By Jim Gilmartin –
In a recent Marketing Daily commentary, “Advertising’s Gender Problem: Some Brands Are Starting To Get It”, author Jean Freeman writes, “But here is another sad reality about advertising today: Women control an estimated 85% of purchasing decisions in this country, yet over 91% of them feel like advertisers don’t understand them. Recently, the objectification of women in advertising reached a critical mass with the launch of the #WomenNotObjects movement. ‘Women’ have become the latest buzzword in the ad world, with more focus on the problems and not on the positive examples or solutions.”
As overall consumer demand shrinks and companies look for new segments of growth, the Baby Boomer woman consumer represents a significant opportunity now and in the long term. But, marketing to women doesn’t mean think “pink.” It means you have to understand who they are and that a 55-year-old woman is not simply a 30-year-older version of her 25-year-old self.
Getting Baby Boomer women to join your brand is not one single step. There is no magic bullet. It’s a systematic rethinking of how you present your plan to women, consisting of dozens of subtle shifts and fine alterations. Boomer women want you to speak to their heads and to their hearts. And, if you’re successful, women will deliver more profit to you through being loyal and making more referrals.
They want you to understand them. To recognize their needs, values and dreams. They don’t want to do business with a person that condescends to them. They don’t want to be inconvenienced, made to wait, argue or defend themselves. Moreover, women are three times more likely than men to recommend brands when they know friends are looking for a particular product or service. Although men’s brains are wired differently, if you meet the needs of women you’ll most likely meet the demands of men. But not the other way around.
In the book Vibrant Nation: What Boomer Women 50+ Know, Think, Do & Buy by Stephen Reily and Carol Orsborn, the authors say, “…being a Vibrant Woman is entirely different from the lifestages that come before and after.”
Based upon their research, Reily and Orsborn also discuss marketing insights anecdotally summarized here:
- If she feels your authenticity, that you have really listened to her and you genuinely care, she will reward you.
- They love products that make them feel more creative and help them connect to their friends and family.
- If you are looking for better-educated women with more discretionary income, you will find her online. She is not just a passive observer; she is quickly adopting the internet usage patterns of younger generations and posting content herself.
- She is free to choose the “best of” from all stages of her life, as well as incorporating new products, services and behaviors.
- Marketers in search of aspirational messaging are advised to look higher up Maslow’s pyramid toward new levels of simplicity and altruism and away from icons drawn from the assumption that she spends money only to gain the approval of others.
- Boomer women are more than six times as likely to make purchase decisions based upon their personal values.
- Perceptive marketers recognize that the Boomer woman knows she has entered and is transiting through a new lifestage and will reward them for recognizing her special needs and interests.
- Market to her through women like her. Keep in mind that women want to know that the person offering advice or inspiration is someone from both the gender and lifestage that has personally advanced through the same lifestages and transitions.
- She doesn’t aspire to be ignored. They don’t like ads that never feature women 50+.
- Show her respect by providing her the facts. A product example is Olay anti-aging products. Olay used an abundance of useful information and straightforward facts about their products with extensive reviews and ratings from other women rather than clever imagery.
Knowledge gives you the confidence to create successful marketing and sales communications approaches:
- Understand better who Boomer women are and why they are worthwhile customers
- Understand the why of selling differently to women
- Understand what actionable tactics are available
- Challenge your thinking to blast you out of the cave
- Realize that different is not dumb
Men and women are as different “shop-ologically” as they are biologically. What’s important to men is typically not important to woman. In addition, keep in mind that women don’t buy brands; they join them. Think about the things we join — clubs, political parties, organizations, even religions; they are the institutions in our lives that really matter. The ones we stick with through thick and thin. The ones we cherish and value.
Understanding a female Baby Boomer’s communications approach is essential for marketers. Why? Tom Peters says, “The numbers are unequivocal, the gender differences are undeniable, the opportunity is inarguable and the market is enormous… economic opportunity No. 1”. Add in women’s role as “purchasing officer” for consumer goods and for corporations and agencies, and, in effect, you have an American women’s economy that accounts for over half of the U.S. GDP, about $5 trillion. Trillions of dollars in the United States alone is waiting. Remember, what women buy, they sell! Women buy for themselves, buy for their families and buy for businesses.
- Don’t forget the purchasing power of self-employed Boomer women. Recognize that she is working and wants to find meaning through work as long as she can.
- Avoid using the word “retirement.” She wants to connect with her aspirations through the increased freedom to choose how and where she will contribute through the full utilization of her skills and abilities.
- Engage her in dialogue. She wants to establish an authentic relationship with you and your company.
- Don’t make assurances on which you can’t deliver. Tell her what you’ll do for her, not how great you, your product or company is.
- Listen to learn what is motivating her. The most important question you can ask is “What are you hoping your planning for the future will allow you to achieve.”
- Don’t be afraid of a spiritual slant in your messaging. Survey results show 44% of Boomer women are turning to sources other than organized religion for spiritual guidance.
- Although not very happy about it, she can laugh at the physical effects of aging. You can successfully use a “women like her” to comment humorously on conditions and circumstances only one of her own would fully understand.
- Baby Boomer women are more active than you may think. Your images should reflect her full level and range of engagement in life.
- Avoid using a single relationship to define her. She may be managing health care for her parents but she’s not only a “caregiver.” She’s also “grandma” but she would define her life much broader. The brands of suppliers who best support her multi-relationships underlying her purchases will win her business.
- Cater to her desire to learn. Link your brand and products to opportunities to learn more about issues and concerns she faces every day. Her focus has shifted to experience, rejuvenation and personal growth.
- Don’t talk down to her. What she didn’t gain through formal education she gained through experience. Insult her intelligence at your peril.
Women are different from men, but not only in obvious ways. Some examples are: A woman steps into an elevator, hits the button for the 10th floor and before she reaches her destination, she is busily chatting with some woman standing next to her; she sits down in a restaurant and by the time the glass of wine arrives, she knows the name of the waiter’s acting coach and the next play in which he has a bit part.
A woman knows all about who in the office, who on the community board, who in the book or investment club, is seeing a therapist, being investigated, or thinking about changing jobs. It’s not gossip! It’s connecting! John Gray, author of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, claims that such behavior is encoded in their very chromosomes. The point: Women look to connect.
Finally, Rebecca Maddox says, “To be successful with women, it’s not enough to be good at your job. You also have to be good as a person. This means being honest, being authentic, having integrity and consistently doing the right thing. The way most organizations are accustomed to marketing and selling is not in harmony with the way Boomer women want to buy. And nowhere does a company reveal its attitude towards Boomer women and women in general more vividly than in the messages projected and the behavior of its sales force.”
Additional tips and insights can be found on our What We’ve Learned page.
Contact Coming of Age for more information about connecting with the Baby Boomer and 50-plus audiences.
View this article and discussion on MediaPost.