Attracting Women through Design
Recently my husband and I were passing through a small town in Ireland, a town that we were not familiar with. We wanted to watch Katie Taylor’s Olympic boxing match and so my husband left it to me to choose a pub. I assessed the outside of at least 5 or 6 pubs and narrowed it down to 2 based on how smart the outside looked. They were both colourful and brightly painted, looked well maintained and had beautiful flower baskets hanging outside. I popped my head inside. The first immediately appeared dirty with torn fabric on the seats and walls that had not been painted for many years. The interior did not deliver on the promising outside. We settled on the second pub, a small quaint pub which was very old but felt and looked cared for and clean. The service and welcome reinforced a successful choice.
As a female and in my role as designer visiting Pubs all around Ireland I find that many pubs have quite male environments and I know that many women can perceive this atmosphere as unwelcoming and sometimes intimidating. Often Publicans are unaware of this and can be missing out on an opportunity to attract female customers. From first glance it only takes 10 seconds for someone to make a decision on a whether to enter a pub or not, upon entering it only takes 10 seconds to make a decision on whether to stay or not! And so a pub must be appealing to as wide a range of people as possible. It is well known in the industry that in the 20-30’s age group, its the females who make the decision where to go on a night out. I believe that if pubs are more female friendly that business can undoubtedly be improved as was the case with the following pub owner.
About 6 months ago I was called in to a pub in a town in the middle of Ireland. The pub owner was frustrated with business and how quiet it was. His core potential clientele were 20-30’s age group. He just didn’t know what to do next, how to shake things up. He truly was at the end of his tether. He asked me for advice and ideas to give the pub a facelift on a tight budget. The problem areas that stood out to me immediately were 3 visually critical elements which were not appealing and in particular not appealing to women.
The first element, the element which immediately sells a pub’s “brand” and gives the message of who you are and what you do, was the external frontage. It was drab brown and cream and had no vibrancy about it. From a female point of view it looked like a man’s pub. It needed colour, it needed to say “look at us, we are here, this is what we do and all are welcome” but it just wasn’t doing this. So I presented him with a bright and cheerful colour scheme using at least 5 different but complimentary colours. A large percentage of shopfronts in Ireland are painted green, red or black with cream or yellow render so you really need to be different from this norm to stand apart from your competition. Colour can welcome and can say so much about your business. Lighter colours outside are more attractive to women. We then looked at the messages they were delivering with the existing signage. They were not creating impact or indeed telling the whole story. If you have something unique, you need to tell the potential customer and the best way to do this is on your shopfront/facade. We decided to hand paint their main offer; ie: “Live Music” and “Beer Garden” onto the facade of the building in large graphic letters so that no-one could miss it.
The second element that was a problem was a series of murals on the walls. These were beautifully drawn portraits of old men playing the fiddle and smoking the pipe. However well drawn these were, this “old irish man image” was not the correct image to attract the 20-30 somethings and especially not the 20-30 something women. My simple suggestion of an elegant traditional and slightly feminine wallpaper did the trick to eradicate the wrong message and replace it with something more vibrant, relevant and in keeping with the existing woodwork and lighting.
My third suggestion was to remove the pool table. Pool tables create a very male atmosphere. In my own survey of 50 people of various ages, 95% of women said that they would be put off by a pool table if they entered a pub and surprisingly 75% of men said that they too would be put off! So I suggested to the pub owner that he remove it.
Soon after making these changes the Publican reported to me with great excitement that the changes did have the desired effect and business had improved with a huge new buzz about the place.
The key to attracting new clientele and to draw back old customers is to be relevant. Decide who your potential audience is and evolve your pub to be attractive to them. Consider if your pub is attractive to women. Ask your customers what they like and don’t like. Ask new visitors what their first impression is. This will help you understand what is needed. Don’t be afraid to change because change is always good. Your customers appreciate positive change and it is sometimes the simple things that make a difference.