When It Comes to Baby Boomer Women, Youth Is the Marketing Watchword

Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities, April 2005 | Go to article overview

When It Comes to Baby Boomer Women, Youth Is the Marketing Watchword


In many ways, Baby Boomer women--currently in their mid-40s to early 60s--are ideal marketing targets. They're affluent, at the peak of their earnings, and they love to spend, especially on themselves. But as they move beyond 50, they're also moving out of the marketing mainstream, and they're not happy about it.

Projecting Youth

Marketers wishing to tap this group need to be aware that Boomer women aren't content to be labeled "seniors"--and they never will be, says Ann Fishman of Generational Targeted Marketing. As Boomer women age, they're struggling with the loss of control engendered by physical symptoms of aging.

As members of a generation that's always defined itself through youth and vitality, Boomer women are very resistant to the idea of getting older, and they're using every tool available to fight it. This translates into a wealth of opportunities for products ranging from holistic health and nutritional supplements to exercise and fitness products, cosmeceuticals to cosmetic surgery, pharmaceuticals to fashion.

To make the most of these opportunities, however, marketing efforts must reflect Boomers' view of themselves as perpetually youthful. "Even when they're 80, it's going to be about youth," says Fishman. Candace Corlett of WSL Strategic Retail's 50+ Marketing Directions advises marketers to steer away from too much copy in ads aimed at Boomer women.

"Words can get you into trouble because it's hard to say anything without referring to age. A better way is to show ageless photos. The model [in an ad for a Boomer woman] should be super-glamorous but ageless--so we don't know whether she's a very good-looking 58-year-old, or a 37-year-old," Corlett advises.

Corlett says that although Boomer women are "very candid" about what's going on with their bodies as they age, they don't want to hear about it from marketers. "They don't need an ad to tell them how old they are."

A just-released study from the Women2Women (W2W) Communications Group of Campbell-Ewald finds that seven in 10 Boomer women feel a lot younger than their real age, and 62% say they work at trying to maintain a youthful appearance. Half watch what they eat in order to keep their weight under control. "They wake up one day feeling betrayed by their bodies, and they are determined to wage war against age," says Marissa Larson of W2W.

Fishman calls aging "the A-word" among Boomers. "You must never say 'age' in any way, shape, or form; you must not use metallics--golden years, silver moments. I even shy back a bit from [mentioning] retirement."

Not only do Boomer women want to live to be 100, says Fishman; they want to stay young while doing it. "This is a group [of women who] not only feel young in their minds, but also have ways and means of prolonging youth--through surgery, through supplements, through exercise, through advances in medicine. They have access to Botox, they have access to all kinds of spas and gyms."

More than a quarter (27%) of female Boomers would like to have cosmetic surgery in the future, according to the W2W study. In the 1980s, the average facelift candidate was 60; today, she's 50. The number of cosmetic procedures performed has increased elevenfold in the past five years, according to W2W. "They feel young mentally," says Larson, "and they want their bodies to match, which is why they're trying to slow, or even reverse, the aging process through exercise, diet, vitamins, facials, hair color, and plastic surgery."

So, perhaps paradoxically, marketers' chief rule when marketing to women over 50 is to focus on their youthfulness.

Understanding the Target

As with any group of women, it's crucial to understand key themes of Boomers' lifestyles.

* Spiritual And Self-Improving

Women of all ages tend to be more spiritually oriented than their male counterparts are, and Boomer women are heavily spiritual. …

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