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Women's Lib Wins Big In The Brand Marketplace

by Alf Nucifora

Marketers can be so stupid! When they're not patronizing women in commercial advertising, they're mistakenly ignoring them in categories where the male buyer is less influential than conventional wisdom would suggest. One demographic sector, in particular, the 40+ female demands close attention. With 80 million Boomers now working their way through society and the consumer marketplace, like the proverbial pig traveling slowly through the belly of the python, all have now reached the over-40 threshold. Within that opportunistic segment, women comprise the majority, both today and in the future. They span an 18-year age range, live diverse lives, have established careers and money to spend on themselves, and most importantly, make or influence the majority of their households' purchasing decisions.

Let's review the data.

  • In the next decade, women will control two-thirds of the of the consumer wealth in the U.S., influencing as much as 80% of the $2.1 trillion dollars that Boomers spend on consumer goods and services.

  • Eight out of ten Boomers say that they do not intend to retire, with an estimated 52% growth in the category of women 55+ projected in the U.S. workforce by 2010. As one would expect, disposable incomes are also highest for women aged 45-54.

  • Not only will Boomer women continue to earn income by working, they'll also manage inheritance windfalls from their parents and husbands, who, (the latter), they will outlive by 6-9 years on the average.

  • Even in traditionally male-dominated categories, women are responsible for more than half of the purchase decisions. Women make 80% of home improvement decisions, buy 65% of all new vehicles, and spend more than $55 billion dollars on consumer electronics, an industry that generates $96 billion in annual sales.

  • In 2004, women aged 35-54 represented the highest proportion of web surfers compared with male Boomers and younger cohorts.

  • Catalog marketers estimate that 70% of all online purchases are made by women, the majority of whom are Boomers.

  • The 6.7 million companies owned by women account for 30% of all U.S. small business, with this sub-segment skewing heavily towards women 35-54.

In their new book, BOOM: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer-The Baby Boomer Woman, authors Mary Brown and Carol Orsborn, who consult exclusively on building brand relationships with Boomer women, proceed to shatter the myths and shibboleths that surround the issue of women's influence in the consumer-buying universe. Orsborne loudly articulates the point-of-view that marketers have overlooked the 40+ female demographic which has become a powerful force in consumer purchasing and a vital and opportunistic market segment. Notes Orsborn, "What we are witnessing is the next stage in women's liberation as it is applied to brand selection and buying". In their book, Brown and Orsborn assert that industries and business segments that have been traditionally associated with male decision-making, such as adventure travel, automobile buying and home purchasing and remodeling, now represent dynamic playing fields for women who are increasingly commanding greater influence in the purchase-decision process.

Understanding the female mindset

According to Orsborn, marketers must overcome the stereotype they hold of 40+ women as set in their ways, not open to new ideas (or brands) and operating in a default position of "invisibility". To the contrary, the authors note that a Boomer woman is not a chronological clock watcher. In fact, she has an aversion to aging. She keeps growing, and even in mid-life and beyond, seeks meaning in life, wants to be productive, wishes to contribute to society and relishes a fully-lived life.

Given this versatility of mindset and the non-traditional motivation of the Boomer woman, marketers would be well advised to heed the following:

  • Boomer women represent a marketplace of silent, untapped and unacknowledged potential. The segment is too large and too powerful to be ignored or payed lip-service to.

  • Men are primarily left-brain thinkers. Their thought processes and behavior operate in a linear fashion. This means they'll do the homework, check the specs, research the competition and seek word-of-mouth validation before they buy the product. For the female, the detailed workings of the product or service are less important than a deliverable such as quality. How the product performs is much more important than how it's derived in the mind of this demanding buyer.

  • Authenticity is mandatory in brand communication. Marketers should never over-sell or over-hype the brand if they wish to attract the attention of the Boomer woman who can spot a fake and detect a false spiel at forty paces. They're much brighter, and much more perceptive and discriminating than most marketers realize.

Brown and Orsborn sum it up best when they note that "These are exciting times to be a woman 40+. She has never been more powerful, more creative and more demanding. Get in synch with her, and these can be equally exciting times to be a marketer as well".

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