Women Over 50 Are Often Disregarded by Marketers. Here’s Why That Needs to End Now

This demographic has more spending power than many realize

Marketers often ignore the entirety of older women when creating their strategies. Getty Images

In the immortal words of Debbie Ocean (aka Sandra Bullock), “You would’ve loved it.”

Marketers are especially adept at anticipating trends—or at least quickly catching up and cashing in before a wave passes us by—but there’s one opportunity that’s been largely ignored for years: women over 50. Just imagine if you’d been paying more attention to them! Yes, you would’ve loved it.

But now, not only is the tide finally turning, it’s rising to an entirely new level. And it goes far beyond the incredible 50-plus stars of Ocean’s 8, which has now earned $250 million at the box office in just a little over a month, according to IMDB or the iconic Insta-grans, with their legions of younger followers. Throughout our culture, we’re seeing an exciting range of new perspectives on what it means to be “a woman of a certain age.”

After years of dramatic growth, the spending power of 50-plus females has reached critical mass, accounting for over 27 percent of all consumer spending, which is 3 percent more than their male counterparts. Marti Barletta, author of PrimeTime Women, noted that once they’ve put the kids through college, women 50-plus spend two and a half times what the average person spends. And they’re the primary buyers of a range of big-ticket items, including computers, cars, banking and financial services.

Once they’ve put the kids through college, women 50-plus spend two and a half times what the average person spends.

For marketers, the challenge now is simply to reach them in the best way. Here are three quick tips to consider.

Make it personal

It starts with making women 50-plus feel seen and understood. Given their spending power, diverse interests and the extent of their media consumption and preferences, they warrant and are highly receptive to personalized marketing. They don’t want one-size-fits-all campaigns, and they don’t want to be lumped in with other demographic targets. Eileen Fisher, with their inclusive ad campaigns, is still doing it right.

Make it mobile and social

Women over 50 are tech-savvy and connected. Remember, these are life-long multitaskers. New data from the Pew Research Center shows that while the boomer generation continues to trail both Gen Xers and millennials in terms of technology adoption, they’re catching up fast. They’re far more likely to own a smartphone now (67 percent today versus just 25 percent in 2011), for example, and a majority (57 percent) are now on social media. All of this is good news for marketers who have strong mobile platforms and social strategies.

Make it purposeful

Enter “women 50-plus” in the search engine of your choice, and you’ll see pages of recent stories of resilience and reinvention: everything from why women 50-plus make better entrepreneurs to why they’re going back to school to why they have better social lives. Many women over 50 experience a post-menopausal energy surge that is channeled into finding new passions to explore and supporting causes that matter to them. They’re also open to developing and testing new ideas. You see this clearly exhibited as a consumer behavior as well. Far from being set in their ways, AARP research shows they are more than willing to try new brands.

Bottom line: Women 50-plus have long been ignored and misunderstood by marketers. But the script has been rewritten. Marketers have an opportunity to realize the huge upside by creating smartly targeted, highly personalized messages that tap into the unique passions of an extremely influential group with the ability to move products, markets and society.

Debbie Ocean played the long game when planning the Met Gala heist, and it paid off. Isn’t it time you did, too, starting now?

Don’t miss Brandweek, coming up September 23–25 in Palm Springs. No panels, no sales pitches—just three days of interactive discussion, problem-solving, entertainment and networking. Learn more here.

@plippedavis Patricia Lippe Davis is vp of marketing for AARP Media Sales.