Hello?... is anyone out there?… Women 40+ feel completely ignored by brands.


QUICK! What’s your favorite ad featuring a strong, confident $hit-together woman 40+? OK...try this one: What’s any ad featuring a strong, confident, $hit-together woman 40+? Fine. Name any ad featuring any woman over 40. 

It’s not easy. There aren’t many.

Here’s why: as a society we’re so laser-focused on 18-34 (and if we’re being honest, we might as well just home right in on that sweet spot of 25-29) being the be-all and end-all of aspirational demographics that we don’t even realize there’s an entire segment of the population that’s virtually absent from everywhere.

The reality is, however, 42 million women are between 40-60 years old. 

They have money and they are buying things. Gen-Xers have the highest post-tax incomes when compared with Millennials & Baby Boomers, and they are outspending both millennials (by 41%) and baby boomers (by 18%). And we know that women influence 85% of household spending decisions. Yet, 64% of the 500 women 40+ that Fancy interviewed said they feel brands systematically underestimate their spending power. 

So why aren’t brands targeting this valuable, affluent group?

Maybe because it’s hard.

Never in her life is a woman less likely to be a cookie-cutter representation of her peer group. A woman over 40 could be a new mother (or a grandmother). She could be at the apex of her career (or re-entering the workforce). She could be staying home (or the sole earner). She might be married (or single or divorced or partnered). She might be your boss (or your intern). In fact, the only thing uniting these women is their diversity. And...the fact that they think advertising doesn't get them at all.

Brands don’t really know how to target women over 40 as they actually are, so they just avoid it altogether. Instead, hoping that they will run into messaging designed for millennials and be motivated by it because in some deep way they have a desire to shave 20 years off the calendar (spoiler alert: they don’t). Or they don’t need any tailored messaging because they will just continue to buy what they always have because women in this age group are not interested in trying new things (another spoiler alert: this is also wrong).

When asked why she thinks it is that brands have such a hard time marketing effectively to this group, one woman we surveyed put it bluntly. “I think mostly it’s our obsession with youth in this country. You’re a girl and then you’re a mom, and then you’ve fallen and you can’t get up.” The end. 

It’s a vicious circle. 

We’ve seen over the years that when women are not represented, when they’re invisible, when they don’t seem to matter, they become irrelevant. And when they’re irrelevant, why would they need to be represented at all?

A few things to ask yourself if you manage a brand:

  1. Are women over 40 important to your brand? Do they buy it? Do you want them to? Do you want anyone else to know they do? Be honest with yourself about your answers. 

  2. Do you have messaging designed specifically for her? Or are you expecting her to go along for the ride with advertising designed for a younger target? 

  3. When you do include women over 40, how are they featured? As a whole person or the sum of her anxieties?

  4. Do you consider the way your younger consumers will view the way you include (or don’t) women over 40? Those women are aging too, are you giving them the message that soon they won’t be important to you? Does that matter?

  5. Who’s conceiving, approving, and producing your ads? Any women over 40? 50? 60?


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Something to think about: