The Shelton Group takes a look at how gender impacts perceptions of what it means to be an environmentalist and how men and women identify with the concept. Shelton asked both men and women if they would wear a t-shirt that says, "I'm an environmentalist." In general, women don't like the political connotations of being an "environmentalist" even if they themselves are "green." At the same time, men simply appreciated being offered a t-shirt.
Posted May 11, 2010
By Karen Barnes, The Shelton Group
Director of Insight, Karen Barnes, observed some interesting
differences in the answers to this question from men vs. women.
Some of you may know that before I joined Shelton, I worked with a
marketing to women consultancy advising major brands on how to
understand and reach women. So when I sit behind the glass at Shelton
focus groups today, I’m naturally attuned to gender differences – and
believe me, there are a lot of differences to be aware of.
One is how men and women make decisions. Men generally strive for the
simple answer, taking the top two or three criteria into account and
then calling it a day. Their process is like a straight line – “I need a
new mobile phone. This one has the features I want, and I like the
price.” Done deal.
Women, on the other hand, want the perfect answer. They want it all
and they invest the time into doing the research to make sure they’re
making the best decision. They take more things into account, sometimes
even starting over. Women’s decision-making process looks more like a
slinky, curling over on itself. The mobile phone not only needs to do
what she wants it to, and be reasonably priced, but it also has to come
in the color she wants, and fit in her purse.
So when we asked men and women in our recent Green Living Pulse focus
groups if they would wear a t-shirt that says “I’m an
environmentalist,” we got some pretty different answers. Women responded
that they didn’t like the political connotations of the word
“environmentalist,” even the ones that considered themselves green. They
expressed concern about being asked to join a bunch of clubs and
organizations that they didn’t have time for in their overbooked
schedules. One woman even said she would wear it, but it needed to be
made of organic cotton.
The men, conversely, said, “Heck yeah–it’s a free t-shirt!”
Okay, it was a little more complicated than that, but not much. The
men focused on the shirt itself, and specifically that it was free,
whereas the women considered the message, the way the message would be
interpreted by others and what the shirt would be made of.
Since women are the early adopters of green, it’s especially
important for marketers to understand their decision-making process,
shopping styles, value equation and communication styles.
It’s not that men are better than women, or women are better than
men. They’re just different. As marketers, we can leverage that or we
can ignore the differences and risk not connecting with the Chief
Purchasing Officers of most households. Because that’s the t-shirt most
women wear without reservation.