as soon as they feel better, even though the regime's effectiveness calls for a full 14-day intake. Women, more frequently than men, complete the recommended regime.) Women want to get the underlying dynamics of things, while men attend to the mundane mechanics of life.


Men are concrete and tend to focus their awareness tightly; their notion of cause and effect is linear, and men are visually oriented because of this concrete literality. What you see is what is, literally. Seeking clarity, men create absolute distinctions: black and white, yes or no.

Women often think it depends. You never hear a man voice this sentiment. These different ways of defining what leads to what also affects what goes with what. Men dislike ensembles. Men tend to buy individual items. In contrast, many women like to think about how they can put together outfits and are creative in selecting, say, a variation on a scarf or a belt that will change the nature of one basic dressing.


Men structure and relate to space as compartmented and sequential. To men, space is not relational, as it is for women. For example, when a woman gives directions, she will say, "Go three blocks south (as she points or orients in the direction indicated), then bear right, and when you see the clock tower, watch for your street on the right."  A Man will say, "Go three blocks to Pullman Street and turn left on to Main, then turn left to Brighton Street."

These kinds of underlying, fundamental gender differences can have critical implications, not only for what makes an item compelling, but also for store design and product layout. For example, many women like the challenge, the somewhat disorganized variety and the catch-as-catch-can nature of places such as TJ Max or Marshalls. Men, even men who shop in such places because of price, are not there out of joy or desire.

Other People

For the male, it's every man for himself. Men prize individuality and self-reliance. They conceive of other people as the competition. Daily life is a contest with winners and losers. This comes in contrast to women, who often view other people as a source of strength. Note, too, that men never shop together. Women often shop with a friend. A man focuses on himself, the "me," while a woman is focused on the "we."

Again, men are interested in power. Women are more interested in security. Men relate to "things" themselves. Women relate to the relationship between things.

In today's world, men might, for example, be paying more attention to grooming aids than they did years ago. But men are still grooming to go up the hierarchy, to be No. 1, and be recognized as No. 1. Modern man is still primal man, regardless of how much hair he has to groom.



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Dr. Bob Deutsch is the founder and president of consulting firm Brain Sells. He has worked in the primeval forest and on Pennsylvania and Madison Avenues. His focus, since the mid-’70s, when he was living with pre-literate tribes and chimpanzees, has been to understand how leading ideas take hold in cultures. Since opening Brain Sells, in 1990, he has applied this understanding to how people attach to products, persons and performances. He is fond of saying, "Reasoned judgment about attributes is not the issue. The brain evolved to act, NOT to think." Bran Sells’ retail clients include: TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Home Goods, Radio Shack, Sephora, Verizon stores, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, and Toyota.

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