Of course they are. They always have been. To fool society -at-large, they disguise themselves as servile, badly-groomed, overworked and under-informed women who cater to their husbands’ and family’s every whim. Believe it or not, the REAL HOUSEWIVES franchise is a reality-show! And DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES was a made-for-TV drama.
Growing up in the 70s, most of my schoolmates’ mothers were full-time housewives of varying economic status. Despite their lack of education, these housewives were very shrewd about managing the household expenses.
I remember when a leading MNC showed a TVC of their latest floor-cleaner that could transform a dirty, foul-smelling home into a bright, germ-free, lavender-fragrant one used by a beautifully-turned out housewife, my friend’s mother exclaimed.” Must be so expensive! Using soap-powder with some bleach is good enough!”
Today’s housewives are more educated and better informed – and in my observation, fall into three categories.
Firstly, there are the rich housewives who are seemingly lavish in their spending. However, they instruct their maids to save money in the household shopping for items that don’t need to be ‘branded’. Just stand outside TMC in Bangsar and study the items in their shopping carts – the maids select household items that are on promotion or are private-label and always, 2 different brands of toilet paper i.e. the cheaper one for their use and the expensive ones for the rest of the house (especially the guest bathroom!).
The second group are the middle-class housewives. While some may have maids, they do all the household shopping themselves. They visit the wet markets, at least two hypermarkets/ supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies. e-commerce platforms like SmartShopper, Shopee, etc., always looking for the best deals. They are brand-loyal to a range of products, mainly ones that are used for their children (e.g. milk powder, personal care) and for themselves (husbands use whatever their wives buy for them!).
Lastly, there are the low-income housewives. The priority for this group is basic necessities i.e. there is no brand-loyalty, only what they can afford for the month, sometimes only for the week or even day.
A 2012 review of marketing to women statistics by MediaPost indicated that as many as 91% of women in the US think that marketers and advertisers don’t understand them. Marketers continue to portray women predominantly as stay-at-home mothers who are happily taking care of the home for their kids and husbands. Clearly there is a disconnect between how housewives perceive themselves and how marketers portray them.
I like what Janie Curtis (of The Telocity Group) suggests on how marketers better engage housewives, i.e. look for ways to improve their ‘house-life’, offering life-enhancing benefits that are in sync with the craziness of their everyday lives.
As David Ogilvy once said, “The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife.” So marketers, do engage them as intelligent consumers and shoppers.
Otherwise, you will lose housewives to generic private-label brands which get the job done at a lesser price.
Author: Sita Subramony