Over the last six months or so, there have been some high-profile efforts to use mobile marketing by some advertisers with traditionally female targets. Charmin and Kraft built some useful apps that generated a lot of buzz in the trades and garnered many downloads by consumers. But it also appears that those efforts strayed from targeting women who make up those brands' usual audience.
Is it possible to use mobile to reach a female audience? It sure is. Here are some thoughts on connecting to the millions of women with mobile devices.
Functional Feature Phones
Women don't have the hot devices you hear so much about as much as men do. Men are heavier users of smartphones -- owning 15 million of the estimated 26 million phones with an identifiable operating system, according to Nielsen Mobile Media Marketplace.
The latest trendy devices, such as Apple's iPhone and the Google Android powered G1, are more popular among men. Women make up 42 percent of iPhone users and 46 percent of G1 users, according to the report. These phones reach about 2 percent of the 80 million women with a mobile device.
Research In Motion's line of smartphones also appeals slightly more to men, with 54 percent of BlackBerry users being men. RIM has higher share of the marketplace and reach about 5 percent of women with mobile devices.
The reality is, the gap between smartphones and feature phones, in terms of what they offer, is closing. Women over-index for usage of phones like the LG Chocolate, LG Rumor, Nokia's 6205 series and Sony Walkman phone. These are all "feature phones" with color screens, multi-megapixel cameras, music players, and basic data functions like e-mail and simple Web browsing.
A smart mobile strategy will need work not just on an iPhone, but on all of these other great phones too.
Connecting on the mobile Web
The 29.9 million women browsing the mobile Web is a larger group than the entire smartphone market, according to Nielsen Mobile Media View. But because fewer women have smartphones, Nielsen reports they're 10 to 20 percent more likely to visit the carrier "deck" -- those portals operated by the cell phone operators that are the built-in home page for most feature phones. This number varies by operator with T-Mobile's deck having the largest gender skew.
Social networking sites are also favored by women. Fifty-five percent of the visitors to the mobile version of MySpace are women, which is a more significant gender split than the online version of MySpace. Facebook is also very popular among women with 8 million women visiting the site on their phones each month.
It appears that women are more likely to connect with their phones and less likely to simply consume information.
Sending out an SMS
Seventy-two million women send text messages, indexing higher than men for sending the simple messages, according to Nielsen Mobile Media Marketplace. This familiarity with text messaging is an opportunity for brands with female targets to interact. Adding a text message short code to a TV spot, billboard, print ad, or cinema spot is an opportunity to add a call to action to normally static media.
It's no surprise that magazine companies like Hearst and Condé Nast have partnered with short-code marketing companies to offer print ads with short codes. In a recent "Glamour" issue, readers could use their phones to get coupons, order free samples, and even buy clothes by text message.
Ultimately, this is about connecting its female readership with the brands, not just about consuming additional information. Smart.
Female consumers are adopting the mobile channel right along with men. Brands that reach them in the right way by focusing on connectivity rather than specific devices and information consumption will be rewarded.
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Davis Brewer is lead strategist of emerging channels for Spark Communications. As the lead strategist, Davis manages the robust expansion of all Spark client activity in the digital advertising space.
He acts as a client resource for the agency's digital futures practice, providing insights and analytics as well as risk management, for the latest emerging advertising opportunities in the digital media space. In this dual role, he continues to oversee his existing list of forward-thinking clients.
Davis began his career at an online advertising agency in San Francisco at the height of the dot-com boom. He quickly became a successful agent in the digital commerce arena after moving back to Chicago, armed with the unique perspective of a bubble-burst veteran.
A pioneer of behavioral targeting online, Davis was named a 2006 Rising Star in "DiversityBusiness" magazine. He received his degree in English from Dartmouth College.