March 07, 2011

The Power of the Purse

The day of cheese and squeeze is just around the corner, Mother’s Day. It is a time where products indisputably target the female and the female mind. In every type of store, average things (like coffee mugs) are made to look extra feminine and pretty, with complimenting slogans splashed to the front. A question Sigmund Freud once asked, “What do women want?” is a question that will never have a simple answer. Like many men, companies have been trying to figure out this answer and a solution to the female mind. As women it is in our nature to want and have new things, from shoes and diamonds to new sports equipment and computers. However, because these impulses may come across as “shallow” or “absent minded” activities, I am here to tell you that owing to these activities, women have become the world’s most important consumer. Companies and advertising agencies are now aiming their campaigns at the needs and desires of woman. For example: The campaign that targeted women to drink coffee at McCafĂ© (rather than at Starbucks). The advertisement was designed for woman who may not necessarily want to eat or drink at McDonald’s due to quality, image, or class. It represented that any woman can order a skinny latte without having to speak French or pretend to enjoy the jazz music playing in the background.

Before you think that I am generalizing, let me just point out that when it comes to consuming goods, there are four types of female consumers:
a)    The Feminist, who doesn’t actually care what she buys.
b)    The Gold digger, who doesn’t spend her own money only her partners
c)    The-Power-of-the-Purse woman, who has her own money and independence
d)   And then there is Jane, who is none of the above but just your simple, every day woman. Who loves shopping, hates all the skinny women and would love to spend someone else’s money.
Without knowing it, women control 80% of all buying decisions throughout the world and are the world’s most influential consumers. This is because the average women will do her best to look good and own nice things, no matter what type of consumer she is.
In Fara Warner’s book, The Power of the Purse, she explicitly explains how women in this post-gender age are changing the way advertisers see and address women. It is no longer the 1900s where women are suppressed with no education, but rather that women have good jobs, their own money and are financially stable; which entitles any women to spend that little extra on a shopping spree. Warner details that for companies to reach the 20th century woman, they need to stop marketing their products to us as if we are just wives and mothers, and to stop sugar coating their product with a splash of pink but to see women as something more than just a sex symbol.
 With the leading fashion designers being woman, it is not hard to miss the “girl power” that is being incorporated into their designs. The “working woman look” is no longer just for the office, but is being conveyed in our everyday street wear. Pencil skirts, high neck lines, silk blouses, shoulder pads, and lined-blazers are being seen more frequently on the run ways. When it comes to wearing sophisticated clothing, it can do 1 of 2 things, either make you feel like “you have the power” or make you feel like an Amish wife.
In reality not all women have their own business, are editors of a magazine or enjoy sitting behind a desk. So on the contrary there are the women with the blond hair, the blue eyes, the plastic boobs and a great rear-end that will make any male millionaire drool. The hot debate then is not just about flats or heels, but rather: is it love or money?  With the needs of a woman so high, and the wants unknown, it is not easy to decipher the true reason for the relationship but this is not my point. Whether these women are spending their own money or using someone else’s credit card, they are still making consumer decisions that inevitably add to the world economy. (Especially with the increase in price of Christian Loboutins shoes.)
Whether it is clothes, food, cleaning products, or technology, women are automatically a portion of being the biggest target market in the business industry. The laws, ethics and social norms that once discriminated against women are ever-changing in many countries. In the 20th Century, gender equality is improving and corresponds with the ever growing growth of the “middle class”.
It is time for women to realize that it is our indecisive decisions and thousands of wants and needs that is shaping the advertising and consumer world. However, when it comes to the mother’s day coffee mugs and coloured paper cut-outs; it is not the-power-of-the-purse speaking but that of a loving and caring heart.