Q: Why is “functionality” crucial when selling to men? Why do men like products that are specifically engineered for one purpose?
A: Understanding male-female brain function can help us answer this question.
In general, there are differences in male and female brains in certain tasks
Most of what you’ve probably heard about “left brain” vs. “right brain” is a myth
But there are some slight differences. In most people:
- The LEFT hemisphere is slightly more dominant in language processing (grammar, vocabulary, literal meaning)
- The RIGHT hemisphere is slightly more dominant in emotions and abstract thinking, as well as slightly more in artistic, auditory, and visual processing
BUT people vary in the amount that both hemispheres work together
- The corpus callosum (the band of fibers that connects the two halves of the brain) is thicker in women than men
Thus, women do better in language tasks that require both sides of the brain. You can read about this HERE: https://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/6/1455
Instead of thinking “right brain” vs. “left brain,” try thinking of it like this:
Men (above), women (below)
When men focus on certain tasks, they are more likely to use one side of the brain at a time without the two halves communicating
These differences show up in a theory that was developed to explain some of the features of autism, but can be applied more broadly: the Empathizing-Systemizing Theory of Autism. You can read about it HERE: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19338503
- Women are better at predicting and responding to the behavior of other people because they’re better at inferring emotional states and responding appropriately (empathizing). This requires analysis (left brain) but also emotional inference and prediction (right brain).
- Men are better at deducing the input-output “rules” of a system (systemizing). This requires primarily an analysis of what a thing is and what it should do (left brain).
This means that when men are working on a problem, reading an advertisement, or listening to a sales pitch, they are more likely to focus on literal meaning and functionality (left brain dominant)
Does this mean that men don’t care about aesthetics, art, or emotions in advertising and sales?
- Not so fast! Men still use both sides of the brain.
- The question is what is of primary importance, and that is function.
- This is what most men will spend decision time focusing on.
- A sales pitch or advertisement at best will only last a few seconds or minutes – so you must know what parts of the brain you’re targeting
- It’s also important to remember that not everyone fits the mold, and these are broad generalities, but sales is about maximizing what works for the largest client base possible.
- When a man is deciding whether to purchase a product, he is less likely to engage multiple parts of the brain
- He is more likely to simply analyze the function of an item and see if it does the task adequately. This is where sales to men should focus their efforts.
- The more functions an item has, the more complex the analysis has to be. More parts of the brain need to be used.
Men aren’t as good at this. They prefer to analyze a single function.
A strange by-product of this research is the finding that men are more trusting in general than women
BUT when it comes to shopping online, men need detailed, precise information in order to trust a source
Remember, women make better use of their right brains, which causes them to better predict and empathize with the emotional states of others
One study examined the brains of men and women (who were experienced Internet purchasers) as they decided whether to trust the claims on some fake eBay sales. The article can be found HERE: https://misq.org/are-there-neural-gender-differences-in-online-trust-an-fmri-study-on-the-perceived-trustworthiness-of-ebay-offers.html
The eBay sales were of electronics
The eBay sales had short descriptions that were either intentionally trustworthy-sounding or not trustworthy-sounding
Women activated more parts of their brains as they judged whether the source was trustworthy
The women also had greater activation of the striatum (reward processing) than men
This means that women enjoy online shopping more than men
If you want to sell online to men, you must know that they don’t particularly find online shopping rewarding (fun)
While they found that women were more distrusting of online shopping and eBay generally (they were more in tune to the risks of shopping), men tended to rate the individual fake eBay postings as less trustworthy – even when they were intentionally worded in trustworthy ways
A short description was not enough to earn men’s trust – they need specific information to analyze whether an online source is trustworthy or not
The researchers suggested that because women found online shopping more rewarding, they were more willing to trust the sources (the “fun” outweighs the risk)
When it comes to online shopping, you must earn men’s trust.