Bridget Brennan, who was one of five daughters in a family that grew up on Army posts around the United States, learned about gender differences at an early age.
"Growing up in a strongly female household and living in the masculine world – at the time – of military bases in the '70s and '80s, it was something I always was intrigued by," Brennan recalls now.
Years later, Brennan is passionate about a career that delves into those exact differences she noticed as a child. Founder of The Female Factor, Brennan is one of the world's leading authorities on women consumers.
The Vikings Women Advisory Board member is an acclaimed speaker and author on the subjects of marketing to women, sales communication, customer engagement and consumer trends. We caught up with Bridget as she was embarking on a tour for her new book, Winning Her Business: How to Transform the Customer Experience for the World's Most Powerful Consumers, which will be available for purchase on March 5. The book's release is aptly timed just before International Women's Day (March 8).
"My goal with this book is to debunk stereotypes about women as consumers and bring women's perspectives to the fields of sales and customer engagement," Brennan explained.
Looking back over her life journey, Brennan laughed that being the oldest of five sisters provided her with an ample "head start" on a career researching women.
While she originally thought she would follow in her family's footsteps and pondered a career in the military when she was a college student at Texas A&M University, Brennan instead developed a love for writing and discovered the many ways it can be used in the business world.
"I started to realize that I would like to have a career in the creative field, but I could never have envisioned how that would play out," Brennan said.
When she entered the corporate world after school, Brennan observed that women drive most consumer spending, meaning that many businesses depend on women buying their products in order to succeed. And yet, she realized that women often were not part of the senior management teams that formed strategic decisions on research, product development and even advertising campaigns.
Women's voices were regularly missing from conference rooms in which decisions were made, and Brennan set out to prioritize the female perspective within consumer-based companies.
In 2006, Brennan started Female Factor, a consulting firm that conducts market research with women for its clients and advises on marketing and sales strategies. She also at that time wrote her first book, Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World's Most Powerful Consumers, during which she researched female culture not only here in the U.S. but also in the dynamic, emerging markets of China and India.
"What I learned is that women around the world are far more similar than they are different," Brennan explained. "Of course, there are cultural differences. There are even cultural differences here in the United States within different regions of the country. But in almost every society in the world, women are the primary caregivers for children and for the elderly. It is a role that unites women and it is one of the factors that drives how they engage in the marketplace.
"Women are the world's most powerful consumers," Brennan continued. "They drive between 70 and 80 percent of consumer purchasing with their buying power and their influence, and part of this is because women aren't, typically, just buying on behalf of themselves. They're often buying on behalf of everybody who lives in their household and beyond, including their businesses, their elderly parents, their in-laws, their friends. […] That tends to be similar around the world."
Brennan's international travels did not stop with her research. Rather, she has grown to be a world-renowned speaker and spends time sharing insights with businesses in Latin America, Asia and Europe.
Brennan lives a busy life, and yet she didn't hesitate when given the opportunity to join the Vikings Women Advisory Board for the initiative's inception.
The role appealed for multiple reasons to Brennan, who called football a "big part of our household" growing up, despite the fact that her family didn't often settle in one locale for long.
"Part of the joy of being on the Vikings Women Advisory Board is being around people who enjoy sports. There's a unifying element of enjoying [physical activity] that I have found with people who really love sports, and that's certainly true with the women on this advisory board," Brennan said. "And I truly believe the Vikings are leaders in terms of recognizing the power of inclusivity. They value the contributions of the female fan base, and are so inclusive with gender and also beyond that."
Brennan pointed to the Vikings implementation of Mamava lactation suites to accommodate nursing mothers at U.S. Bank Stadium, as well as the sensory room that provides support for fans and guests who have sensory challenges.
"The Vikings want every fan to feel welcome and a part of the team," Brennan said. "So many businesses outside of professional sports can learn from how the Vikings show their appreciation to their fans."
While she is an international speaker, acclaimed author and successful businesswoman, Brennan calls her role on the Vikings Women Advisory Board a career highlight.
"As somebody who is focused on helping businesses be more inclusive, working with an organization like the Vikings, which I believe is a best-in-class example of inclusivity, is an honor," Brennan said.
"I'm proud to be a part of this organization," she added. "The women that are a part of the Vikings Women Advisory Board have enriched my life and career. To work with an organization that really lives its values is amazing."