05/09/2013 06:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Daring Book for Boys in Business

When Warren Buffett gets on board with a business idea, anyone with any sense follows. In an article written for Fortune magazine this month, Buffet explained why he believes women are the key to prosperity.2013-05-07-3.jpg

Why should we care whether the remaining barriers facing women are dismantled and the fun-house mirrors junked? Never mind that I believe the ethical case in itself is compelling. Let's look instead to your self-interest. Fellow males, get onboard. The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be. We've seen what can be accomplished when we use 50 percent of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100 percent can do, you'll join me as an unbridled optimist about America's future.

His rallying cry will be music to the ears of the authors of The Daring Book for Boys in Business: A Tool-kit for Marketing to Women in Male Companies and Categories, who want more companies to engage with the female 50 percent. Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts, who have an impressive track record in advertising (both working at DDB and Ogilvy before setting up their strategic market-research consultancy, PrettyLittleHead), have written a blueprint for categories and companies that they feel are failing to market themselves to women.

"Many organizations used to targeting men will at least once attempt to reach out to women with an approach that could best be described as 'something for the ladies'... you know the sort of stuff: an existing product veneered in a more feminine aesthetic -- the pink phone or the curvy beer bottle." At Lady Geek, the "pink it and shrink it" approach is anathema, and Cunningham and Roberts do a great job of showing where sectors are screwing up on this front and others, but crucially, offer eight simple-to-use tools ("Understanding Difference," "Communications that Connect" to name two) as the solution.

With its Dangerous Book for Boys-style cover and line drawings of oil cans, spanners and screws, it uses a retro look to get a modern marketing message across. While Cunningham and Roberts's previous book, Inside Her Pretty Little Head, was a guide to successful female brands, The Daring Book for Boys in Business is for male-centric companies that are looking to connect with female customers without alienating the men who make up a big part of their market.

The good news is that there are companies out there doing it right. The book doesn't go overboard in naming and shaming brands doing badly, but offering clear examples of success stories where overtly masculine companies can find the "sweet spot" between their traditional marketing values and, at the other end of the scale, wholesale pinkification. It shows how to find the place between the two where authenticity, emotion and reassurance meet. Targeted at men, it's about finding solutions rather than simply identifying problems, and men are definitely one of the solutions.

Using findings from neuroscience, endocrinology, evolutionary theory as well as research from leading academics such as pre-eminent empathy expert Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, The Daring Book for Boys in Business wants to help marketers get beyond that tired triptych of female stereotypes: 'Busy Mums, juggling and multitasking'; or 'Career-oriented young women who want to get to the top'; or 'Older women looking for low risk and easily understood products and services'". Fellow males -- and females -- it's time to dismantle the barriers and prepare to dare when it comes to smart marketing.

@belindaparmar is the CEO of Lady Geek, and the author of Little Miss Geek: out in paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon.

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