How Women Regard Advertising
No business man to-day overlooks the importance of the woman buyer, because she is the ultimate consumer, she pays the bill. She is buying 87 per cent of the merchandise that is going out of the retail stores to-day; 92 per cent of the groceries are bought by women. Right in this buying is where her problem and the advertising problem meet because, if the purpose of advertising is, first, to create desirability; second, necessity in the minds of readers; that too is precisely what the American customer, the American woman buyer wants. She wants to know about goods, she wants to know with greater understanding about the merchandise that she is buying, and she wants to keep it sold just as much as the merchants want to keep it sold, because her time and her energy and her efforts in taking misrepresented things back are expensive to her.
Honest, dependable advertising in terms that she can understand is what is going to solve that problem.
But this buying job is a new occupation to use women. Our colonial women had here and there sprinkled about a professional business woman, but on the whole the woman of to-day has had but little experience and little training in this new occupation. Why, just a generation ago Pa took the butter and eggs along with the hogs and corn to market. He exchanged them for yard goods and staple groceries and brought them back to Ma instead of money. To-day, owing to the industrial revolution, Pa works in the store and Ma takes the money from his pay envelope and spends it for the necessities of life, sometimes too much for the luxuries of life.
Women are indeed earnest about this thing, this new occupation of buying. You may be surprised to now that all over the country there are women in study classes, in their club work, who are having the men of their communities, the specialists, the business men, come in and talk to them about their particular type of business, what part she as a buyer plays I that business. Thy are mightily interested, for the truth of the situation is that the buying power of the dollar is just three times more than it was in Civil War days, but we are not buying three times as much health, happiness, and prosperity with our money.
Women distrust advertisements just a little because of past unpleasant experiences. For instance, one experience where a thing is marked pure, and she discovers that the word “bunk” should have been after it, stays in her mind. When she has bought something labeled “fast color” and she found that the material could not keep up with it because it ran so fast, she does not forget it. She ahs been strung about as many times in one place as she is going to be strung. She is going to know the truth.
There have bene food and dairy commissions all over the country. They have done an enormously important piece of work in assuring the honesty of the contents of packages.
The good that advertising has made toward national health, comfort, safety, and buyer content of our better magazines simply cannot be estimated. Do not stop. Keep on. But now, remember, be sure in all of this that you are giving the women 100 per cent value, because we are a little smarter than we were a little while ago, and we are going to trip you up.
Women of this country want advertising men to establish better Business Bureaus all over this broad land of ours. Nothing can do the work for the ultimate woman consumer like these Bureaus such as now are in existence in only too few of our large cities.
I don’t want for a moment to underestimate the value of national advertising, but advertisers must clearly appreciate the confidence the woman buyer feels in her local merchant. She probably knows him personally. She knows how far she can trust him. If she does not trust him she does not go to him. If he says the thing is right she believes him, and that settles it. If he says the thing is right she believes him, and that settles it. It would not make a hundredth of the impression upon her to see some foreign name or some person in whom she has no interest say exactly the very same thing, or probably better; she wants facts, dependable information, from trustworthy sources.
If Siebert is right, and there is only 20 per cent of truth and knowledge and 80 per cent of ignorance in existence, how important is the great national and international service of advertising. Why, the women of the world are going to school to you men. Will you take the challenge? Help us to be better buyers, more intelligent buyers, that we may through our buying raise the standard of the individual home? That is the contribution to the world’s progress which seems so evident to me that you may well consider. Will you give us Better Business Bureaus? Will you give us better educational, honest advertising, that the women may direct better and happier homes?
Source: Modern Eloquence: A Library of the World’s Best Spoken Thought, Vol V, ed. Ashley H. Thorndike, (New York: P. F. Collier & Son Corp.) 1928, pp. 156-158.