What Jane Fonda Means If You Market To Boomers
But Boomer women have grown up with her and on her transmogrifying image of what it means to be a woman in modern America.
Fonda's recently published memoir, Prime Time: Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit -- making the most of your life, is not only giving those women another look at Fonda's most recent version of herself, it's also giving marketers a chance to improve their odds of successfully engaging Boomer and female consumers who have little in common with Fonda themselves.
Aging Women and their Self-Image: Acceptance or Enhancement?
Women's conversations around Fonda and her new book offer many insights for marketers of any number of products and services, including fashion, beauty products, fitness and pharmaceuticals, that affect how women look.
At our web site, many comments have centered on the contrast between Fonda's celebration of aging with the extensive work she has undergone to deny its effects on her body.
Fonda, who has undergone plastic surgery for decades, admits to investing in a recent round of nips and tucks to prepare for the publication and promotion of this new book. "I caved," she told Larry King. "If I was really brave, I would have not."
As a result, her current book tour presents the same question with every appearance: Can authenticity and surgery co-exist?
Among Boomer women, there are critics. As one of our community members said, "I feel sad for Jane Fonda. She could have been a much more influential role model for us older women if she had not caved in."
But when the discussions go a little deeper, they get more interesting. Many women propose less judgment and see themselves ranking somewhere between the extremes of a do-nothing feminist ideal and the much-cut Fonda.
As another member said: "Where do you draw the line? I color my hair. I replaced my crumbling teeth with nice new crowns. If there was a vitamin for sale that would tighten up my sagging skin, I'd eat it."
And another: "I don't see anything wrong with getting a little work done if you can afford it. We spend so much money on everything else. What's wrong with spending it on ourselves? Personally, I am afraid to go under the knife, so it's only Botox and Juvaderm for me."
On issues of cosmetic enhancement, marketers have more to learn from these comments from real women than from Jane Fonda's own conflicted message.
Women want to look their best, and are willing to invest in it. And whether they want surgery or not, almost all of them spend money to enhance their looks. If you are selling them clothes, a fitness regime, makeup, hair coloring, non-surgical procedures (like tooth veneers or fillers), or anything else that will enhance their looks, understand this conflict.
How Can Marketers Engage Women Torn Between "Authenticity" and "Beauty"?
As a woman ages, "authentic" can mean two things: being true to herself, and being true to the way she feels. Under the latter definition, authenticity can be entirely consistent with dying her hair, capping her teeth, or getting a facelift.
What does this mean for marketers?
More than anything, it means offering Boomer women support and respect about drawing their own personal line between authenticity and beauty. It means never telling her how you think she should make that call. It also means avoiding glaring inconsistencies in your messaging: like Jane Fonda telling her peers to embrace their aging selves while desperately trying to look 40 herself.
Embrace and support their desire to look as good as (or better than) they feel and appreciate their desire to invest in themselves. Let them know that choosing what to invest in is entirely their choice. Remember the low-key way that Curves sold its gyms in early commercials: "When you're ready."
Tell her that she can be "ageless," that she can look "as great as she feels," and always consider using humor to capture her contradictory desire to enjoy what she can't control.
And recognize that, just like Jane Fonda -- celebrating her 73-year-old self with a fresh round of cosmetic surgery -- there is lots of business to be done in that space between "authenticity" and "enhancement." If your target customer doesn't need to resolve that distinction, you don't need to do it for her.