Brands: here’s how to speak to women over 40

Credit: Fancy LLC
Credit: Fancy LLC

Marketers either ignore women over 40 or speak to them like they’re all exactly the same.

It’s not our fault. 

Marketers have been obsessed with reaching 18 to 35 year-olds forever. (If we’re being honest, it’s more like 18 to 29 year-olds.)

Youth has always been synonymous with coolness and desirability, and with that comes the power of trendsetting. Young people are aspirational, and older people want to be younger so they can be less stressed, and enjoy freedom and adventure. 

Or that’s what we were told, or just assumed. 

Here’s what’s true: women over 40 have money -- and they spend it. They’re not afraid to try new brands, and when those brands work for them, they stay loyal. Not only that, but they tell their friends about these brands and give them to each other as gifts, creating a virtuous cycle of new customers and fans over 40. 

Women over 40 love products that are created for them. Hair care brands Better Not Younger and Hair Biology launched recently to address the specific needs of women’s hair as they age. A number of intimate wellness brands help with the changes women’s bodies go through as their hormones shift over time. These brands are welcome and a long time coming, but women over 40 are more than just coarse hair and hot flashes. 

Believe it or not, they buy tequila, tampons and technology. They bank, renovate and drive. They need tires and air conditioners and plane tickets (well, someday...we can dream, right?). There are lots of ways to show this affluent, interesting and intelligent demo that you understand its nuances. 

Here are five suggestions to get you started.

  1. Visibility. If you plan to sell to women over 40, start by featuring them in your advertising. Help her see herself as the woman she wants to be in your communications.

  1. Commitment. Use your power as a brand to stand for something that will make women over 40’s lives better. Commit to matters that are important to this group in your advertising and at your company as a whole.

  1. Respect. Honor and understand where a 40-plus woman is in her life. Get to know her and the things that are important to her -- what makes her laugh, cry, scream, and love. Presumptions aren’t helpful, and they’re usually wrong. 

  1. Diversity. I hate to break it to you, but not every single woman over 40 is the same. Far from it. One could be a new parent, the other an empty nester, another not a parent at all. She could be at the top of her career or just reentering the workforce. She could be starting her own business or raising her kids full time. Liberal, conservative. Frustrated, hopeful. No stereotype fits the bill. 

  1. Authenticity. Women over 40 are exhausted by trying to relate to messages targeted to millennials or senior citizens. Be honest about what your product or service will actually do for her.

To earn the loyalty of women over 40, brands need to recognize that we’re not all the same nor defined by our age. Create work that speaks to that.

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