It’s easier for women to sell to women.
That was the opinion of Miss Florence Sangster, later head of Crawford’s Advertising Agency, who was quoted in a September 1927 edition of The Manchester Guardian.
“In nine cases out of ten,” observes Miss Sangster, “when a woman reads an advertisement, it is not the broad, general principle which makes her determined to go out and run that particular article to earth, but the little personal application. A man talks of ‘the country,’ the race,’ ‘marriage.’ A woman prefers to think of these things as ‘my house,’ ‘my children,’ ‘my husband.’ When you are are advertising to women it is well to remember this peculiarity of feminine psychology, and to set a thief to catch a thief.”
The article quoting Florence Sangster was written by another woman copywriter, Antonia White, later known best for her novel Frost in May.
She agreed. She found it much easier to write adverts that appealed to women.
I often think with respect of the geniuses who invented the Mustard Club and the brewery nursery rhymes. It was clever to invent and to write this pleasant nonsense; it was sheer genius to know it would “catch on” with the general public.
But the writer of “women’s copy” has to make no such leaps in the dark. As a sex we are supposed to be fickle and capricious. This is one of the most glorious delusions we have ever created in the mind of man. I doubt if women have changed at all in the last five thousand years or so. If I had to sell face creams to Cleopatra or the Queen of Sheba to-morrow, I should know just how to set about it, but if I had to sell sandals to Caesar or Solomon, I should have to bring all the resources of the British Museum to bear upon the problem.
Now, I’ve a pretty shrewd idea what would sell face creams to Cleopatra myself – and I’d enjoy it more than selling the sandals.
But Antonia White goes on to emphasise the point that men and women look for different qualities in some products.
The appeal of durability which seems to carry weight with a man does not stir the imagination of a woman… She does not want things to last for ever, but she wants them to be glorious while they do last… She merely hopes that her silk stockings may last three weeks instead of three days. What she does insist on is that, during those three weeks, those stockings shall transform her ankles into miracles of grace and slenderness, shall endow her legs with all the poetry of line and colour, and shall look as if they cost twice as much as they did.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know all the qualities women want from their stockings. But that’s only because it doesn’t interest me much – not because I’m a man.
And I think that interest and curiosity, rather than gender, is what you need to write great copy for any product or service.
Mind you, I was editing some fashion descriptions earlier – and when I saw a very stylish coat described as ‘durable’ I changed the word to ‘snug’.
I think my masculine intuition was right. Don’t you?