Monday, 6 June 2011

What women want... K&B News June 2011

I recently finished the arduous process of designing a new brochure, potentially one of the most important tools manufacturers have to influence the sales process.

Throughout this process I have learnt many things, but none has struck me as much as how the industry seems to be selling to the wrong people. Why are the majority of brochures designed with only men in mind?

Admittedly this might seem a strange question at first. In an industry where males greatly outnumber their female counterparts it is only natural that brochures would be presented from the male viewpoint.

From a male perspective, the artistic design of a brochure is often thought to be the key to sales, yet there are 
hundreds of brochures out there that don’t actually sell the product.

While artistic design is important, it must be tailored to the end customer, yet there is little evidence that manufacturers know who they are selling to. Why design a brochure for men, when the key decision maker is often female?

With our latest brochure I have decided to try to ignore the examples of the past, to ignore the standard A4 glossy 
brochure and start afresh to see if a brochure could be produced that was solely designed to attract the fairer sex.

Unfortunately, as a man I have a limited insight into the finer workings of the female mind. In order to design an effective brochure we must therefore attempt to imagine how women would approach the process of purchasing a bathroom.

Imagine for a second a man wants to buy a new car. The sales process is quite simple, he first buys a car magazine and reads about the supercars cars, then he goes to the car dealer and gets in the most beautiful car there (which coincidentally is usually the most expensive). After a short while he consoles himself with the fact he cannot afford it and then finally moves on to the car he can afford.

So as men we can only presume women who want to buy a new bathroom follow a very similar process. First she buys a home magazine and reads about the nicest bathrooms, then she goes to the bathroom shop and looks longingly at the most beautiful bathroom there (which coincidentally is usually the most expensive). After a short while she consoles herself with the fact that she cannot afford it, and then finally moves on to the bathroom she can afford.

So what can be learnt from this? Essentially everyone looks for inspiration first, with this inspiration coming not from the cheapest products, but from the best.

In recent years the “Ikea effect” of inspiration through the lifestyle shot has found its way into our brochures, and while this is a good thing for sales in general, as an industry we fail to understand the reason for this. Ultimately we feel it is to show off what we offer and as a result products become lost within a sea of surrounding alternate sizes or colours. Lifestyle shots should be used to inspire, yet as men, we fail to understand the importance of inspiration in a woman’s purchasing decision.

The problem lies in the simple fact that men and women react very differently to inspiration. Men can be inspired to buy a bathroom, but if they can’t afford it they could equally be inspired to buy a cheaper completely different one. Yet with a woman, the entire future purchase is guided by that initial flash of inspiration, if they cannot afford the original bathroom they will seek to replicate it at a lower cost. This is illustrated perfectly by the alternate approaches men and women take to the normal weekly shop.

When shopping for groceries, a man starts at the front door with vegetables, finishing the shop at the back of the store in the wine section. This is a logical process, usually involving matching product choices to a budget wholly inspired by the need to eat.

But a woman although having the same ultimate goal to eat for a week shops completely differently. When women shop for food, they shop with meals in mind, generally inspired by magazines or TV programs. She will spend the most on the main ingredients of each meal, and compromises on the supporting bits in order to be able to afford it. It is also important to note that as a result of focusing on meals, women often miss the little things like snacks, they essentially get distracted by achieving the end meals they have already decided upon.

Men shop to solve a problem, give them a budget and they will most likely fit the task to the budget. Relate this to bathrooms, and if they are spending £10k on a bathroom they will most likely spread that evenly around the room.

Women on the other hand, will shop with an end idea inspired by the home magazine in mind, picking one or two products they like, for example a shower or a bath and then allocate the remaining budget across the rest of the room.

It is therefore our job as manufacturers to inspire women with our brochures from the outset, to establish our products as the focal point of their bathroom. If we do this, they will build their bathroom around us.

The key to a decent brochure is not to inform the plumber, but to inspire every woman. Remove all the useless product variant shots, put in the nice quote, evoke those flashes of inspiration and a woman will compromise on everyone else’s products to get yours.

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