"If the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female. If the business world had a sex, it would be male. Therein lies the pickle."*
Bridget Brennan is the CEO of Female Factor and the author of Why She Buys, a book about how women shop and how advertisers and retailers can better understand the psychology of female consumers. We corresponded recently on how advertising and retail strategy spoke to women's needs. This is an edited transcript of our interview.
One theme of your book is that while women lag behind in corporate executive positions, they continue to dominate consumer choices at the family level. What's the best evidence we have that men and women have a fundamentally different approach to shopping?
The biggest difference in how men and women view the shopping experience comes down to this fact: in virtually every society in the world, women have primary responsibility for both children and the elderly. They look at shopping as part of their caregiving role in the family and household. This means that women are buying on behalf of everyone in their lives, and as a result they are constantly considering the needs of others when they shop -- even when they are shopping for themselves. If a mother is standing in a grocery aisle choosing ingredients to cook for dinner, she may think, "I'm going to go through a lot of trouble to make this, so it better be something everybody likes." Or if a woman is buying a shirt for her father's birthday, she may think, "I hope it fits, because if he doesn't, I'm the one who has to go back to the store to return it." They are constantly considering the implications of their purchases in terms of other people's wants and needs.