I pay a lot of attention to car commercials, and I frequently lament that they miss an opportunity to appeal more effectively to women. One of the key elements of any television commercial is the inclusion of visuals of happy customers looking at, and buying, the product. See how well they are relating with the salesperson, how genuinely interested they are in the product and how happy they are to get the keys to their newly purchased vehicle.
Happy buyers convey a message of value, great service and customer satisfaction. If a dealer or brand representative says they give you value, great service and customer satisfaction, it doesn’t convey the same sincerity that you get from a buyer. Of course those aren’t usually real customers that you see in ads, but we can easily associate their happiness with that of a real customer. Showing a real customer saying great things about their experience is just a little bit better in terms of sincerity, but real customers tend to be bad actors as well.
So, why are so few of the customers we see in car commercials of the female gender? Last year, Chevrolet took some heat from women for a Super Bowl ad about men driving their Silverado trucks and surviving the apocalypse. A bunch of men climbed out of their trucks, but not one woman, even though women buy 15-20% of pickups. (Those guys won’t be nearly so smug if they find out that all the women weren’t in Chevy trucks.)
That ad wasn’t atypical in its lack of women. In my experience there are far more car commercials with men only as customers. Commercials showing couples are not uncommon, as are women driving with male passengers, but commercials showing just women alone as customers are downright rare, at least in the major markets that I’ve always lived in (New York and Miami). Any ad meant to sell cars to buyers of either gender that fails to represent both genders is losing some effectiveness.
As I’ve said before, women like to get the opinion of other women when making a purchase. The word of another woman, whether real or merely inferred through another woman’s appearance, will often trump that of a man under similar circumstances.
Of course it is important to get that connection right. In recent years, Honda has used an animated Mr. Opportunity to tout Honda Clearance Events. By himself Mr. Opportunity is no more offensive than a live male spokesman, but in one commercial the only woman was a gorgeous blond who accompanied him, hanging onto his arm. After he had a chance to say his piece about Honda’s value, she got a chance to…giggle. I’m sure that turned off a lot of women.
Since women represent such a critical slice of your customer base, it is imperative that you give them a substantial amount of attention in your marketing as well as in your showroom. Treat them with respect. It is an advertising truism that you can show a man being foolish in front of his friends, wife and family, but you can’t do the same with women. For whatever reason, women don’t react well to ad scenarios where the man is the smart one and the woman isn’t.