Real estate Advertising &Women Buyers
Women are powerful consumer groups in the housing market still real estate marketing campaigns often ignorethem. Nadine D’souzaexplores this reluctance and the importance of change in attitude for the benefit of the business.
Marketing campaigns are packed with power. They can rake up big business for companies, influence decisions, and most importantly, effect change in society through their story lines. In today’s connected world of social media, advertisements quickly become the topic of online discussion and debate, sparking much-needed conversations about discarding gender stereotypes.
In the real estate sector, research on consumer spending shows that women influence 80 percent of all purchases. Nearly 74 percent of women are responsible for influencing or contributing to the home buying process, with single women in major cities making up almost 32 percent of this group.
Portrayal of Women in Real Estate Advertising
Women have long been perceived as homemakers – mothers, wives and daughters-in-law – simply a small part of the family. Their decision-making power has been relegated predominantly to the kitchen and raising children. It’s no wonder that retailers tend to perpetuate gender stereotypes in their marketing campaigns. The satisfied woman in a brand new modular kitchen, the fussy woman shuffling through colour swatches, the attractive woman serving as a prop for stylish bathroom fixtures. We’ve all seen advertisements like these.
Unfortunately, real estate companies in India have not factored the growing tribe of women homebuyers and still shy away from women-centric campaigns. This is true even of the luxury home segment where developers avoid disrupting the market.
Home buying in India is seen as a family affair, where women are used to add an element of glamour or family value to the advertisements. The realty sector perceives their main target audience as families not acknowledging the fact that single women too commands a significant share of the consumer group in the housing market today.
However, one can see a gradual shift. The market driven change is occurring in the South real estate where marketing campaigns are focusing more on women as buyers (in the north, the focus remains on men as the decision makers of the family). But such changes are miniscule and still stubbornly cling to family.
While the other business are figuring out how best they can speak to women through their marketing, the real estate sector has been questioning why they should address the women in the first place!
From Homemaker to Decision Maker
In India, the tradition has been that men undertake all financial decisions. Embedded into the social fabric is the notion that owning a home is a man’s privilege with women only conditioned to play a supporting role.
An essential point to be noted is that even in this conventionally patriarchal environment, where women occupy the traditional role of ‘homemaker’, a considerable amount of purchasing power remains in their hands. They are the ones who perform essential financial tasks such as managing household expenses and buying gold. It is only natural, and fruitful, that their inputs would add value to other purchasing decisions such as home buying.
The customary family structure is not necessarily inclined towards the aspirations of women, especially those who belong to the first generation in their families to pursue a career. In spite of this scores of women are joining the work force, becoming financially independent and making important decisions on their own. Indian society, in general, is witnessing great change such as the shift from joint to nuclear families, greater partnership between spouses in managing the family and home, and an increased awareness about the importance of good financial planning.
Dual-income households are growing in number, especially in the urban parts of India. In such households, women have an equal say in property buying decisions and in some cases even a bigger say.
Traditional to Progressive Advertising
Reflecting societal norms to connect with the target audience has been the mantra of Indian advertising traditionally. This is why we have advertisements for products ranging from spices to detergents that highlight the ordeals of women as ‘homemakers’. Then there is the all-too common trend of sexist advertising, which unfortunately continues even in recent times.
With social media being ever-vigilant and boldly opinionated, things are slowly evolving in the advertising world, and today we do have some ads that aim to challenge gender stereotypes. Ariel’s ‘Share the Load’ campaign has been particularly successful in asking pertinent questions about the stereotyping of women. Ariel’s move reaped huge business dividends. It generated a 42% increase in unaided brand awareness, $12.3 million in earned media coverage, and conversations on social media and sales growth exceeding previous campaigns.Another step in the right direction came from clothing company, United Colors of Benetton ‘#UnitedByHalf’ campaign in India. The ad shows women asking for equal rights, equal pay and an equal opportunity at decision making.
Marketing campaigns that are progressive and portray women as equal partners with their spouses are more likely to succeed and make the brand stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Women Are Investing In Real estate
Women are no longer waiting until marriage to buy a home. The able and independent woman of today believes in creating her own wealth. The financial power of women is increasing as more and more opportunities open up for them in the job market. With this comes the urge to be independent and an expression of that independence is – owning a home. Women are also expanding their investment portfolio and are increasingly becoming aware that real estate can be a lucrative investment option.
The Prime Minister’s ‘Housing for All Mission’ makes it necessary for women to be either sole owners or co-owners of affordable homes. This is a measure aimed at empowering women from low-income households.
Some developers have begun to recognize the fact that more and more women are buying homes today. Origin Realtors launched a project last year, offering flats for ownership only to women. They are also available to men, provided a woman is the joint owner. In Kolkata, the BSA group and the Nahar and Nirmal Groups in Mumbai have started marketing projects specifically to women.
Housing finance companies are also addressing women directly with their schemessuch as MALA (MahilaAwas Loan) from Aspire Home Finance Corporation that offers loans ranging from Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 12 lakh to working and self-employed women across the country. HDFC Realty makes available concessions and incentives for women at all stages of home buying, such as funding and stamp duty. Likewise, HDFC and State Bank of India offer the lowest rate of interest on home loans to women. Women can also take advantage of a tax deduction of Rs. 2 lac on the interest rate paid on home loans and are permitted to deduct the interest rate paid against the mortgage loan against the net rental value.
It is the experience of many banks that women are timely in paying back loans and also less likely to be defaulters.
Winning with Women Buyers
Real estate developers stand to benefit from recognizing women as a target group by modifying their marketing strategies to speak to women directly.
• Millennial women as brand influencers – Even in family-oriented real estate marketing, the focus should include women as key influencers in the purchasing process. Millennial mothers, the youngest generation of mothers, are especially active in making household decisions and what products to purchase for their families.
• Real estate developers can harness the power of millennial women as brand influencers, since they are more likely to share their opinions with family, friends and online communities. They seek out brands that build connections. Millennial women, in particular, prefer interesting and inspirational visuals and messages, and platforms where their voices can be heard.
• Tapping into visual expression – Brands are recognizing the power of creative expression and are shifting to more image-based marketing. This also makes it easier for consumers to share the content with their online communities. The transition from text to image is evident in the shifting trend towards selling products based on imagery and how they actually look in real-life settings.
• Earning trust: Women are more likely to influence the purchase decisions of their family as well as pass on their brand loyalties to others. A study showed that women value brand character more than men as this influences whether they feel they can trust a brand or not. Women take a more empathetic view and are likely to inquire about a brand’s values and what defines their story.
• Building consumer connection -Women are becoming a powerhouse in the home consumer market and increasing their buying power. Successful brands tap into this target audience by showcasing key influencers, creating robust networking channels and sharing platforms with female brand co-creators and co-owners.