Psst! For men only: Want some cheap, effective marketing advice? Stop relying so much on retailers for deep insights into consumer behavior.
Go shopping with women — your spouse, girl friend, significant other or colleagues — and carefully watch and listen to what they do and say. In the marketplace, as well as in their personal lives, women validate what they do in a much different way than men.
Women assess needs and wants for themselves, family and friends, and create an endearing context, a story they continually write with action and allegiance.
Men, get with it. Women methodically collect the data — forming a mental scrapbook — and over time verify the mercantile landscape to determine the best way to achieve satisfaction and fulfillment. Forget about watching sports next weekend. Go shopping with the women.
Women know. When implemented properly and constructively, these research outings can provide men with important and productive insights, which can be used to improve relationships and business. What works? What doesn’t? What attracts? What repels?
The result could mean many more men might enjoy getting in touch with their feminine side. This is a provocative thought that only seems alien to the sell-sell-sell guys who may be frightened of becoming more sensitive and aware.
Men may learn that women really want a clear and validated context to make important decisions. At retail, that can only come from a caring and sharing environment that embraces consumers.
Is that too frilly, silly and girlish for men? Think again. In fact, think about marketing as mercantile dating that can lead to matrimony. Again, is that too warm, fuzzy and female for men? Nope, the marketplace is a courting arena, where the serious business of dating never ends.
It’s about emotions. For men still mystified about the analogy, think about the halcyon dates of high school, and the feverish social activity that went into developing and defining the homecoming dance.
With few exceptions, most furniture men fail to comprehend that attending furniture’s everyday homecoming dance has more to do with conveying emotion, concern and good manners than just selling well-styled combinations of sticks and cloth.
Part of the reason for the female rejection has to do with a pervasive male attitude at retail that has the tacit approval of many manufacturers. Not all retailers, but many, convey a marketplace conceit, manifested in harsh, promotional muscle flexing, that the manufacturers should stop, especially when brand equity is at risk.
Unfortunately, most print and broadcast furniture advertising constitutes insulting mercantile attention-getters. Typically, the industry is shouting “let’s get together, baby” imperatives at consumers that are tantamount to rude whistles, catcalls and demands.
Women instinctively know most furniture advertisements are come-ons, that is, they’re business pickup lines that rarely speak about satisfaction, better home life and fulfillment. They’ll come to the furniture dance only when the music and message make them feel wanted, necessary and pretty.
Imagine if furniture, which can be thought of as house dressing, was marketed and merchandised in the same effective ways as female undergarments or cosmetics.
Those products convey necessity, good feeling, adornment, comfort and beauty. How many furniture manufacturers have considered those factors in their marketing messages?
Perhaps furniture trade associations could work together and produce a guide, “How to Romance and Court Consumers,” which would be an instant best seller. Until the guidebook appears, men of the furniture industry should begin sensitizing themselves to the needs of women in the marketplace.
But all the discussion about mercantile romance and courting won’t achieve its desired result if the furniture industry fails to correct an institutional dichotomy that thwarts consumer satisfaction and industry growth. A great difference exists between the way furniture is marketed to retailers and the courting and romance needed to attract and satisfy consumers.
Sell virtues and value. Loving consumers has to be a constant element in the demand chain, from the home to the manufacturer and back again. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The importance of consumers is usually subordinated to the man-business of selling product on the assumption that the value and virtues of upholstered furniture are self-evident. They aren’t.
Expressed concern and affection for improving the lives of consumers are always good seminar and conference topics, but they’re conspicuously absent in practice at market, in promotional materials and in virtually all of the so-called “news” contained in retail trade publications.
The industry’s obsession continues to be with closing sales instead of opening consumer minds with all the marvelous reasons that furniture makes us feel wanted and important and makes our homes look pretty.
Now is the time for the furniture industry to start the music, declare the important message and dance, dance, dance!