Brands Continue to Overlook Women Over 40 as a Group Worth Marketing To

It is no secret that women hold the keys to household spending. And despite earning 80 cents on the dollar (and far less for women of color), their share of personal wealth in the U.S. keeps increasing—to about 60 percent—meaning they will have close to $22 trillion (that is not a typo!) by 2020. Women are living longer and better. They are not taking the increase in life expectancy and stretching out old age with more bingo and birdwatching; they are taking advantage of it now. Women are more engaged, more motivated, more in control of their lives than ever before. And brands are missing out.

The vast majority of women over 40 feel that brands underestimate their spending power and intelligence while overestimating their preoccupation with appearance. As marketers, despite all the effort we spend mining insights, we are clearly not appealing to a woman’s need to be acknowledged for the way she sees herself today: younger, sexier, cooler than she imagined she would feel at this point in her life.

Women are feeling powerful and fulfilled, and they have no idea why brands treat them like they are only interested in hiding their incontinence, smoothing their wrinkles or essentially just not being over 40. And that is if brands include them in the conversation at all. For women, their 40s and 50s are the age of invisibility.

Women are more engaged, more motivated, more in control of their lives than ever before. And brands are missing out.

I am pretty sure I am not the only woman over 40 who buys shampoo, computers, plane tickets and tequila. Friends tell me they buy tampons, workout clothes, coffee and jewelry. Women over 40 buy tires, investment products, phones and toothpaste. And if they are buying these things without being marketed to, imagine what they would buy if they were. If they had relationships with brands they felt were on their page, understood their life-stage and made an effort to relate authentically.

So how do you do that?

Include her

Do it like you mean it. Include her at your company. Include her at your agency. Include her in the casting sessions. Include her in front of, as well as behind, the camera. Include her everywhere messages about your brand are being created. Give her a voice from the very beginning, and respect it.

Understand that there is no singular “her”

Women over 40 are a wildly diverse bunch with vastly different life experiences. She could be a mother, a grandmother or never have had kids. She could be in a relationship with a man or a woman or no one at all. She might be at the top of her career or she might be just getting started. Stereotype her at your own peril. Right now, 76 percent of women over 40 think brands are part of the problem in the way they are perceived, but these same brands could easily become part of the effort to change the view of women over 40. And they would be loved for it.

Support her

Help make the world a better place for her and her mother, daughters, sisters and friends. Use your power—you have a lot of it—to make messages that matter. Women over 40 want brands to roll up their sleeves and help advance women’s issues. The truth is that women’s issues are world issues, and chances are you already have a lot in common. Then, put your money where your mouth is. Women are not going to just blindly believe whatever you say.

If you talk the talk, you better be walking the walk. Take a look at the way women and women over 40, in particular, are treated in your company. First, are they there? Do you offer flexibility? Opportunities for her to advance in her career? Ways to engage meaningfully? Make sure she has a seat at the table and that she’s not sitting alone.

Lastly, you don’t have to be so serious all the time. It is true that women over 40 have a lot on their plates. They are the sandwich generation: taking care of kids and parents, saving for college and retirement, battling wrinkles and acne. They need a little comic relief. Worry and fear are not the only themes that resonate. Friends share a sense of humor. You want to be her friend? Make her laugh.

Here’s the thing. Women over 40 have not turned their backs on brands. There is huge opportunity to connect with them in powerful, meaningful ways. But the key is just that: You have to connect.


This article was originally published in the March 6, 2019 edition of Adweek.