Saturday, March 26, 2011

Breaking the Grandma Stereotypes

My wife is a boomer.

As I read this article from Mediapost earlier this week, I nodded in agreement with what it says about her and her friends:

What TED Can Teach Us About Marketing To Women
I recently attended the annual TED Conference, which gathers attendees each year to hear cutting-edge scientists, inspiring artists, and global reformers give their own versions of the famous 18-minute "TED Talks." You have probably seen (or been sent) some TED Talks yourself; all the talks I saw will soon be available to see and share.

As I made my way home after four days of these mind-blowing presentations, I started focusing on some underlying themes. One of those themes was the portrait TED painted (through its speakers) of Baby Boomer women and the true meaning of "aspiration."

I also found myself wondering how these themes will be discussed at this year's M2W Conference on April 13-14 in Chicago. M2W may not have as many inventors at TED, but it features a lot of speakers and attendees who think about marketing to women of all ages.

What Great Boomer Women Look Like

Most of the women speakers at TED were themselves Baby Boomers, and they reflected a wide array of female accomplishment:

  • Indra Nooyi, the 55-year old chairman and CEO of Pepsico, explained Pepsi's new mission statement: "Performance with Purpose." On the "purpose" side of that equation, she told the story of the "Pepsi Refresh Project,", where millions of citizens have nominated and voted for non-profit groups to receive grants from funds that Pepsi would have otherwise spent on commercials.
  • Edith Widder, 60, a biologist, conservationist, and deep-sea explorer, told us about her decades-long fascination with bio-illuminescence, the property that lets an infinite variety of deep-sea creatures produce light. Widder's lifelong passion has changed the way we see and protect 99% of living space on earth that takes place below the ocean's surface.
  • Julie Taymor, 58 and the creator of "The Lion King," identified her own creative impulse with an experience at the edge of an active New Zealand volcano, then compared that experience to the inferno she finds herself in now as the producer of Broadway's disaster-prone "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark."
  • Amina Az-Zubair, a Nigerian reformer, told her own story growing up in a more prosperous Nigeria and now delivering meaningful results as she oversees a $1 billion investment in education to improve the lives of 70 million Nigerians who live in poverty.

As these speakers rolled across my memory, I thought of the portrait they painted of what it means to be a Boomer woman in the U.S. and the world. I saw passions and qualities that we hear about from women but rarely see reflected in any advertisement. Those qualities include:

  • An entrepreneurial spirit that is about doing well by doing good
  • A reforming instinct
  • A creative passion that never gives up
  • Knowledge and wisdom that come from years of careful observation

Marketers always talk about what it presenting "aspirational" models for consumers. In the case of Boomer women, that usually means presenting them models who have no wrinkles or grey hair. Yet, the TED Talks I heard reminded me that aspiration can take many forms, and marketers who want to reach women over 50 should also recognize and celebrate the values these remarkable women exhibited: accomplishment borne from a lifelong passion, the wisdom gained from experience and a desire to make the world a better place.

If you remind Boomer women that you recognize these (among other) aspirations in them, you will make it a lot easier for them to help you achieve Pepsi's goal of performance with purpose.

Stephen Reily is Vibrant Nation's CEO, an entrepreneur, marketing expert and Flash Forward Blogger. is an online community for the fast-growing demographic of smart and successful women over 50. Reach him here.

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