20 April 2015

What Women Want: Part 3 - What's in their pocket?

By Shaziya Khan, VP & Executive Planning Director (JWT Mumbai)

In budget season it is appropriate to consider the views of someone who is fondly called in many homes as “the finance minister”. Because typically the lady of the house is given a monthly budget, which she is responsible for prudently stretching across essentials (“monthlies”), value adds (eg. premium food products for the child), occasional indulgences (eg. beauty care)  and gifts (eg. festive season must haves).

Home “finance minister’s”  savvy:
Past research revealed that there are several savvy measures women naturally, and somewhat discreetly, adopt on a regular basis to manage their finances smoothly. To mention a few -
1.    Women have a ‘secret’ pocket or area where  they save money for personal spends or emergencies.
2.    They keep their ear to the ground to extract value when prices rise eg. instead of buying vegetables from the nearby vendor they shift to buying from the whole sale market (or mandi) which sells cheaper produce but at a faraway location
3.    Buying bulk quantities of high quality farm fresh staples like rice, wheat, lentils and oil and sharing across 5-6 households.
These long standing aspects of home budgeting savvy have now expanded to decision making and aspiration across several other spheres of life.  And interestingly, we notice, that these new facets are no longer discreet and covert, but refreshingly candid acknowledgements by women themselves in a JWT Sonar Survey on What Women Want (SEC A, B, 20-45 years)
Expanded decision making
On decision  making – The JWT Sonar survey across Asia (India, China, Indonesia) reveals that women believe they are the decision makers across a range of products. When asked “in your household, who would make the final decision about which product or service you were going to buy/use?” 70% of women replied “Me” for the following categories:  Buying a Home appliances, Buying a new mobile phone or smart phone, Open a new bank account. Over 50% of women replied “Me” for: buying life insurance policy and travel. In China and Indonesia the figure is higher – with over 70% of women making the decision on insurance policy and travel.
Expanded pre purchase research

The expansion observed in women’s purchase and decision making power  is closely linked to their being better informed. Our survey reveals that over 55% of women across Asia often do pre purchase research using a variety of digital and non digital resources. The top 5 sources of research are, in that order,  search engine (like Google), recommendations from friends/ family / colleagues, price comparison websites, brand / company websites and advertising. Closely followed by product sample or demonstration in store. (On a related note, a Google study pointed out that women tap 7 sources of information prior to decision).

Thus, for today’s women (“just sitting, we search on mobile, and find everything”), purchase intent and purchase behavior reveals new dynamism and even more savvy thanks to easier accessibility to pre research avenues.

Is there an underlying future trend at work here? The JWT Future 100 report says “feminism is being rebooted in the digital era, across, all generations, with a newly collaborative, open and empowered spirit”.

Ever green prudence and fresh aspiration

Happily, the prudence shown by women in the management of their monthly budget continues.  When asked “imagine for a moment that you were given 350$ (in local currency) what would you do with it?” Generally, Asian women would invest or save it for rainy day.

But the story does not stop at saving and sacrifice. There is another chapter. There is a new and refreshingly bold articulation of financial aspiration among Asian women. Over 40% of women have financial goals like financial independence, advance career, and travel the world. Half the women in Indonesia want to open their own business!
When asked “what was the most expensive item you purchased for yourself?” Jewelry, cars, laptops, and smartphones tend to be the most expensive items women have purchased for themselves. At an average  cost of $ 656 in India, 880$ in Indonesia, 967$ In China.
In sum, the finance minister across homes is better informed and more empowered than before. Her careful prudence for household purchases and innate inclination to invest and save now has the newly added facets of financial goals and purchases for herself.
Initiatives by brands that champion these now overt financial goals and provide savvy and timely enablers so that these goals can be realized will forge a life long connection with women audiences.

This article was first published in Hindu Business Line 6th Mar, 2015

What Women Want: Part 2 - What's in their heart?

By Shaziya Khan, VP & Executive Planning Director (JWT Mumbai)

What holds the answer to this puzzle – what is in women’s hearts? It is not rocket science, I can tell you, but just a few core values that mean the world to her.

The quantitative data we gathered on this topic was brought alive poignantly by a consistent pattern of qualitative ‘stories’ we heard in parallel. These stories related to a daily event, common across most Indian households.  An event most people take for granted. The  exceptions being a few, loving folks who embraced the event, in a fresh way. In case you’re wondering well, what is it, the first clue is lies in the numbers, the second in the unpeeling of ‘stories’.

