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Shoppers at Lululemon Athletica.

The bottle is soft to the touch, with grooves that fit into a woman's hand. Press the pump at the top and the lotion - in classy scents such as vanilla or pomegranate - comes out in one easy motion. The directions say, "Shave, touch, smile."

This is what happens when a woman - in this case, Jill Nykoliation, partner and senior strategist for Toronto advertising agency Juniper Park - helps design a shave cream for women, under the EOS brand.

"You can break through the competition with something as simple as shaving cream," says Ms. Nykoliation. "You wouldn't put 'touch' and 'smile' on a man's shaving cream, but on a woman's, it feels so thoughtful. That's what works when marketing to women."

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The idea was to take a simple daily task and elevate it into an enjoyable experience, Ms. Nykoliation explains. Design plays an amazing role. Men don't shave in the shower but women do, so the container had to be easy to grip and made of unbreakable plastic rather than metal that could rust. The product is a moisturizing lotion, not foam like a man's. The bottle is recyclable and it costs $4.99, so women can give themselves permission to enjoy it.

Over the past 18 months, Juniper Park has done "a deep dive" into research on what works best when marketing to women, says Ms. Nykoliation, whose North American client roster includes Frito Lay (U.S.), Virgin Mobile, Quaker Oats (U.S.) and Astral Media.

Women engage in purchasing process with emotion, then logic

"In almost every category, women are the dominant decision makers for purchases - in things like cars, vacations, medicine and finances," says Ms. Nykoliation. "Because both genders use the product, marketers typically put on a more gender-neutral approach. But if the woman is the one deciding and purchasing it, companies need to ask how she receives the information. The big thing is understanding what her motivation is in that category or brand. What does she want out of it? Usually it's different than what a man wants."

That motivation could be about what the woman feels is right for her family, or she may be drawn to a product that helps her to be the best version of herself. Guilt doesn't work, says Ms. Nykoliation, because she already has enough of that.

Companies should take a look at the entire experience they're building for female customers - from the message they send her in the advertising right through to the presentation in-store and the customer experience at home, she says.

What they need to ask is:

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  • What am I offering her as a product?
  • How is it packaged?
  • Am I giving her the gift of time?
  • Am I giving her an experience?
  • What does she need to get out of it?
  • What would she be delighted to get out of it?
  • What little tweaks can I make along the way?

Women notice the little things much more than men do, so she will appreciate the effort, Ms. Nykoliation says. A woman notices if a product was made for her or if she has to retrofit it into her lifestyle.

"What a woman wants to know is: Can I get it done better or faster? Will it make my friends happier? Can I enjoy it more?" says Ms. Nykoliation. "These are the questions she wants answered, so show her how to do that. Be positive."

She cites Lululemon Athletica as a fantastic brand example of a company that really resonates with women because their manifesto is all about encouraging a woman to reach her potential - and to look good while doing it.

"They surround her with messages like 'you are greater than you realize' or 'you are capable of more' that play to her being her best self," says Ms. Nykoliation. "And those are wonderful messages to say to a woman because often it's that little bit of encouragement that we need. They believe it as well. You have to be authentic. If you don't mean it, she will know."

Ms. Nykoliation believes that marketing to a woman should say: 'I hear you, I see you, I respect you. And now, by the way, here's what I wanted to say."

"Then make sure it does the job," she says. "Women don't tolerate things that don't do the job. Get that right and wrap it in an experience."

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