Selling To Women Understand Generational Differences

By Ann Arnof Fishman

Whether youre targeting one or several of the six generations of female consumers out there today, you need to be nearly as much a sociologist as a financial advisor or insurance expert in order to succeed.

In a marketplace where the consumer is kingor rather queen, since women make about 80% of purchasesunderstanding the fundamental needs, values, icons and historical experiences of the various generations of women to whom we hope to market is more critical than ever. Generational mindsets and feelings are major factors in determining what and how women buy and therefore in developing an effective marketing strategy.

And, since we are each members of our own generations, and our world views tend to be colored by our own experiences, we have to work at understanding the feelings and behaviors of those from other age groups.

Each generation is molded by the world events that occur during its formative years. If you lived through the Great Depression, you carry some mark of that experience. You save; you may be thrifty. If you lived through the Vietnam War, it almost certainly affected your view of authority.

These distinct historical experiences create characteristics that stay with people throughout the rest of their lives.

So now, lets translate generational characteristics into good marketing. How does each generation of American women want to be approached by you? What does she expect from her financial or insurance advisor? Heres a snapshot of each generation.

GI Generation women (80-103) were underestimated as leaders. During World War II, these “Rosie the Riveters” jumped into the work force, managed families, joined the war effort, and waited, waited, waitednever knowing whether loved ones were dead or alive. Today, theyre still as active as they can be.

To market to GI Generation women:

–Talk about your companys history. GIs feel more comfortable buying from an established institution.

–Spend time with them; elders may be isolated and lonely.

–Send them written information; this is probably Americas most literate generation.

Put it all together for them. GIs invented Readers Digest, Disneyworld, Sun City and vacation bus tours. Packaging still works with this group.

Silent Generation women (62-79), a generation identified by historians Neil Howe and William Strauss, started the womens rights movement, helped start the civil rights movement and are pioneers once again–this time in redefining aging.

To market to Silent Generation women:

–Talk life stage, NEVER age. Silent women see themselves as 15 years younger than their chronological age. They are vital and active and dont want to be stereotyped by age.

–Show them how your products can support a lifestyle that offers “soft” adventure, adventure without risk. Many Silents are afraid life is passing them by.

–Let them know about any awards you or your company has won. Silents respect expertise.

–Support their philanthropic endeavors with your money and your presence. Silents turn to their own kind, people who are helpers.

–Be part of their financial support system. Single Silent women look to you for that.

Busy Baby Boomer women (44-61) expect to be fast trackers at work, find personal fulfillment, handle aging parents and children, and lead the good life. They are overloaded, overworked and filled with high expectations.

To market to Baby Boomer women, remember that:

–Boomers are busy people. What can your product or service do to make their lives easier? Is your marketing outreach easy to grasp?

–Boomers have a sense of entitlement. They want to be treated as though they are special all the time.

–Boomers resent authority. You may be the expert, but approach them as part of their team. They like to be in control.

–Boomers are lifelong learners. Their love of learning and desire to be in control means that combining financial services with education is appealing to Boomer women. But keep it short, theyre busy.

–Boomers want quality of life as they age. How can your products help them achieve that dream?

Boomer women are the first generation of American women who have, in large numbers, made their own money. Many have to manage their retirement in a more hands-on manner than their mothers did. Can you help?

Generation X women (23-43) and Gen X men are equals. They pick out the wedding china together. Guys cook; women take karate. At work, Xers dont care if the boss is a man or a woman. Their concern is: Is my boss a good boss?

To market to Generation X women, remember that:

–Xers need a sense of family, a sense of belonging. Treat them like family.

–Xers demand trust. Dont follow through once and youve lost them.

–Xers see through hype. They want an honest, straightforward approach.

–Xers are computer literate. Theyll check you out on your Web site before they buy. If your Web site isnt easy-to-navigate, easy-to-read and visually pleasing, you dont “get it” and you dont get them.

Xers are, above all, practical. Point out the pragmatic reasons they should buy your product and services.

For the first time in our history, Generation Y young women (4-22) are creating a new image of themselves as sexy, savvy and physically strong. This phenomenon has shown up in their TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), in their movies (Mulan, the Cool Young Girl Who Saved China), and in their video games (Lara Croft, Tomb Raider).

The reason for the new self-image can be found in their history. Generation Y is the first generation of American women to fully reap the benefits of Title IX, federal legislation passed in 1972 which mandated equal funding for both boys and girls sports in all schools that received government money.

To market to Generation Y women, remember that:

–Gen Y young women are brand loyal. They bond early–some say as young as 15and often for life. Is your company/are you sponsoring after-school athletic teams?

–Gen Ys react strongly to real-life examples. Get to know what their real lives are likenow and at every stage of their lives.

–Gen Ys want to be treated as perceptive consumers, not kids.

–Gen Ys expect an Internet experience to be interactive. Thats good news for you. They can be a good source of feedback.

Although Generation 9/11s (3 and younger) characteristics are still forming, one thing already is clear. This will be a generation that values fitting in.

During their formative years, 9/11s have been appropriately overprotected: at home because of the rash of kidnappings and Amber Alerts; at school because of Columbine-type incidents; and in society because of terrorism. An overprotected generation tends to be risk-averse and therefore conformists as adults, a sort of modern-day version of the 50s.

Marketing hintswell know before too long!

Ann A. Fishman is president of New Orleans-based Generational-Targeted Marketing Corporation. She can be reached at ann@annfishman.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, January 16, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.