One in two women across Asia (India, China, Indonesia) believe that a husband who is respectful and supportive is the key to a happy marriage.  When women were asked what are the Top 3 factors for a happy marriage? They replied in a consistent pattern:
Firstly,  a husband who is respectful
Secondly, a husband who is supportive
Thirdly,  a husband who shares responsibility.

These are the top 3 factors cited by almost 50% (one out of every two)  women across Asia – India, China, Indonesia ( women 20 -45 years, SEC A, B).

Interestingly, with the exception of China, in other Asian markets, getting along with in laws is a factor of  relatively lower  importance for a happy marriage, and was cited by less than 20% of women (1 in 5 women).

A happy marriage relationship based on respect and support is a consistently stated and explicit aspiration of today’s women. This aspiration is a solid foundation for brands to build on, by asking how these can be manifested and enabled in fresh ways. Cueing at least 3 related points of departure for future enquiries by categories and brands as a next step.

1. Firstly, how is respect and support of the wife expressed through the lens of a particular category – applying the category or brand filter to these values is a vital next step. For instance how does food or finance or even beauty categories, to mention a few, apply this finding. For instance, several financial brands support a daughter’s future / foreign education. That is not surprising because as our study reveals - 65% of women aged 20-24 years want to become financially independent and advance their careers. However, the study also reveals that close to 45% of women who are 25 – 45 years want to become financially independent too! Across all age groups, 55% of women in India want to be financially independent, and over 45% of women want to buy a home and a car! Cause enough for brands to dig into how these desires can be better fulfilled or enabled for women. Beyond continuing to support daughters’ education & career, time to dig into what cues support and respect of the wife, financially speaking?

2. Secondly, there is scope for understanding what are the deal breakers, deal makers, and hands down winners, when it comes to respect, support and teaching values. For 80% of Indian women, the number one factor of being a good mother remains ‘Teaching your children values and helping make them better people’. And for 60% of Indian women it is a struggle to find a balance between maintaining tradition and their desire to be independent and assertive. The struggle is more intense in China and Indonesia where over 80%  of women find it difficult to balance tradition with independence. Tradition vs assertiveness, balancing vs struggling, making the effort to teach values to children are evocative zones of respect and support to be understood and advocated by brands, each in their unique way. One might ask, for the progressive matrimony brand or evolving mother brand or modern local brand in Asia, what’s the next step that advances respect and support in marriage and values in children?

3. Thirdly, exploring the new bridge of shared responsibilities between His & Hers. As home making and working responsibilities evolve, and parenting becomes more hands on, what is the emerging geography of chores? It is a fascinating and layered topography  which is a mash up of what used to be simply his and hers. Now, there’s his, hers, and ours, either, swapping, to be decided, in flux, training, experimenting, trial period, surprise zone, learning area, still adapting, tough times, “firsts”, getting used to it, still …signs of what can become  a fascinating insight mining exercise. That it is desired, more - required,  is validated by another telling finding: 70% of women agree that usually “women are depicted as men would like to see them rather than as we really are”.

In sum, love and its expressions of respect, support, understanding & sharing of responsibilities continue to be some of the deepest desires of women.  With 50% of women across Asia affirming their importance, there is much to be gained from addressing them actively, in fresh ways.


Moving onto sharing a “story” that brings alive what the numbers reveal. It is a story we heard consistently in focus groups. Across similar socio econonomic strata, with both younger and middle aged married women in India.

When women are asked what is the one thing that would delight your heart, and give you much happiness… initially with shy smiles, then hesitant, tender expressions and finally with irrepressible giggles – we heard them give a unanimous answer: we wish if our husband would occasionally surprise us by making the cup of tea for us!

A cup of tea?!

How could “wish he occasionally makes a cup of tea for me” hold so much meaning for the wives, we wondered initially! As we probed further, we learnt, that “wish husband occasionally makes the cup of tea for me” phenomenon, emotionally speaking ‘works’ for wives at several levels.

1.    Husband understands the wife’s need for a break: he understands that his wife needed a break from her unchanging routine and he steps in and gives her that much needed break. In her eyes, through the simple, and occasional gesture of making her a morning cup of tea, in her eyes, he symbolically communicates a deep empathy towards her. Also, needless to say, as mornings are a very busy time in most homes, it is a break at a very relevant time as well. A true moment of respite and togetherness.

