If consumer marketing segments say anything about what our society values, did high-income women just become more desirable?
This week Nestlé announced a new premium brand of water called Resource. According to a direct quote from Resource brand marketing manager Larry Cooper in the New York Times, the product explicitly targets "higher-income” women.
Whether the world needs another bottled water, or bottled water at all, is a debate for another article. What’s exciting about Resource is not the possibility that a woman can achieve “electrolytenment” by carrying around Resource “as her bottled water accessory.” Instead, it’s refreshing that Nestlé is thinking about high-income women as a demographic.
Marketers have always coveted affluent women. But perhaps a shift in language from 'affluent' to 'high income' indicates a larger cultural shift: we become a demographic of breadwinners instead of just wives spending household income. Women are earners, not just wives to wealthy husbands.
The image of the "high-income woman” comes with an entirely new set of assumptions: busier, in charge of her own destiny, independent-minded, and striving. She’s sprinting from home to yoga to work. She’s confident, happy, and self-sufficient.
Unfortunately, the “high-income woman” still belongs to a niche market segment. Even in 2013, working women still feel like a contradiction. A large portion of the population still believes that female nirvana happens when we land prince-charming, become a mom, and work part-time. A new study by Pew Research states that 42 percent of the general public say the best thing for children is to have a mother who works part-time. Women are good citizens, and contribute to a healthy society when we marry primary income, not when we make it ourselves, apparently.
Regardless of what we idealize, the percentage of women earning more income than their husbands in the U.S. is increasing. And people think differently about how to spend disposable income that they earn by themselves. New products marketed at female breadwinners will flood the marketplace. In this case, we get our own bottled water.
Of course, corporate marketers aren’t interested in sustaining societal ideals – they just want to make money. But Nestlé’s new campaign directed at high-income women could signal a collective embrace of high-earning women, or at least a surrender to reality. If it takes capitalism to move working women from pitied to desirable, so be it.