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.

8 comments about "What TED Can Teach Us About Marketing To Women ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Jamie Dunham from Jamie Dunham | Brand Solutions, March 21, 2011 at 11:11 a.m.

    Great insight on the important work that Boomer women continue to do. Not only are Boomer women still very important in our consumer Lipstick Economy, but they are important in the Heart-Wise economy. Wish I had been there.

  2. Ruth Barrett from, March 21, 2011 at 12:34 p.m.

    Amen. Boomer women range in age from the mid-40's to mid-60's so the supply is going to last a long time. Now for the demand. Let's hope we are effective at eliminating stereotypes and, like TED, insure their visibility. Marketers play a heavy hand in creating and perpetuating stereotypes and as one (boomer and marketer) I have to say we have a long way to go, baby.

  3. Lori Bitter from The Business of Aging, March 21, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.

    Great post, Stephen! I would add to your list of qualities, the desire to connect with others around this spirt and these passions. I believe these women are forming powerful connected tribes that are difficult for companies to ignore. Their influence and authenticity should fuel our marketing strategies for years to come.

  4. Lee Rappaport, March 21, 2011 at 1:37 p.m.

    Your last sentence says it all, Stephen! Who knew that passion, wisdom, experience & desire seems to converge on the other side of 50? Is there so such thing as a quad-fecta? If so, many women share these qualities and are darn proud of it. It's our life Badge of Courage that we rightly have earned. I love working with women of all ages though as we can all learn from each other.
    I just do not want to be so "transparent" that I am perceived as invisible.

  5. Mary Hunt from In Women We Trust, March 21, 2011 at 5:14 p.m.

    The article talks about all the great things that boomer women are doing and yet your website makes us look like women who only care about how fast our lives and bodies are falling apart. What's up with that?

  6. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, March 22, 2011 at 5:23 a.m.

    Of course we don't need more of those fantasy chick flicks where a woman finds herself single in her 50s and every man on Earth, including her ex-husband and 3 of her beaus from the distant past, scrambles to marry her (and these guys are all rich and good looking and dismissive of the 19 year olds who want to date them but don't remember the Moon landing so there's no attraction on the part of the older man).

    It's amazing how corporations line up to sponsor this fantasy. If this trend is going to get worse as a part of "Marketing to Boomer Women" we can expect more film bombs like "It's Complicated". Just sayin... ;)

    That said, "Forever Young" and "Mumma Mia" were excellent films. You can take the genre and make something worthwhile.

  7. Stephen Reily from IMC/Vibrant Nation, March 23, 2011 at 8:18 a.m.

    Thanks, everyone, for the great comments. I do want to address Mary Hunt's comments about While I'm reluctant to put words in the mouths of our 50,000+ Boomer women members, what they have shown us is that the topics that they tend to talk about most, when they know that they are surrounded by other women like them, are the topics that feel are unique to their lifestage - and not addressed elsewhere. And those topics are the limited offerings of fashion/beauty solutions that work for them, the desire to rebuild and remake their relationships as they age, and their desire to find meaning through work - all of which often present challenges. Hang around for a while and you'll not only see a lot of other content swirling around the community, but you'll also see that there is rarely a negative comment that doesn't connect with a chorus of connections, suggestions and support.

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 16, 2011 at 9:03 p.m.

    This is a wonderful portion of the story. You miss the other portions.

Next story loading loading..