Examples of Construction Companies Marketing to Women
I have found 4 examples of Canadian and US companies marketing to women in the construction, contracting and home improvement space. Although there were no comprehensive case studies, these companies have adopted marketing strategies that match known best practices for marketing to women. These companies are:
— Hilti, a Canadian construction company that has successfully attracted more women to its workforce.
— Republic Property Group and Benchmark Communities, home developers who have adopted content marketing to reach new audiences.
— Lowe's and Home Depot, two well-known examples of DIY home improvement companies marketing to women.
MARKETING TO WOMEN: AN OVERVIEW
Best practices for marketing to women have moved beyond appealing to stereotypes and traditional feminine ideals. Instead, they recommend recognizing gendered differences while acknowledging the diversity in the female demographic. Below is a summary of advice compiled from reports by Fast Company, Forbes and MediaPost.
Overt stereotyping in product marketing and design has been ineffective or even counterproductive. Joint research undertaken by IPG, Refinery29 and National Geographic finds that women prefer to be recognized as a heterogeneous demographic. 44% of their survey respondents said being a woman is a common experience, 54% said there are too many stereotypes in the marketing they see, and 51% said there are too many portrayals that are not relevant to them. The Forbes report recommends resisting the three P's: Pink, Patronizing and Passive. This research shows that consumers are now forcing marketers to cater to personal identifiers, as opposed to traditional demographics.
Emotional engagement is cited as a major selling point. Studies have shown that women are likely to form more of a lasting emotional attachment to products. In addition, “show” might be more effective than “tell” for marketing to women, with a preference for entertaining, fun, and engaging campaigns as opposed to being sold on statistics.
Women might also be more likely than men to be overwhelmed by choice and consider too much choice a hassle.
The process of campaign development is also of importance. The Forbes report suggests conducting thorough research before launching a campaign, including women on marketing teams, and consistently auditing retail and distribution channels.
Hilti is a leading supplier of technology to the construction industry. They market career opportunities to women, rather than aiming at attracting female customers. Hilti’s Canadian head office employs approximately 500 highly trained team members in sales, engineering, marketing and other support roles across the country. Attracting women to the organization was key in their five-year growth strategy, aimed at significantly increasing their headcount. I could not find information about the efficacy of this approach; however, I document them below as an example of how to market job prospects in the construction industry to women.
Two initiatives were introduced by Hilti to attract a more diverse talent pool and maintain excellent retention rates. The first was to increase flexibility by providing a culture where team members can develop and have multiple careers within the company. They adopted improved benefits and leave policies, and are attempting to implement telecommuting and flexible schedules. The second was to increase inclusion. The company engaged external vendors to train leaders in diversity and inclusion. Forums were also created to facilitate discussion on the workplace environment. Employee Resource Groups provided women with a forum to discuss their challenges and the new Inclusion Council gives leaders and others a chance to discuss how they can become more inclusive as an employer.
While there were no reported figures on the success of their initiatives, the company was featured in a Great Place To Work article. The article states that they are confident that by combining a more flexible work environment with education and awareness of inclusion initiatives, they will be able to attract more women to the organization and create a more diverse and competitive workforce.
REPUBLIC PROPERTY GROUP & BENCHMARK COMMUNITIES
The Republic Property Group, a property developer, claims to take a content-first approach to marketing. The content on their website eschews a transactional mindset for articles on the Maker movement, profiles on local high school football teams, and essays on the necessity of nature. They reach audiences through Twitter and email newsletters, with content is geared toward creating conversations that also provide exclusive news related to construction at their sites.
Benchmark Communities also focuses on developing stories to engage potential buyers through blogging and social networks to drive website traffic and encourage visits to their sites. Its Vice President of Marketing, Karen Becker, states that content marketing is where the value is, which means that they are a media company as much as home builders. She says that the market is composed of smart buyers who are online looking for information, and the marketers’ role is to give them engaging and helpful information.
Although this does not directly relate to their targeting of women, the strategies they employed match those seen in the overview of practices in marketing to women.
HOME DEPOT & LOWE's
Home Depot and Lowe's, rivals in the American consumer home improvement and hardware space, are two of many companies that have sought growth by marketing to women. Lowe's and Home Depot both report that half of their customers are women, and those women are responsible for initiating 80% of home improvement projects. Of the two companies, Lowe’s has ostensibly been more comprehensive and successful in targeting women in their marketing efforts.
Lowe’s, who says its purpose is to “help people love where they live”, has been experimenting with content marketing since the late 1990s. They have adopted many practices which, even if not specifically geared toward women, make women less intimidated by Do-It-Yourself shopping and projects. I have outlined a few below.
First, Lowe's produces a free quarterly magazine titled "Creative Ideas for Home and Garden", which is only accessible after signing up on the company’s website. The magazine features more home ware than hardware, an indication of its focus on women. The magazine’s companion app, Lowe’s Home Improvement, is available on all major mobile operating systems. It allows customers to browse the store’s entire range, check if an item is in stock, arrange for click and collect or home delivery and pinpoint the location of an item when in-store—one of the biggest bugbears for shoppers in home improvement stores.
Second, Lowe’s brand imagine appeals to a broad do-it-yourself audience, while Home Depot uses a masculine color scheme of orange and brown. Lowe’s stores are bright with white walls and floors and plenty of lighting. This aesthetic continues on their website.
Third, Lowe’s has an extensive social media presence. They have significant numbers of followers across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram and Vine. There are links to Pinterest boards and promotions of specific Lowe’s products as well as corporate branding pieces such as shout-outs for its involvement in Habitat for Humanity. This could be a strategic move to target women, as 81% of Pinterest users are females. The company runs seasonal campaigns to crowd-source content, home improvement questions, and answers to them, which might make home improvement seem less daunting to novices, many of whom could be women. The company collaborates with social media influencers and has a mostly female Creative Ideas blogger network, who publish project ideas and how-to pages linking back to Lowe’s. They are compensated with a gift card each quarter.
Lowe’s claims that these marketing practices have led to better customer feedback (however, I could not find gender-specific feedback). They have heightened appreciation of the brand for speaking to customers “on their terms, in their channels, where they live and breathe”, according to Tom Lamb, their chief marketing officer. He points out the company's differentiation from competitors whose marketing is more transactional, product-focused and stereotyped. Home Depot, for example, has been criticized of overt sexism. One commentator criticized the stereotypes rampant in their marketing of “she sheds”.
Among the reports I found, there is a de-emphasis of the role of stereotyped marketing and traditional channels. For the companies selling services, the focus is instead on tailored digital content creation and widespread online dissemination. For Hilti, the focus was on addressing the concerns of female employees or prospective employees. In most of the aforementioned cases, the strategies adopted were part of wider campaigns that resemble those in the retail or services sector in general. These campaigns recognize the diversity in the market, and attempt to appeal to each individual as they are, rather than stereotyping or idealizing the customer.