The success of Nestlé's Yorkie advertising campaign has proved that gender marketing really works, and now the company has launched a product aimed primarily at women. But just how easy is it to make a food product appeal to women? Hugh Westbrook examines the ingredients needed for successful gender marketing.

Nestlé's Yorkie is not for girls. Nestlé's new Doubles range demonstrably is. The fact that Nestlé can sell products in the same sector, each aimed at one half of the human race, proves that gender marketing works. But how do you create and then market a food product that appeals primarily to men or women?

Those in the market admit that certain products are not intrinsically male or female. However, many companies are now bringing out products aimed at a female market, while a number of studies have been carried out on how to market to women.

For example, market analyst Datamonitor published a report on Trends in Women's Lives last year. It recommended that to market successfully to women, old-fashioned stereotypes have to be avoided. It said that with women seeing themselves as independent, free and "empowered", marketing which stresses those characteristics will be more successful than aiming products at wives or mothers.

Yorkie is therefore unusual with its 'Not For Girls' campaign, which started two years ago and established a new identity for the product. At the time, the company said that the move was in response to changing lifestyles as "most men these days feel as if the world is changing around them and it has become less and less politically correct to have anything that is only for males". The increasing development of products for females backs this up.

Indulgent and sexy

The new Doubles range is aimed at women in the 25-34 age bracket. While Yorkie's packaging is basic blue with block lettering, the Doubles range has more subtle colours and a prettier font. As for ingredients, cocoa solids are about the same but Doubles include ingredients such as double cream or freeze-dried raspberries.

In order to promote the product, the company has advertised in women's magazines, while its stated aim is for it to be seen as "feminine, indulgent and sexy".

Regarding Doubles, Nestlé told just-food.com that the "image/positioning of a brand reflects the target audience using a variety of symbols and emotions, for example, packaging, sponsorship and the use of personalities and celebrities all playing a part to varying degrees in how a brand is projected and, significantly, how the target audience perceives it".

Nestlé used fashion designers Sadie Frost and Jemima French to launch their product, feeling that their image best reflects the brand.

As for the ingredients, the company added: "The actual product is developed with a core consumer in mind - we know from research, for example, that the recipe for Double Berry will appeal to a certain group of consumers."

So has Nestlé made the right moves in creating its products? just-food.com spoke to two US authorities to see how they feel products should be marketed to women.

Michele Miller is an expert in marketing to women and has a website dedicated to the subject. She agreed that targeting lifestyle trends rather than age is critically important.

"With health drinks, the most successful are those focused on women being strong individuals, confident in who they are, who want to do the best for themselves," she told just-food.com.

Targeting the storytellers

Miller said that certain issues had to be considered when creating a food brand aimed at women.

"You have to find out the story behind a product. Women are storytellers, they will pick up two bars and if one has an interesting story on the packaging, they'll buy that one even if it doesn't taste as good as the other one.

"With the packaging, manufacturers then have to pick one lifestyle component factor such as time saver, suitable nutrients or contributing to the environment and focus on that as central.

"Women are willing to pay extra for something if it's good and stands for something; if women feel they are joining a group they will pay for that."

She cited products such as the Luna Bar and Clif Bar, which are health bars aimed at strong women. Their packaging reflects these characteristics, while they also provide specific nutrients.

Miller added that marketing to women is not just about health products. "Even though women are taking care of themselves, it's becoming more acceptable to give in once in a while; indulging occasionally is a good thing for the soul.

"The reward behaviour area of the brain is huge in women so there is a definite trigger for giving yourself a present; plus there is a sense of belonging, of forming alliances with yourself when you have a reward. You can say it's okay, I worked hard and deserved it."

Building a relationship

As for more prosaic marketing matters, Miller said that strong, vibrant colours appeal to women and that the old divisions of pink and blue are no longer appropriate, while choice of fonts is very subjective and not necessarily 'female' in nature.

As for male products, she said that sports products which focus more on muscle building than health are a principal area of product development, while energy drink Red Bull, where the energy is provided a little less naturally, is also a very male product.

Management consultant Norris Bernstein agreed that marketing to men and women requires different skills. Bernstein was president of Bernstein's Salad Dressings for a number of years and has spoken internationally about trends in the food industry.

He told just-food.com that the major difference is that "men buy products and women buy relationships. If a company wants to reach women they have to build up a relationship with them.

"It's not so much products for women and products for men, it's the way in which companies go about understanding the differences. You have to look at a way of building a brand and make women feel good about buying something."

"A lot of health supplements began as something targeted at men because they go to the gym, but now 50% of gym members are women, so what was once male is now switched and people have to broaden their approach."

Rewards for the right approach

He said that if a company is developing a new product that it wants to aim at women, it has to decide whether there is a valid reason to make that the target market. "If there really is something different then it's a matter of developing a strategy that talks about how we make the women feel that we have their best interests at heart, how we develop that relationship."

He added that a woman must have a reason for wanting to carry around a product, such as a chocolate bar. "What does it say about them? If they take it out someone might react to it. Cosmetics look attractive, they don't need extra packaging, so they look good if you take them out. The same has to be true of a food product."

Bernstein added that emerging markets such as Mexico, India and Russia could respond to well crafted gender marketing campaigns in the future.

It is clear that to sell food products successfully to men or women, certain basic ground rules have to be established, and that simply deciding that women or men are your target audience is not sufficient. However, if the marketing is carried out correctly, the rewards could be considerable.