Three Male-Centric Industries That Are Embracing Female Consumers and Making More Money Than Ever

July 16, 2015

Women smoking cigars? Ladies on Harleys? Gals in Mustangs? Welcome to the 21st century! A time when Don Draper would be slapped with a lawsuit, June Cleaver would join her friends for a whiskey neat, and Miss Daisy would be driving herself.

It’s a different time — a time in which the genders, though still distinct, can like and do the same things in their own way. And companies are taking note.

Nothing is solely for men anymore. And when companies realize this, there’s a lot of money to be made.

We’ve blogged about this before, how brands are making strides to appeal to a wider demographic (ahem, in other words, they’ve gone from marketing exclusively to men to mixing things up a bit more), and the topic just doesn’t seem to get old. Every day we’re seeing more companies recognize the buying power that women have and the fact that female interest isn’t limited to kitchen gadgets, crochet needles and other stereotypical nonsense. Women are closing the gender gap in their career choices and pay scale (in 2009, Nielsen reported that the average American woman was expected to surpass the average American male in earnings by 2028), but they’re also closing the gap in how they spend their spare time and the hobbies they pursue. It’s pretty cool.

So where does this lead? What does this mean for today’s biggest male-centric brands, and how can these brands stay ahead of the curve?

The primary rule is that there are no rules. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is solely for men anymore. And when companies realize this, there’s a lot of money to be made.

Women and Whiskey

Marketing whiskey to women has been a rocky road. And when we say “rocky” we mean “frowned upon for decades.” Check out this excerpt from Fred Minnick’s Whiskey Women: “In a November 1958 edict, the Distilled Spirits Institute (now the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States) told its membership: ‘In no instance, may women be shown holding a drink in an advertisement and no illustrations of women unless they are dignified, modest, and in good taste.’ But as the woman’s role changed in the American household and beer created stellar television ads that cut into whiskey’s market share, the spirits industry knew it needed to update its advertising methods.”

Still, “updating its advertising methods” didn’t happen until 1987, when the Distilled Spirits Council lifted the ban it had implemented on its members, therefore blessing the advertisements that featured women holding drinks.

Did you catch that? 1987. That means that women had been able to vote for 50 yearsprior to being able to hold a drink in an ad without causing the Council to cringe.

Consequently, when Jim Beam purchased Skinnygirl Cocktails in 2011 and began looking toward a female target market, the circulating articles all said things like “After 216 years of marketing to men …” and “Having spent 216 years catering to guy’s guys … .” To which our response is no joke! What option did they have if they couldn’t even put a glass of whiskey in a woman’s hand until the last fifth of that 216-year run?

Petty grievances aside, Jim Beam’s foray into marketing spirits to women is one that has propelled the company and its drink to the forefront. And what follows is how it went down.

In 2009, the company found that its masculine-branded Red Stag product was being largely consumed by women. So in 2011, it bought Skinnygirl Cocktails, a genius brand that was successfully targeting a gaping hole within the market by marketing low-calorie cocktails to the female demographic. Skinnygirl’s sales exploded, thus allowing it to become the “fastest growing brand of spirits in the U.S.” and to rake in gobs of cash. But Jim Beam didn’t stop there; it knew that while some women like feminine drinks, there are also women who like their whiskey neat.

Typically pigeonholed as vodka or wine drinkers, women continue to evolve. Vodka sales are slowing, whereas whiskey sales are flourishing. NPR explained: “Back in the 1990s, only about 15 percent of whiskey drinkers were female. Now, according to Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women, women represent 37 percent of whiskey imbibers in the U.S.”

On top of this you have groups such as The Whiskey Women and Women & Whiskies. So Jim Beam’s most recent strategy has been to team up with actress Mila Kunis — a woman who is respected and adored by men and women alike. And a woman who likes her bourbon straight.

Jim Beam’s foray into marketing spirits to women is one that has propelled the company and its drink to the forefront.

It’s been a campaign that has capitalized on the fact that women are closing the gender gap of bourbon sales, positioning the product in a new light.

And when it comes to repositioning masculine products and brands, it doesn’t stop at whiskey.

Women and Cigars

Just when you think there’s nothing more intriguing than women taking over the whiskey business, we introduce the smoking-hot market of women and cigars.

