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The consumer is your wife, sister, mother, girlfriend, niece …

According to Beyoncé, it’s girls who run the world. And looking at recent research, she is probably right.

Worldwide, women are responsible for nearly four times as much consumer spending as China and India combined. Moreover, women around the world are getting wealthier and splashing more cash around than ever before. Their control over where the money goes should not be under-estimated. Just look at the figures.

In the UK, Mumsnet research amongst mums and dads shows that the ‘better half’ is responsible for 46% of family finance decisions.

In the USA, women:

  • are responsible for 85% of all consumer purchases;
  • make 92% of vacation purchases;
  • and own 51% of all personal wealth.

And guess what? They’re worth more than the entire Japanese economy, according to a July 2010 Newsweek story.

But it’s an influence that reaches beyond the hard numbers. The stereotypical ‘chat over the garden fence’ of yesteryear has evolved into a social influence that can dictate the rise or fall of brands. On average, women talk about brands more than 90 times in the course of a week — and 96% of women will recommend a product to a friend if they like it, according to NBC Universal.

So how are brands moving beyond the pink and fluffy clichés to acknowledge the rise in female spending power?

Leather, chrome, engine oil: What could be more feminine?

Harley Davidson‘s dedicated program for female riders isn’t just a girly makeover of its traditionally mongrel product. The dealerships now have washrooms and play areas for children; there are brighter colors in the clothing range; and even the famous Harley skull has been redesigned with tattoo-styled wings and flowers.

It doesn’t end there. The brand has also created an online mentoring program for women riders to teach each other riding skills. Its dealer-hosted ‘garage parties’ are designed to give women inside tips. There is a range of Harley motorcycles with narrower seats, softer clutches, adjustable handlebars and lowered frames so that women can plant their feet firmly on the floor.

In 1990, 4% of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles purchased were by women. Today they account for nearly 12% of new Harley-Davidson sales in the U.S.

Old Spice … for women

Old Spice‘s famously awarded campaign breathed new life into an ailing male cosmetics brand — but not by targeting men. The secret to its success lies as much in the fact that it spoke to women as in its brilliant writing, casting and social networking.

“The man your man could smell like” was the lock-up for the whole campaign, fronted by the perfectly honed Isaiah Mustafa wearing nothing but a bath towel.

It’s a simple equation: women buy cologne for their men, so run a campaign that talks to them rather than their partners.

Keeping women covered

In a male-dominated sector, it’s good to find a company that understands how women can have different financial concerns from men.

Fenomenal Woman has developed a portfolio of life insurance products that are structured specifically to meet the particular concerns of women.

Their features include Female Trauma cover as well as a Baby Bonus.

Best Buy does its best by women

Best Buy has opened a new store in Aurora, Colorado designed specifically with women in mind.

The chain’s typical warehouse-style interiors have been replaced with wood paneling, earth-tone carpets and skylights for natural lighting. Then there are the family-friendly restrooms shopping carts shaped like racing cards for kids.

Chateau la femme

The appreciation of fine wine is traditionally associated with stuffy, tweedy blokes. So it’s lightly refreshing to discover a group of women who are treading all over that particular variety of cliché.

Based in Southern California, Keyways Vineyard is owned and operated by women and runs a women-only wine club.

Monthly meetings of the club’s ‘Chix’ might include wine tasting, food, networking, education on wine and women’s topics, as well as games and a whole lot of fun.

Perks include a 20% discount on wine and gifts plus a 10% discount on events at the winery. Salut!

Jason Andrews is a creative director at Geronimo in London.

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