Women Baby Boomers

January 6th, 2011

We’re not who you think we are.

How is today’s 50-something woman different from her sisters of bygone days? She has choices and she takes control. She has the power to decide how she wants to be treated and she exercises that power.

The 50-something woman of two decades ago had ultimate power over laundry detergent and household cleaning products — as long as the results made her husband happy. Her 2010 counterpart is a key decision maker in corporate America and is often running the household finances as well. She has buying power and strong opinions. And she’s loyal when you treat her right. But she can still be quick to question herself and seek validation from respected advisors.

Stephen Reily is a very savvy marketer and creator of Vibrant Nation, a successful commercial website for women 50+. He also co-authored the new book Vibrant Nation: What Boomer Women 50+ Know, Think, Do & Buy with Carol Orsborn, Ph.D. Not long ago, Stephen was working on marketing an eggnog product for his client. A question was raised as to whether or not the product was too “stodgy” for the brand. The brand manager commented that even though their primary target audience were people between the ages of 21 to 29, this new product would reach their “most profitable and loyal customer,” the 50+ woman. That was a defining moment for Stephen.

Not only did marketers tend to ignore this valuable target group even when their value to the brand was evident, they relegated them to the “all things dowdy” category. These same marketers were clearly oblivious to today’s 50+ woman’s predilection for things that are trendy, hip or chic.

Having grown up around the strong and capable women who comprised his family, Stephen found these assumptions about 50+ women unsettling and inaccurate. He conducted a series of focus groups to find out what was really going on.

The focus groups confirmed that the reality of today’s 50ish woman was not the same as the frumpy but lovable All in the Family character, Edith Bunker. So why were marketers still treating these women as if they were about to sit down with a cup of hot cocoa and knit some afghans? As he continued to explore this previously uncharted territory, Stephen began to realize that marketers tended to confuse the 50+ woman with the senior market, a mistake not unlike confusing a nursery school child with a young woman preparing for her high school prom — do they both need strapless bras?

Was no one even trying to tap this valuable audience segment? 50+ women across the board confided to Stephen that present day marketing campaigns made them feel invisible. There was a collective dissatisfaction.

So how do you tap into this limitless potential? By recognizing that these women have an “innate gift for connectedness,” Stephen provided them with an online community, Vibrant Nation, which enabled and encouraged them to talk to each other. He created a “culture of commenting” and gave them a platform from which to laugh at themselves. Over a year after its launch, he still marvels at his followers’ eagerness to “dive in to help each other — no judgment.” Savvy marketers realized early on that this particular group of vibrant women were well worth the precious ad dollars, and many have flocked to run their ads on the Vibrant Nation site.


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