Three Trends That Are Making Waves in Women's Marketing: Organics, Reality, and Boomer Chic

Article excerpt

In MARKETING TO WOMEN, as in the practice of marketing to women, the devil is generally in the details. But it's also necessary to take a step back and look at the larger picture, to note the forces driving change in what women want from marketers, and in how marketers are reaching out to them.

Several current trends are of note for marketers, as they point toward larger shifts in our culture, and in the culture of marketing.

Organic = Mainstream

It's been several years in the making, but organic foods and other products are now solidly part of the mainstream retail environment. This trend is marked most clearly by Wal-Mart's recent announcement of its intention to double its array of organic products, including produce, dairy products, and dry goods such as organic baby food (see MTW, May 2006, and "Wal-Mart's Organic Offensive," by Pallavi Gogoi for BusinessWeek, March 29, 2006).

Price is perhaps the most important factor contributing to the "mainstreaming" of organics. Moms cite high prices as the top deterrent to buying organic products, according to a survey by organics manufacturer PBM Products, which is distributing through Wal-Mart. More than nine in 10 say they'd buy organics if they were more affordable (see MTW, May 2006). Women age 18-34 are especially interested in organic grocery departments, according to Vertis (see MTW, March 2006).

Women are particularly likely to choose organic products for their children, even in cases where they wouldn't spend the extra on products for themselves. Along the way, organic has become a descriptor for a lifestyle that can also include yoga, meditation, alternative healthcare, and natural health and beauty aids.

It's also having an impact on major main-stream food and beverage brands--7 Up recently changed its formula, removing artificial ingredients so it can be advertised as an "all-natural" beverage.

The trend is being driven by women from three generations, who are attracted to organics for somewhat different reasons. For Boomers, organic products fit in with their interest in alternative healthcare, non-traditional spirituality, and the melding of luxury and self-care that's exemplified by spas.

Generation Xers are attracted to organics because of their interest in preserving the health of the environment and their desire to simplify and to create lifestyles that suit their personal priorities.

Gen Y women have grown up in a culture where health food is chic, juice and smoothie bars offer wifi access, and their Boomer parents have provided them with luxuries ranging from Kate Spade bags to spa treatments. In essence, Gen Yers' reasons for buying organics combine the Boomers' desire to treat themselves to "the best" with Gen Xers' environmental consciousness.

Mainstreaming of organics is likely to be a self-perpetuating trend: The more widely available and affordable organic foods become, the more demand will increase, which in turn will encourage more farmers and manufacturers to focus their efforts on producing them.

From a messaging perspective, organics reflect several underlying themes that are influencing the wider women's market--focus on health and self-care; concern for the environment; a desire to "return" to a simpler, more wholesome lifestyle; the urge to protect young children from some of the hazards of modern life; and an interest in healthy ingredients and gourmet cooking at home, illustrated by the popularity of TV shows and cookbooks featuring celebrity chefs.

Boomers' Health Issues Get The Spotlight

One of the more interesting phenomena going on in advertising is the way health issues associated with aging, such as overactive bladder, osteoporosis, menopause symptoms, and erectile dysfunction, are being portrayed as lifestyles--or at least as part of idealized, outdoorsy, active lifestyles. It was bound to happen--marketers had to take note of the way Boomers were approaching their lives and self-image as they moved into their 50s and toward their 60s. …