3 Mistakes You Should Not Make When Writing for Women

What comes to mind when we talk about the “good ol’ days” of the 1950s and 1960s?

Record players, drive-in theaters, and flashy convertibles are all very symbolic of the era, but all that glitters is not gold: sexist advertisements and pervasive gender stereotypes were very common back in those days.

The “good ol’ days” were not so good after all – especially for women in every aspect, from the socio-political landscape to the consumer market.

Imagine heading to the grocery store and seeing a cereal advertisement with the headline “Keep up with the house while you keep down your weight”, or a coffee advertisement that boasts a product promising to be “husband-pleasing coffee”. 

Fortunately, sexist advertisements are slowly becoming a thing of the past where they belong — but sadly, they’re not entirely gone yet! Here’s a recent example: Co-op’s Fairtrade Piñata Egg 2017 tagline reads: “Be a good egg. Treat your daughter for doing the washing up.” While maybe intended to rustle up a chuckle, the offensive copy only provoked consumers into calling out brands for these ads like this.

With so many products aimed at women on the market, copywriters have to work hard to write great copy that is engaging without using gender stereotypes or sexist language! 

What are some common mistakes that copywriters make when writing for a women audience? 

1. Using outdated stereotypes to talk about women

If the way we dress and communicate has evolved, why do brands still use outdated (albeit more subtle) cliches that are still reminiscent of the 1950s in their marketing content?

According to a study, men are almost twice as likely to be featured in advertisements than women, yet women are 48% more likely to be shown in the kitchen. You’ve seen this before: women are often shown in ads as the ones doing chores like the laundry, cooking, and cleaning, while men are not involved in domestic chores at all. Some common examples are kitchen ingredients that position their products as “the best choice for moms” or vacuum cleaners and dishwashers that claim to “give mom a helping hand.”

Firstly, not every woman is a mother. In fact, many women today are choosing to be childfree, which means marketing copy has to reflect current conditions. Secondly, these slogans not only reinforce traditional gender roles, but they also ignore the trend showing how many modern families split household chores equally. These stereotypes do not showcase the diverse identities of women that aren’t related to homemaking; they can also turn off potential customers who don’t identify with these outdated gender roles.

In order to effectively connect with a growing market segment, it’s important for brands to keep up with the changing roles and expectations of women. In today’s marketing landscape, it’s crucial for copywriters to be mindful of harmful and outdated stereotypes and to portray women in a more inclusive and authentic manner in their marketing campaigns.

2. Viewing women as a monolith

Remember the weird and wacky Gatsby “Moving Rubber”  hair wax ads in the early 2000s that featured men with spiky hair and extravagant mohawks? (Oh, how can we forget the weird dance movies too?) These ads are undeniably iconic and they defined that era!

If Gatsby can feature all sorts of men’s hairstyles, why do conventional women’s hair product ads still stick to the only benefit of “giving you straight and silky hair”? Are women’s hair only straight and blonde? How about afro hairstyles or curly waves?

The beauty industry has a tendency to assume that women are a monolith. In the past, many beauty brands have marketed their products using a narrow, Eurocentric idea of beauty that doesn’t account for the wide variety of skin tones, hair types, and facial features that women have. 

A monolithic approach might seem like a safe bet to gain more traction among your target audience, but beware: assuming that all women want to look a certain way will cause you to miss out on potential customers who do not fit this limited mold. It also perpetuates racial and gender stereotypes by enforcing a norm of how women are supposed to look and act, and anything that deviates from it is deemed “immoral” or “abnormal”.

By recognizing that your customers are different, copywriters and marketers alike have to create more gender- and culturally sensitive content to build stronger bonds with the audience.

3. Neglecting women’s concerns

Emotional, weak, and solely focused on physical appearances — there are just too many stereotypes of women that society stubbornly holds on to! While society may have made some progress in fighting bias, what about the unconscious biases that affect our actions but are harder to see? 

This is why marketers and copywriters must conduct thorough research on their target audience instead of relying on existing perceptions about women to better understand their purchasing behavior. Assuming that women only respond to emotional appeals or that they care more about aesthetics than functionality can lead to marketing campaigns that don’t work; they will also fail to attract new customers and gain trust from their audience.

Let’s say a company is creating an ad for a new line of natural skincare products. Just like many other conventional marketing routes, they may want to focus on the product’s effectiveness with the tagline “restore your youth” or “get your glow on”. These are all great selling points, but these taglines are not unique and only perpetuate the stereotype of women  focusing solely on physical appearance. 

How can the copy be improved? By addressing different concerns and needs. A study shows that skin diseases are ranked as the fourth most common cause of human illness in the world, which is a potential customer segment for a natural skincare brand to tap into. The ad copy could also address other concerns that women may have, like the effects of aging or how natural ingredients can improve skin conditions. 

Copywriters and marketers have to do research to produce content that is inclusive, relevant and speaks directly to the needs of the target audience.

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Today, consumers are demanding more and expecting better from brands thanks to cultural shifts and societal changes. Brands have to keep up with the times or risk dropping out of the game!

When writing for women, brands need to put authenticity, inclusion, and empathy at the top of their list of priorities in order to communicate effectively and build relationships that lead to business success. 

It’s time for brands to listen to women and commit to creating content that truly resonates with them!

Looking for copywriters to help you build a brand story or write great copy? Drop us a message here.

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