2.    Husband provides wife an open and genuine expression of appreciation: it is seen by her as a gesture of appreciation for all that she has done; a welcome pause of acknowledgement and appreciation from him, in what can otherwise by weeks, months, even years, of an always-on assembly line of chores (completed yet unremarked upon, unless if there is a mistake, but rarely, if ever appreciated when it goes off smoothly each time)

3.    Husband embraces a supportive stance towards role  expansion: When he makes her the cup of tea, the woman sees tangible evidence, not just living room conversation, that her husband happily encourages and embraces a certain amount of role expansion for both himself and his wife, in keeping with modern times.

If there is so much emotional meaning triggered by an occasional cup of tea, made for the wife, imagine what more can be unpeeled as more aspects of shared responsibility are tapped.
IN SUM: Respect, support and shared responsibility is what matters most to wives.  We’re all reminded, it IS about these few core values when it comes to understanding what women want. That’s not rocket science. But it rarely is!
Especially when we’ve set out to understand what’s in their heart!

(While you ponder that quietly, we are putting together the third module on what’s in their pocket)

This article was first published in Hindu Business Line 27th Feb, 2015

What Women Want: Part 1- What’s on their mind?

By Shaziya Khan, VP & Executive Planning Director (JWT Mumbai)

“What do women want"
It is a question that has alternately vexed and fascinated the world! 

At a recent conference, a global marketing head travelling from the USA to India, for the first time, remarked with a smile - after his first consumer home visit : I learnt today that the emotional feeling of being the father of 3 daughters is universal. (His meeting, serendipitiously, happened to be with a dad, who like him, had 3 teenage daughters.)  His concluded with a smile, two dads from different corners of the world, and at opposite ends of the socio – economic spectrum, and with totally different experiences - were basically going through the same journey!

In short, that fellow feeling of trying to understand todays’ evolving woman unites us all. 

And it is not just fathers, but also mothers, husbands, and the women themselves too, by the way, striving to get a good grasp on this present day universal quest. All needing to step back, ponder, and understand, at least a little bit, what women really want. 

For marketers, who have skin in the game and realize the game is evolving rapidly - the question is more imperative than ever.

Past Asian studies have shed some light on this rapidly evolving target group. For instance, summarizing Asian women rather optimistically  as “holding up half the sky” or, more pessimistically, and worryingly, as “simmering within”. The slant of this thesis by JWT (across India, China, and Indonesia) is to provide a more holistic view of women, rather than a simplistically positive or negative one.

This JWT study (across women SEC A, B, age group 20-45 years) aims at drawing out a well-rounded picture of the emerging chrysalis. And then sharing some of theimplications for those aiming to help our subject, and the target group of much marketing effort, to fly. What follows, is an individual focus, in three parts on - what is on women’s minds, what is in their hearts and finally what is in their pockets. 

We learnt that what is on women’s minds is a widespread and nuanced realization that their role in society, and more intimately, at home and in family has improved for the better. In short, they agree that women’s voice is being heard but they want more! Lets unpack why and how this is so.
Firstly, an overwhelming 90% of women, agree that women’s role in society is changing for the better. This point of view is evidently based, less on whimsy or wishful thinking, than ever before. Education and independence are cited as the underpinning of women’s “new, improved” role in society. Nearly 50% of women believe that access to work and career and better education are the top most influential reasons for their role in society changing. “Feel that women today are more independent and are able to express themselves better” as a respondent in this study put it.
Secondly, and very significantly, less than one in 5 women agrees that  better portrayal of women in the media is a positive influence for women. In other words, when women were asked “Thinking about your generation compared to your mothers, which three of the following do you think have been most influential for women?” their answers are revealing. Women’s top influencers were grounded and real ones – education and career. (Women’s portrayal in the media is NOT a top influencer for this generation of women. Is there an opportunity for better role models being portrayed, is a topic for discussion at another time). Both the influencers– education and career, have their rewards and their challenges. Making women who are influenced by them and traverse their paths alive to their possibilities, yes, but in a very real and practical sense. Hence words like “rights, challenges, equality, respect, brave” pepper their feedback on womens’ evolving role. 
What is most heartening, is that women’s point of viewon their role in society, is a nuanced view, not at all blind to the challenges on the path. This was evident across several comments like this one, on the same question. “They have a better say in family and financial matters though the respect that they should get in the society is yet to come”. Or another like minded one. “Better living standards, more working women, more educated than before, courage, brave, facing problems, working in all fields”.
We learnt from them, that what is on women’s minds is neither a simplistically optimistic view of their role and nor a pessimistic one. Happily, women of today embrace a grounded “you gotta have what it takes” view on their generations role in family and society at large. Hmmm. Makes “rose tinted” a thing of the past, doesn’t it. The ladies see it as it is. 
Thirdly, we learnt that a natural corollary to their realistic and clear sighted world view is the desire women have for their voice to be heard more and their opinions to be valued more. Given that their world view is NOT a rose tinted one, but an objective, realistic and grounded one, alive to the BOTH rewards and challenges– women expect and want their realistic, grounded voice to be heard MORE. This unfulfilled desire for women’s opinion to be valued more came marching through the numbers in the study. Nearly 50% women (that is one in two women) agreed with the statements “I wish my opinion at work was valued more” and “ I wish my opinion at home was valued more”. That is a big shift! Because earlier researches for decades highlighted women want to be valued more (alluding to self esteem, worth, and related issues); the recent research is highlighting  women want their opinions to be valued more. Yearning for a recognition beyond simply their “place” to a recognition of their perspective or point of view.
To sum up “what is on their mind” – women believe their role in society has improved thanks to education and career. But there is still headroom for women’s opinions to be valued more both at home and in the workplace. Simply put, ask the ladies! And then heed their wisdom. What is your opinion about that? That is worth thinking about! Till we share what is in their heart (the next module moves beyond what is on women’s mind to understanding what is in their heart -  on women’s aspirations)

