Re-Render The Gender – Book Review

Re render the gender

I just finished Re-Render The Gender – Why the vast majority of advertising is not connecting with women – and what we can do about it

First, let's go ahead and deal with the elephant in the room.

The author, Thomas Jordan, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Hoffman York, is a man.

When asked if you should hire a man or woman to run your marketing to women efforts, I always say, "Hire the best marketer/creative director/web designer you can afford."  Bad creative people "go with their gut," aka, they create advertising that they like.  Good creative people do their homework to truly understand what their target audience likes.  

Thomas falls into the second group.  

Plus, one of the things I like best about the book – it is written from a guy's point of view. Thomas Jordan isn't afraid to take on his male peers. 

Key insights and learnings from Re-Render The Gender

One of the first things the book points out is that while women control over 80 percent of all purchases, over 70 percent of all advertising is created by men.  The book also points to the fact that the judges at creative award shows are overwhelmingly male.  (A situation creative director Ruth Lee addresses in why you need women on your creative team.) This often drives creative directors to create advertising designed to appeal to the (male) judges that can win these prestigious, career-advancing awards.

So what can you do to create advertising women like?

My favorite chapter in the book was about the differences between male and female humor.  (a subject near and dear to my heart – see male vs. female humor) The book has some great examples of commercials guys thought were hilarious, but bombed with women.  As Thomas points out:

Guy humor often has a victim.  And for the most part, women don't find that funny.

Another key take away came from the chapter "Men buy with their eyes, women buy with their ears":

Ok, it's not quite as simple as that, but the point is that most women want a lot more information than men before they buy.…lots more.  A single man can walk into a condo, take a look around, ask how much it costs, and if he likes it, he just might buy it.  (That's what my dad did) 

A woman will open every cabinet door, look at every crack, examine every closet, talk to neighbors, make sure the realtor is reputable, want to hear everything there is about the neighborhood and the other condos in the area and then put you into consideration for a purchase.

It's sometimes tough to get advertisers to understand that women do want information, because women often have more questions.   

One of the most important points the book makes is about the "Zero Factor."

In a thirty second TV commercial or a radio or print ad, each component will have a positive or negative impact on how well your message is received.  Men are much more forgiving in what would constitute this commercial equation.

But women see and judge everything.

If you register all positives with a woman, your message will be accepted.  But if your communication equation includes a strong negative, even one component, you run the risk of achieving a complete zero with the female audience.

He's got that right.  Can you say Motrin Moms?

Thomas Jordan ends the book by throwing down the gauntlet:

How can we continue to approach advertising the same old way when overwhelming evidence proves that women are responsible for over 80 percent of all purchase decisions?  Yet, time and time again, advertisers somehow seem to think that "business as usual" is the way to sell their products.  Typically, that means advertising created and approved by male thinking, with male standards, reinforced by male management.  It means continuing to empower an advertising agency that succumbs to the fragile male egos within their creative department rather than embracing thinking capable of winning female consumers.

And it means letting opportunities slip away because the advertiser fails to realize the potential of greater sales when effectively crafting the advertising to reach the core target. And time, and time again, our research has shown that when the message effectively reaches females, men respond as well.

Wow – you go guy!

Bottom line – Re-Render The Gender is an insightful and fun read.  Thomas Jordan's anecdotes about life inside ad agencies are priceless.  (Reminds me of Nina DiSesa's Seducing The Boy's Club, one of my all time favorite books).   He uses lots of specific examples.  And his no-holds-barred style is refreshing and a real wake-up call for anyone not already on the marketing to women bandwagon. 

My only beef

The only part of the book that didn't sit right with me was the very beginning when Thomas addresses his concerns with books by other marketing to women pioneers (who happen to be women). 

A lot of her observations about advertising, as well as Faith Popcorn's and all the others are anecdotal.  There is nothing wrong with anecdotes.  In fact, I will offer several as well, based on my first-hand observations and participation in creative departments from small, medium, and super-huge agencies.  But if we truly wanted to discover the reasons certain elements in advertising resonate better with women, we need to dig deeper.

That means research, a lot of research.

I agree that we need more research, but It sounds like Thomas is suggesting that all the work done by many of the top women in the field of marketing to women is simply based on anecdotal observations and not on research.


As far as anecdotes are concerned – that is a communication device that is incredibly persuasive with women.  Add Testimonials and product reviews (can you say anecdotes) to your website and watch the conversion rate for women soar.  Ask any woman how she found her hairdresser, doctor, financial advisor, and she's likely to tell you it was from a recommendation from a friend.  (again – anecdotes)   Women place a high value on the experience of others who are like them.

So yes, many in the marketing to women field rely heavily on anecdotes to convey information and learning.  (As Thomas admits he does himself)

But that doesn't means no research was done.  I wish Mr. Jordan had been at the M2W marketing to women conference this week in Chicago.  Almost every presentation either involved presenting direct research, or cited a recent research project.    

This is, however, an important lesson.  Just as Re-Render The Gender points to the need for men to learn to think like women, women need to learn how to think like men.  We need to be sure to cite our sources and research and not rely so much on anecdotes.   We need to build our credibility with men as well as with women.

Final thoughts

If you're working on marketing to women projects, buy the book. If there are men on your team, buy them several copies of this book.  










This entry was posted in marketing to women book reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Re-Render The Gender – Book Review

  1. Roger Conant says:

    Isn’t it about time we retired the term “Marketing To Women”? Check out this review by Jean Grow on Amazon for Jordan’s book. It makes sense!

  2. Daniel says:

    You’re partly right about the product reviews. Last year Oysters&Chocolate magazine published a review of my first recording. The month after that review my sales were nearly double the previous month.
    But asking customers what appeals to them doesn’t always result in an increase of sales. In Dec, I decided to update the cover art for my recordings. I posted several mock-ups on my site and asked customers which appealed to them more.
    I changed the art to match what they said, but my sales remained exactly the same as the previous year.

  3. Holly Buchanan says:

    Roger – I agree with you and Jean. What we’re talking about is understanding your audience and their decision making processes. People assume “marketing to women” means you alienate men. Yet research shows, in many cases, when you create a better experience for women, you increase sales with men as well. (As Julie Gilbert of Best Buy pointed out with her female designed store – sales went up with men and well as women)
    But it seems our space, like it or not, is still seen under the label of “marketing to women.”

  4. Holly Buchanan says:

    In the book How We Decide, they discuss research that shows when people are asked to choose a piece of artwork, and to explain that prference, they actually choose artwork they didn’t actually like the best.
    Kind of crazy.
    I see the same thing happen in focus groups- folks say they want one thing, but then their behavior later shows they want something else.
    I say pick a cover that you feel best represents your work/art/music/brand.

  5. nice post here.
    and no we cant retire ‘marketing to women’ as there are still different strategies involved ….

Comments are closed.