Gemma Cernuda: On What Fuels The Core Of Marketing To Women
Former marketing director Gemma Cernuda quit his job at a distinguished mass-market company to chase a goal. With a background in communication, Gemma experienced how traditional views of gender were moving faster in culture than in advertising. And it was enough for her to do something about it!
That evidence, paired with the need for women empowerment and leadership, lead Gemma to create Ellas Deciden — a brand that helps other brands to fully recognize and reach women, treating them as drivers of purchase decisions instead of a niche.
And about the name? It’s the Spanish equivalent of Women Decide. It’s where all starts — with the power of women decisions. More specifically, the immense financial muscle that women consumers wield today. Like influencing 80 percent of all household spending.
On a Tuesday morning, Gemma and I met for a coffee. I wanted to know how it all began — how one woman could readjust, and begin transforming a passionate idea into a business.
1. How did you come to create Ellas Deciden?
To offer brands a broader, holistic approach to women consumers that impacts every aspect of the business. From product development, to marketing, and every department in between.
That means, going beyond advertising campaigns and examining the entire business through a female lens.
While performing my role as a marketing director in La Sirena, I paid attention to brands that women say aren’t getting it right. What do they have in common? What’s that they aren’t doing right? I did some research to find out, and I stumbled into agencies around the world that analyzed what it takes to make a brand women-friendly.
To my surprise, no agencies in Spain were covering this business opportunity - so I created my own in 2002. It’s been 15 years now, and the journey is still as challenging as rewarding!
2. What are some common misconceptions about market-led approaches to women?
There are many! And most of them have to do with old tired gender stereotyping:
- Pink and small don’t mean woman. So don’t try to market your product for her in pink if that’s your only strategy. Take this pitfall of Bic as an example of what not to do.
- Increasing the price isn’t the way. Items marketed to women not only cost more but actually contain less of the product because manufacturers make it smaller and more feminine-looking. Totally wrong. Get that #PinkTax out of here.
- Women is not a single market. They are not homogeneous. They're the senior executive, the stay-at-home mom, the Millennial, the empty nester, you name it. Brands need to address the unique demands of each group. Hint: talk to those women before you design.
- Pushing exclusively to women doesn’t work. As contradictory as it may sound, the best marketing to women is to stop marketing only to women. Campaigns that speak exclusively to women, will alienate men (and vice versa!). So if you market a unisex product, aim instead for gender-neutral design and packaging like Apple’s, and you’ll win both.
Marketing successfully to women is a much more complex process. But when done right, it improves marketing practice overall. It’s time for brands to champion these facts.
3. Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
I do follow many women in business and leadership, such as Marti Barletta.
However, the female role models I look up to are anonymous women who take brave steps toward their career: whether it’s a woman who negotiates a raise, or a woman who speaks up at her boss if she notices something unfair.
These are the women who end up accomplishing things I truly admire.
4. Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?
To begin with, getting more international experience. I studied in New York when I was 30 and didn’t realize until that age the HUGE amount of benefits that living abroad has.
Then, taking more risks when it comes to expand my business. I think I’ve been very prudent so far in investing large capital in my company. But it’s never too late! Taking risks is the only way to create change, so it will well worth the effort.
5. What are your favorite productivity tips?
There is an activity that is my absolute favorite for clearing the mind for some really productive thinking: running. And I run without headphones to really improve focus. Many times I’ll find that if I start the run thinking about the problem, by the end of the run I’ll have it solved. No joke.
Also, I use a well-tuned weekly planner (paper version!) to keep track of my most important tasks. I take Wednesday as my day of assessment, when I evaluate the progress and decide to speed up or remove some tasks. I love that feeling of completion at the end of the week!
6. What advice do you have for the next generation of women who work in marketing & communications?
Take time to know yourself well, and allow your curiosity to shine. Keep trying things to find out what you are passionate about and seize opportunities to further that passion.
7. What are your favorite books related to women, marketing or business?
- Good to Great, by James C. Collins. It’s about the transition from good to great, which doesn't require a high-profile manager or the latest technology, but a culture that find and promote people to think and act in a extraordinary manners.
- How Women Decide, by Therese Huston. It’s full of insightful advice for women about decisiveness, confidence, and tackling gender bias. I loved it! Here are my 89 takeaways of the book.
- The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. This is one of the books that sparked the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States. Friedan wrote about the “revolutionary” idea of women finding personal fulfillment outside of their traditional roles.
- Elogio De La Duda, by Victoria Camps. It’s a Spanish essay that emphasizes how important it’s to take time to think, make mistakes and learn from them. It’s only then when personal growth happens.
8. What’s next for Gemma Cernuda? Any excited project coming soon?
Leading the change.
Being an active part in the marketing mindset shift, especially in those industries where are very male dominated. Like the banking industry.
Right now I’m focused on the financial sector. Together with Strands, I wrote a White Paper called She Banking, a study that identified what women expect from banks as an ‘ally’ when managing personal and family finances.
I want to change the way Banks relate to Women; the 51% of the population.
And there’s still so much to do!
A final word
When speaking with Gemma, you realize that behind Ellas Deciden there is a vivacious powerful woman who genuinely wants to lift brands and people around her. Her work is aligned with her love for delivering value, and it shows.