Marketing to the Inner Mean Girls

Now that school is back in full swing all over the country, I wonder how many young girls are going to have to face bullies this semester. Remember them? The ones that made fun of what you were wearing, who you were hanging with and what you were doing? Turns out, as we get older, the mean girl that we need to watch out for is actually the one living in our own head.

You heard it before; women are their own worst critics. According to Christine Arylo and Amy Ahlers, founders of the Inner Mean Girl Reform School, there are 17 types of Inner Mean Girls. From ‘Negative Nelly’ to ‘Mean Patty’, women’s self criticism can wreak havoc on their mental health.

Take for example the constant complaint that women are overwhelmed.  Ahlers points out that this is a ‘Big Fat Lie that Women Tell Themselves’ and that they are actually underwhelmed and have lost their passion.

Is it true? Are all these super busy women really just underwhelmed with their lives?  From our experience, the answer is often a combination of being underwhelmed and over-extended (another mean girl trait) and they feel the need to communicate how much is on their plate so that they will get credit/empathy for all that they do.  This is what we call the Martyrdom Whole Truth and while women can get caught up in it, they can also lead marketers to believe that they are super-stressed and don’t have time for brands and messaging.

While Ahlers and Arylo are helping women tame the inner mean girls through their reform school program, marketers can learn to market to (or around) them.  And that’s like getting two customers in one!

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Stress Is Not A Contest: Marketers And Martyrs

Half Truth: Women are stressed.

Whole Truth: Women are stressed, but they aren’t above playing the pity card.

Marketers recoil when women bemoan how busy they are. To many, women’s Martyrdom conjures the annoying and unappealing image of a whiner. (And that’s not the picture of the customer they want to have.) So often, when we show videos of women mired in Martyrdom, marketers get pulled into their quicksand of complaints. Additionally, this Half Truth of Martyrdom puts marketers, especially male ones on the defensive. We can tell this is happening when male clients start citing all the examples of how in their well-balanced families, men do all the heavy lifting.

As a marketer, beware of competing with women’s stress, especially if she’s your customer. As we love to say, ‘Stress is not a contest.’ Even if it were, you’ve got to let your customer win. Women can be incredibly empathetic, but they love to play the pity card, so successful marketers need to base ideas on solving stress rather than compete with it or amplify it. The first step is getting the facts, not just the feelings.

A business that’s plagued with consumers’ stress management is the airline industry, and some brands have navigated this better than others. While both men and women business travelers will trumpet the very true Martyrdom refrain, ‘I’m so exhausted by business travel,’ women, especially those with kids waiting at home, take the indignities of travel personally. Continental Airlines was the first to roll out the red carpet at check-in (in their case, it was blue) so that all Elite members, even the straggling latecomers, could bypass the long line of nonmembers. The blue carpet practically shouted, ‘We know you travel constantly, so here’s one annoyance you can take off your plate.’ They also seem to be the most aggressive about filling any empty business class seat with worthy upgrade candidates, again a life raft for a woman on the edge.

Listen to the Whole Truth behind her Half Truth of Martyrdom to learn how you can redefine your product in her terms and you may find you can reposition your current offering into a Whole Truth winner.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Self Inflicted Stress Induced by Martyrdom

“We cling to our multitasking as much as we bemoan it.”

Amen sister. 

Thank you to Ruth Marcus and her article in today’s Washington Post for articulating one of the most powerful WHOLE Truths that a woman could ever reveal.  For 10 years we’ve asked women about their multi-tasking lives and usually what you hear is the  Half Truth: “I’m so busy and no one helps me.”  To get the WholeTruth all we have to do is ask “really?” and then the floodgates open. Women confess they they could have help from their husbands and children but that they don’t take it because they want it done the way they like it or they don’t want to surrender their role as do-er.

In our new book (have I mentioned there is a new book coming???) we explain that the reason women say that their families won’t help them is that they are motivated by, dare I say it, Martyrdom.  Women (I’ll include myself) like to talk about how busy we are, not in the hopes that someone will magically fix things but rather so we can get some hard earned empathy. 

Marketers (and television producers)  keep missing the mark on intepreting this Whole Truth and continue to play into the idea that women are overburdened (true) and  surrounded by haplesss men and useless children (probably not true) or they misfire and exagerate empathy in a patronizing way.

BTW, Ruth, when you get bored of your recipe I have a brisket recipe to die for!

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July 24, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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