This article was first published in Hindu Business Line 20th Feb, 2015

30 October 2014

Like Mum, Like Daughter

By Shaziya Khan, VP & Executive Planning Director (JWT Mumbai) 

Brands can get closer to women consumers by helping them nurture their goals of financial freedom

There are charming quotations. There is fierce emotion. There are tender moments of unspoken understanding.

On the topic of mothers and daughters, there is, in short, endless and timeless poetry.

The slant of this piece though, is different.

One that revolves less around emotional dependence and more around financial independence. There is a new story bursting through consumer research.

Mothers and daughters, we learn, from a JWT study of (March 2014 online survey of women SEC A, B) have a common dream: Of financial independence.

A top goal of approximately 42 per cent of women in their 30s and 40s is to be financially independent. Nearly one in two mums is nurturing not just her home, her family and her children but also her own desire to be financially her own mistress. In the wake of this dream follow related ones such as wanting to advance her career (40 per cent), open her own business (36 per cent) and travel the world (45 per cent). As well as buy a home (37 per cent) and a car (36 per cent).

Thus, women today are seeking an independent financial infrastructure that supports their mobility, flexibility and freedom. Some of their key personal duties done, they are seeking to flex their professional talents and skills beyond the home sphere, step out into the world and earn their financial independence.

But that is only half the story. These women are surrounded by, and possibly raising, the next generation of women that dream alike.

Women in their early 20s are citing financial independence as a top goal too (65 per cent). 'Girls just wanna have fun' now comes with some definitive ideas of what's involved, including career advancement (61 per cent), opening own business (47 per cent), travelling the world (42 per cent), buying a home (49 per cent) and buying a car (50 per cent).

Interestingly a few of these financial goals take precedence over getting married (51 per cent). Getting married remains a top life goal - a 'suitable boy' matters, of course! But 'suitable career' comes first.

Young women are stepping out into the world driven by clear-headed wishes for financial independence. That they are today supported by mums who share the same dream implies incredible support, drive and understanding to help achieve their financial goals. (And possibly, provide wise counsel, to each other.). Across all age groups, a whopping 85 per cent women believed that having a career defines a 'successful woman' today.

Younger women (20-24 years), when asked, 'Thinking about your generation compared to your mothers, which of the following do you think have been most influential for women? ' cited opportunities for work and career (53 per cent) and financial independence/spending power (43 per cent) as the most influential drivers for change for women.

Mothers and daughters have a common dream, of financial independence.

This dream offers a relevant platform for brands to play significant roles in the lives of mothers and daughters in support of their financial independence and spending power. Ranging from enabler, educator, cheer leader, catalyst, re-inforcer, call to action. And needless to say, sponsor or benefactor. What's more, if the ladies insist on giving a treat or two, don't be surprised! They've been wishing to do so for two generations.

This article was first published in Hindu Business Line July 4th, 2014