The Washington Times reported that in the ’80s, “women comprised only one-tenth of one percent of the total U.S. cigar market.” Nowadays, “about 2 percent of U.S. women say they smoke cigars, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but that’s about 3.2 million women. Compare that to the percentage of men who smoke cigars — 9 percent — and women aren’t really that far behind.”

Just like with whiskey, online groups such as the International Women’s Cigar Society and Cigars for Women provide the support, camaraderie, information and even the social gatherings needed to make cigar smoking a hobby well worth pursuing among women.

And the cigar industry is taking notice.

Large manufacturers are making plenty of changes. The Indianapolis Star reported that “Avanti, a premier cigar manufacturer based in Pennsylvania, is selling its new cafe mocha Estilo cigar in three-pack pouches which ‘women like to slip into a purse or pocket,’ said spokeswoman Elaine Ferri. Avanti is also launching a new line of decorative tips for their cigars in February, as well as other accessories and new flavors.

“‘Women absolutely are a growing market in the cigar industry and they prefer flavored and small cigars,’ Ferri said.”

This market shift has resulted in new storefronts, such as Blend Cigar Bar in Indianapolis, which “was designed by a woman to appeal to a female clientele. The owners spent $250,000 on a scent system to keep the air well-ventilated. In the elegant lounge, women can order, for example, a chocolate martini paired with a chocolate truffle cigar,” according to the Washington Times.

Women and Cars

Just like the whiskey and cigar markets, the automotive market is changing. We’ve blogged before about the changing consumer for Harley-Davidson, but it doesn’t stop at motorcycles. All auto manufacturers are seeing a need to genuinely appeal to women … and not just in a “more cup holders” kind of way.

In Advertising Age, Julie Halpert wrote, “According to IHS [Information Handling Services], as of the end of 2013, 39% of U.S. car registrations were in a woman’s name. And women are estimated to influence up to 85% of all car purchases, according to a survey by the University of California, Davis.”

Moreover, the Washington Post’s Drew Harwell reported, “Women bought nearly 40 percent of the more than 16 million cars and trucks sold nationwide last year, up from about 36 percent five years ago, J.D. Power data show.”

The U.S. now has more female licensed drivers than male. In her article “Top 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Women Consumers,” for Forbes, Bridget Brennan wrote, “Women drive 70–80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.”

It’s clear that women are changing the landscape of the auto industry, but are companies listening?

According to Harwell’s article, numerous auto manufacturers are making small changes that they hope will cater to the female consumer. Tesla is surveying women for ideas; Bentley is considering a smaller version of the Bentayga; Jaguar introduced the F-PACE, a performance crossover; Hyundai announced a crossover pickup; Lincoln is redesigning features to better accommodate smaller users; Buick partnered with Food Network; Ford launched a Rent the Runway sweepstakes; and Dodge Ram picked up a new spokesperson in country music star Miranda Lambert.

“Women drive 70–80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.”

However, other gender issues are still rampant in the auto industry, and it starts with women not feeling as though they can successfully negotiate the purchase of a car on their own.

“Nine out of 10 car salespeople at dealerships are men,” Harwell wrote, “And women account for less than a third of the attendees at auto shows, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.”

Could the answer be female-run dealerships? A surge in women mechanics and salespeople? We don’t have the answers, but we’re excited to see where this will go, because if the auto industry is keen on attracting female consumers, they’ll need to address this side of the business.

The Bottom Line

While the saying may still be true that it’s a man’s world, there’s no telling how long it’ll stay that way.

This shift in which traditionally masculine spaces are becoming more neutralized is one that could easily affect every male-dominated space out there. From power tools to energy drinks, hunting to hot sauce, the gender lines are blurring as more women make the decision to pursue that which they love over that with which they’re told to love.

And while we would say that “they sky is the limit,” we’d hate to exclude “space exploration” from the list of potential hobbies for women. So we’ll say this: Any company within any industry, no matter how steeped in gender tradition, needs to be thinking about broadening its market. It may not be easy. And it may affect a lot of moving parts, from product development to marketing to retailers to sales staff.

But it’s worth it.

It’s a move that will keep a brand relevant, ahead of the competition, and, if done right, it’s likely to bring in some welcome revenue.

Photos/embeds: Shutterstock

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