Holland & Barrett CMO: 'Never again consider a target audience to be a woman over 45'

Holland & Barrett's marketing chief on why women need to be treated as individuals and breaking the last taboo in marketing.

While wellness has seeped into seemingly all aspects of consumer life, there is one area that brands have failed to acknowledge despite its universality: the menopause.

Holland & Barrett has punctured this silence with the "Me.No.Pause" campaign, powered by a desire to move beyond stereotypes of older women.

The work, created by Pablo London, won a competition to increase diversity in advertsiing across London’s transport network. Featuring a diverse range of real women going through the menopause, it will be supported by £500,000 worth of ad space from Exterion Outdoor and JCDecaux across Transport for London. The campaign will also roll out across the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands on social and digital channels. 

Caroline Hipperson, chief marketing officer at Holland & Barrett, hopes it "will help remove the stigma about a very natural stage of life".

She explains: "Starting a family is celebrated, but when you come to the menopause it is seen as a stigma, a deteriating stage in life – when you are just as much of a woman. 

"Middle-aged women are underrepresented in advertising. Menopause is a natural part of life, yet there is so much misinformation out there. It is nothing to feel embarassed about, but the sad fact is lots of women don’t feel comfortable talking about it."


It was Holland & Barrett's strategy to look at audiences who aren’t represented but who are nonetheless commercially important that sparked the idea for this campaign.

According to Hipperson, Holland & Barrett has a huge customer base of women over 45, a demographic traditionally ignored by advertisers, but she insists that "we don't segment by age".

She continues: "We segment on attitudes and behaviours. Your body goes through a lot of changes and we see women – whether older or younger – are seeking more advice. People in general are doing more to ensure their well-being.

Breaking taboos

Last year, Bridget Angear, joint chief strategy officer at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, explained the ways in which taboos can have a negative impact. She said: "If you don’t feel able to discuss something that might be worrying you, you could put your health at risk. The menopause appears to be one of the last female taboos to be tackled by anyone – let alone marketers and advertisers."

In the same article, Cindy Gallop, founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, agreed that the menopause is one of the most taboo topics in society generally, and in advertising specifically, even though it affects everybody.

She said: "There is no ‘one size fits all’ menopause – it’s a different experience for every woman. It needs to be understood and, importantly, addressed and leveraged by our industry."

The well-being wave

Perhaps this latest campaign will mark a tipping point for the industry – Hipperson certainly hopes so. In addition to advertising, staff across 800 Holland & Barrett stores have been given extra training so that when women come into the stores, they can recieve informed advice.

"We are a health and well-being company and that encompasses a broad and growing range of issues," she explains.

Hipperson believes that everyone has their own health and wellness journey, so the brand aims to consider a whole spectrum of experience that extends beyond the traditional and outdated segmentations of age and gender. "Never again consider a target audience to be 45-plus women," she quips. "It's about recognising women as individuals."

And by recognising women as individuals and kick-starting a conversation about the menopause, Holland & Barrett’s work underlines the marketing firepower of breaking taboos and embracing the spending power of older women.

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