It’s nothing new to say that gender impacts many areas of marketing and product development. However, gender has a particular significance within the realm of market research too. While gender stereotypes are something to avoid, it is important to understand the differences and potential biases that arise when market researchers don’t consider the impact of gender. It’s been long proven in psychology that men and women are indeed different. But we’re not talking about the obvious differences of physical appearances— we’re going deeper than that. We’re talking about inherent differences between men and women when it comes to the structure, chemistry, and processing of the brain and its impact on market research.
3 Areas of Difference and How to Address Them
There are quite a few differences in the brain when it comes to gender. However, we’ll focus on those that impact how men and women partake in research and how we, as market researchers, can approach these differences in methodologies and study structure.
The first area of difference between men’s and women’s minds pertains to processing: more specifically, gray matter in the brain. Gray matter controls the amount of focus placed on processing information and tasks. Men have far more gray matter and thus the ability to focus more than women. But, men also struggle to take in their surroundings while in a focused state, whereas women don’t. This in turn is partly why women may appear to multitask better. Because they have less gray matter, women can move more seamlessly from topic to topic than men. When it comes to taking surveys, market researchers should keep this difference in mind as men may struggle to move between topics or questions and women may struggle to focus.
- Build surveys or studies that are clear in organization and easy to follow to help men transition and women stay on subject
- Remind respondents to avoid interruptions or require them to complete particular questions or tasks in a certain time frame to keep both genders engaged
The general chemistry, particularly the impact from estrogen and testosterone, is a commonly recognized difference between men and women. These hormones, along with other neurochemicals in the brain impact the way we feel or act—and ultimately our decision-making. To generalize, men are more physically impulsive and objectively driven as a result of testosterone. Women on the other hand are more subjectively and emotionally driven due to estrogen. As it relates to market research, men find rating their feedback more applicable, while women are inclined to provide open-ended responses. For example, when shopping online, men are likely to be influenced by how many stars a product has before deciding what to purchase, while women may read the reviews and determine if a description relates their situation. As you can determine, this difference factors heavily into analyzing shopper and purchasing behavior.
- When conducting gender specific research, use methodologies that allow men to score or rate their answers to questions more frequently, while allowing women room to provide context
Last but not least, the structure of the brain is where the majority of differences between gender exist. One particular difference impacting market research is the fact that men have a larger parietal lobe. This allows for better spatial perception among men and a preference towards images rather than reading. What women lack in the parietal lobe, they make up for with a larger hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The fact that these parts of the brain are larger means women have better memory and sensory storing ability—or ability to remember and recall experiences and information from the senses.
- As a result, when asking respondents about their past experiences, take into consideration that women’s responses may be more detailed while men may have to be probed further
- Concepts shown as images rather than written content will prove more impactful in testing with men
Gender Bias Is Difficult to Avoid
Even when we apply the knowledge above to market research, there’s still room for bias. Sometimes men and women just answer questions differently due to their strength of opinion or the question itself. Incorporating the tactics above will help to mitigate some bias, but not all. As market researchers we should always approach the analysis of data carefully and consider the impact of not only gender, but other attributes. To learn more about the differences between men and women, specifically when it comes to beer advertising, check out the executive summary below.