Four myths about marketing to 50+ women

Women aged 50+ feel largely invisible to the marketing world, says Carol Orsborn. She believes that the majority of advertisers out there still have a hard time getting their heads around the fact that we make up the largest single demographic in our population, and we also happen to have  the most discretionary income and influence over other consumer segments. Dr. Orsborn is co-author of the book Vibrant Nation: What Women 50+ Know, Do, Think & Buy.

She recently addressed a new batch of bust-worthy myths about marketing to our age group: 

Four Myths about Marketing to Boomer Women

1.  Advertisers want to market to their best customer.

A topic called “How Being Smart with Women Outmaneuvers The Mad Men” was presented at the M2W Marketing To Women pre-conference in Chicago last month. The speaker showed pictures of the 19 judges at last year’s most coveted awards competition, and one could not help but notice that out of the panel, there was but one woman and one older person – a man. Is it any wonder that a winning ad for Wrangler Jeans features a young, attractive woman crossing an empty highway late at night, looking like no less than road kill in the headlights. The tagline: “We are animals.”

2.  Marketing to Boomer women has a shelf life.

Seated next to a Gen X woman (the marketing director of a major consumer website whose dominant consumer is Boomer women), Dr. Orsborn was told point blank: “There’s no future in targeting a demographic that old.”  Dr. O responded glibly: “The average Boomer is aged 51 and will live three or four more decades. Statistics show, however, that you are likely to be leaving your job in less than two years.”  That was the end of the conversation.

3.  Aspirational advertising for Boomer women means showing younger women.

The truth is that Boomer women prefer advertisements that show “women like me” looking great at around their same age. But the myth that we  respond best to teenagers with lipstick on has taken on new life in the form of a misleading headline on a largely-distributed Marketwire story from a new major research study. The headline reads: “The Geppetto Group Finds Youthful Attributes are Key to Reaching Adults.” When you read the fine print, you discover that the marketing communications firm is actually saying that the things that motivated any particular demographic when they were young continue to motivate them as adults. Dr. Orsborn says she buys this – but heard about the study from others who understandably misunderstood the message to mean that Boomers respond to youthful attributes of current generations. A paragraph buried in the Marketwire press release quotes a Geppetto executive saying that The Boomer heyday “may have been in the 60’s.”  Heck no. That’s myth number four . . .

4.  The Boomer heyday was in the 60s.

The 60s may have been terrific times for the leading edge of the demographic, but the majority of women Boomers were still in single digits for most of that decade. In any case, Dr. O. believes that heyday for Boomer women is yet to come.

More importantly, adds Stephanie Holland of She-Conomy: A Guy’s Guide to Marketing to Women, we know that women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from autos to health care. For example, we make the ultimate buying decisions in these areas:

  • 91% of new homes
  • 66% computers
  • 92% vacations
  • 80% health care
  • 65% new cars
  • 89% bank accounts
  • 93% food
  • 93% over-the-counter pharmaceuticals
Holland adds:
“Male marketers and CEOs continuing to resist the staggering power of the female consumer may too find themselves way behind as fresh, up and coming competitors recognize the vast opportunities that exist in targeting the female market. And with a majority of new businesses being started by women, it’s not difficult to see who might have the edge in this arena.”

Read more about marketing to 50+ women at Carol Orsborn’s blog, Vibrant Nation.

5 thoughts on “Four myths about marketing to 50+ women

  1. It’s embarrassing to see what ad agencies (usually staffed by 20-somethings) come up with to reach our 50+ demographic. Hope they read this.

  2. I agree. I sometimes wonder about these ads that seem to ignore our demographic entirely except to target the stereotypes of what hip (young) trendy ad execs think of us.

  3. Thank you for sharing this blog. I have a question.

    I am a marketer looking to connect with the 50+ female demographic. I’m running some advertising campaigns on Facebook that allow me to target the age group.

    Do you think it is appropriate to use the term “50+” in the ad? Do women in this demographic identify with and embrace this term? Or would they rather just see “women like me” without specifically addressing that the product is geared towards the specific age?

    Does the question make sense?

    Thank you!

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