|Type of objects
||Self-propelling objects (ships, cars, planes, rockets)
||Static objects (plants, flowers, furniture, landscape)
||Not printed word
|Type of image
||Frontal and smiling
||Skyscrapers and towers
||Houses, windows, and roomsn
||Violence / Technology
So why is all this relevant? A key conclusion of the book is that men and women’s preferences match their production. Thus, the features that distinguish the graphic output of males and females will also be features that men and women prefer. In the practical sense, this means that male designers will tend to design with moving objects and the printed word, and those types of ads will appeal more to men. Women will design with static objects and smiling faces, which will have more appeal to other women. By examining the subconscious design preferences, we can thus establish a smarter way to market to women based on subtle, underlying preferences.
More specifically, two principles from the book show how the designer of an ad can have a much bigger impact than we’d like to think. The similarity principle, exhaustively researched in psychology, means that two people with similar personalities tend to attract one another. This is completed by the mirroring principle that shows people are attracted to objects that mirror their own self-concept. In marketing, this translates to “like attracts like:” women will prefer a design done by a woman, simply because it will have elements in it that tend to attract women.
The lesson is clear. Since people respond positively to finished products created by people similar to themselves, marketers should adapt their strategy to take this into account. By examining the subconscious design preferences, we can thus establish a smarter way to market to women based on subtle, underlying preferences.
BIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES CAN EXPLAIN MUCH OF THE VARIANCE IN DESIGN .
Cultural or social arguments are often used to explain aesthetic differences between men and women, but Gloria Moss shows that scientific explanations are much more convincing.
Neuro-scientific research suggests that men and women’s brains react differently when being showed an ad. Men encode fewer claims and prefer simple advertisements that concentrate on no more than one or two features. This is because they have item-specific processing skills which lead them to extract the core of the ad and neglect the rest. Women, on the contrary, are comprehensive processors who attempt to assimilate all available information before rendering judgment. In this way, they prefer complex ads containing rich and detailed information on multiple features. Due to differing levels of brain lateralization, women also have a greater affinity for purely verbal information, whereas men benefit from visual reinforcement.
An illustrative example is in men and women’s ability to perceive color differently. A greater proportion of men than women are colorblind (which means they only have two cones for perceiving pigments in their eyes as opposed to three which is the norm). Additionally, a larger proportion of women have four cones which allows them to perceive hundreds of millions of color pigments, a hundred times more than most men can perceive. Researchers have noted that this may be an evolutionary trait, as women’s better perception of color would have been helpful during hunter-gatherer times in distinguishing berries from foliage, and ripe versus unripe fruit. Men, on the other hand, would have had a distinct advantage in hunting at night with less color sensitivity, given that two cones instead of three heighten night vision; another evolutionary aid.
Not simply limited to the amount of colors men and woman can perceive, biology can also explain preferences for certain colors over others. Men and women have different cortical responses to the stimulation of blue and red light wavelengths: women are more sensitive than men to the long-wave spectrum of light that detects red. Ergo, they were found to have a significant memory advantage for the purple-pink range of colors. The popular belief that women like pink because it symbolizes love can thus maybe be explained not by romanticism, but… their brain chemistry.
The most robust and persistent biological difference between sexes, however, lies in visio-spatial abilities. A meta-analysis of 300 studies on visio-spatial differences concluded that sex differences in spatial abilities favoring males are highly significant; on average, males outperform females in mental rotation and spatial perception. This and other research conclusively show that biological factors shape the perception of both men and women, and that gender differences in perception are not only socially constructed. Next time we try to stereotype ads portraying men and high-speed objects, we should remind ourselves that there might be more to the cliché than meets the eye…
“Women and men do not have the same design aesthetic.”
While this may seem obvious to the casual reader, many marketers have not taken advantage of different gender preferences to target advertising, products, and even the layouts of stores in order to maximize appeal for different sexes. With so few companies doing serious marketing to women, any company that makes an effort can expect to capture a disproportionate share of the women’s market.
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