In praise of older women

There are almost 31.5 million people in Canada, based on the 2001 Census, and slightly over half (50.4%) are and always have been women. Many companies in the retail, food, beauty, and home product categories continue to give women far more than a 50% marketing emphasis. But we're all still trapped in a '90s mindset: One where only younger women matter.

There are almost 31.5 million people in Canada, based on the 2001 Census, and slightly over half (50.4%) are and always have been women. Many companies in the retail, food, beauty, and home product categories continue to give women far more than a 50% marketing emphasis. But we’re all still trapped in a ’90s mindset: One where only younger women matter.

This must change. Our population is aging. Females over the age of 50 represent over 30% of the population, and this will continue to grow (see chart at right).

Marketers should take note that today’s 50+ woman is not your granny. These women are living longer and better. They feel empowered, powerful, attractive and entitled, and the marketer who dares belittle them risks unspeakable wrath.

Today’s 50+ woman is incredibly influential. Marketers who see her strictly as a self-consumer or family gatekeeper are not recognizing that she co-exists with four generations, and can exercise huge authority over the behaviours of all who come into her personal sphere. This includes her grade school children, adult children, grandchildren, her parents, colleagues, mate, friends, and family.

The influence of women has always been deeply rooted in our society, and our 50+ woman today serves as a benchmark to both older and younger generations. She is the driving force behind many of society’s larger trends, such as:

* Respect for ecology and nature: Leading the drive to more natural products, organic foods and skin care, reduced packaging and an interest in gardening.

* Demand for greater security and safety: Resulting in different designs and features in automotive, appliances and other home products.

* Demand for service: Before, during and after sales, VIP service earns loyalty

* Comfort and luxury for the masses: Thus the creation of a mass spa industry (the domain of the rich and famous only a decade ago) as well as increased travel, dining out and consumption of premium foods.

* More emphasis on general wellness: Spawning an increase in vitamin consumption, fitness and dietary changes.

* A ‘because I’m worth it’ attitude: Looking good, no matter what the cost, has generated a lucrative plastic surgery business (I wish I had shares in Botox!).

* Age is a state of mind: Today’s 50+ women was at the origin of youth culture (think back to the ’60s) and she continues to embrace it. Many feel and engage in lifestyles once associated with individuals 10 to 20 years younger.

Continuation of

prime working years

Statistics Canada tells us that 72% of women aged 45-54 and 39% of women 55-65 have full-time jobs. Based on their lifestyles, they will stay employed, and we only need to look at the cohort coming up to know that these ranks will swell. The 60-year-old female executive will be battling her 60-year-old male counterpart for the CEO position – count on it.

Consumers with clout

* Almost 20% of today’s 50+ women purchase their own car

* Almost 26% own their own home (19% own a home worth over $100,000, 9.5% over $200,000, and most are either mortgage free or winding down their commitments)

* Over 14% have taken two or more trips outside of Canada in a year

* Over 18% charge between $100 and $500 per month on their credit cards

* Over 5% have premium credit cards

* 12% eat at a high-quality restaurant at least once a month, and 2% eat there more than four times a month

* 36% have RRSPs, and almost 14% have a stock/bond portfolio

(Source: Print Measurement Bureau 2002)

These are important consumers, and the large numbers about to enter the legion mean that their value to business and society in the next decade will be unparalleled and lucrative.

So how do we reach them?

This generation knows advertising and its members are brand-conscious expert consumers. As media buyers and sellers, we have strong knowledge of their media consumption borne out of facts:

* Over 37% are heavy TV viewers

* Over 31% are heavy radio listeners

* Almost 45% read a newspaper every weekday

* 30% read 6+ magazines a month

(Source: PMB 2002)

Similarly, their lifestyle attractions are borne of insights:

* They are nostalgic for the music and pop culture of their teens and 20s (think Mama Mia…you simply cannot get enough ABBA…sadly).

* They love theatre, opera, museums, and galleries

* They are passionate gardeners, travellers, gourmet cooks and entertainment hosts

Using such facts and insights, effective media constructs with relevant creative messages can readily be developed. Media sellers can provide a strong advantage as well.

Companies such as Rogers Media and Corus impress us with their focused teams, their investment in resources to understand issues and market drivers for all women, including this profitable cohort.

Today, working with a host of media companies, we have the opportunity to develop customized campaigns that can capitalize on their media assets to integrate them with our advertisers’ products. Don’t let the older women pass you by.

Sunni Boot is president of Toronto-based media planning and buying agency Optimedia Canada. She can be reached at: sboot@optimedia.ca.

Women over 50: A growing population

  Population by year (000)
Age 2001 2006 2011 2016
50-64 2,542.7 (16.2%) 3,043.2 (18.7%) 3,530.3 (20.9%) 3,774.0 (21.7%)
65+ 2,256.0 (14.4%) 2,457.2 (15.2%) 2,740.6 (16.3%) 3,181.1 (18.3%)
Total % (50+): 30.6% 33.9% 37.2% 40.0%
(Source: Statistics Canada)