To Resonate With Women 40+ Beauty Brands Need to Get Real


There is so much talk about the amount of time, effort, and emotional angst women spend on living up to impossible beauty standards. Standards created by the media, the patriarchy, and yes, advertising. Global ad spend in the beauty category is expected to hit well over $15B this year, but who’s really paying attention? Who is absorbing the onslaught of content messaging and predetermined ideals? Turns out, not women over 40. 

84% of women 40+ think brands overestimate their preoccupation with their physical appearance

Fancy surveyed 500 women over 40 and asked them what they thought about advertising and marketing—what brands were getting right, and...not so right. They largely agreed that brands were overestimating their preoccupation with their skin, hair, face, size, shape, weight, and everything else that makes up the way we look to other people and to ourselves. It’s not hard to figure out why they think like this. 

Women see themselves in beauty ads and not much else

According to the Geena Davis Institute, ads featuring only men were five times as common as ads featuring only women (25% and 5%). And overall, only about a third of the characters in commercials are women. And it’s not just sight; it’s sound too. Men speak about seven times more than women do. And when women do get a chance to speak, they aren’t given the same opportunity men are to say lines that convey authority with men given dialogue more likely to contain words associated with power (29%) and achievement (28%).

And the beauty ads don’t reflect the way women over 40 feel about themselves.

The women we surveyed felt cooler, stronger, and sexier than they ever expected they’d feel at their current age. They don’t necessarily want to relive their 20s (that’s a reality dreamed up by a bunch of 20 & 30 something marketers who don’t know how much better and more confident life on the other side of 40 actually is), they want to make their 40s, 50s, 60s...90s as amazing as possible. 

Nor do they feature any kind of reality or celebration of the woman they actually want to buy the product.

Brands know that their most intense skincare lines (with products for deep creases, crepey skin, sagginess, and all manner of neck things, etc.) are for women in and well past their 40s. And yet. Still. (How can this even continue to be reality?) They are often sold with a far younger model, whose already naturally, biologically, youthful skin is still retouched into a state of perfection even she could never achieve. 

The truth is, everyone wants to feel good about the way they look. Men, women, old, young, and everything and everyone in between. It’s not about looking good, it's about feeling good about the way you look. It’s not about being someone else, it’s about being more of who you are. Having the confidence to carry that hair color. Wear sequins to breakfast. And embrace the history that’s written all over your face.

When beauty brands take the time to deeply understand a woman’s multifaceted life, especially women over 40, they will uncover a truth and a place to exist within her world that is both meaningful and motivating. 


New Work Alert: Lion’s Den International Women’s Day 2021


Should Brands Be Responsible for Debunking Gender Stereotypes? Let’s ask the ladies.