What Jane Fonda Means If You Market To Boomers

At 73, Jane Fonda is not herself a Boomer.

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.

4 comments about "What Jane Fonda Means If You Market To Boomers ".
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  1. Jim Gilmartin from Coming of Age, September 19, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.

    Stephen is right on the mark. David Wolfe uses the term "Conditional Positioning" to describe an approach to getting your message to targeted markets. It’s an offshoot of the “less is more” communications concept.

    Research tells us that older people tend to be better at picking up on the meaning of metaphors. This means you don't have to spell out in absolute detail what you are presenting. In fact, conditional positioning attempts to avoid the polarizing effects of absolute positioning. Encourage them use their minds and imagination to interpret your message.

    Traditional TV, print, direct mail and online marketing works well with boomer women. Targeted media is also very effective. The following outlines some insights that should support Stephen's comments and increase your chances success in these markets:
    1. Your marketing should be honest and authentic. Avoid hyperbole. They've lived long enough to know hype when they see it. Goods and services must perform as advertised. Remember boomer women put a lot of faith in word of mouth referrals.
    2. Just like other groups, boomer women identify with others who reflect their core values, their lifestyle, and their stage of life. Marketing of products to boomer women should d appeal to their core values and motivators. For example, goods and services that "celebrate the vitality, energy and individuality" of the purchaser are more tempting than those that do not.
    3. Fun sells. Anything you can do to get a "Wow" reaction will work for you. This approach suggests sensory stimulation, preferably with other women around. The experience has to be social and sensory, as well as quick, easy, and convenient. In other words, fun is no longer fun if it involves too much work.
    4. They also expect value for their money. Women generally do research on goods and services before they spend their money. As Marti Barletta writes “they look for the perfect answer”.

  2. Terri Benincasa from Boomer Nation! Radio Show, September 19, 2011 at 3:46 p.m.

    One of the distinct Boomer characteristics is extremism, which includes "either/or" thinking. Helping our generation to see things as "and/both" is a challenge, but very worthwhile particularly in this area...when knives are involved, always good to have alternatives!

  3. Stephen Reily from Vibrant Nation, September 19, 2011 at 4:41 p.m.

    Thanks for the comments and additions. Since you mentioned Marti Barletta, I wanted to say something I didn't have room for in my post: Jane Fonda should have credited Marti for the title of her new book: "Prime Time." As many of us know, Marti coined the term "PrimeTime Women" to define a new vision of aging for women (and marketing to aging women) in 2007.

  4. Lynne Spreen from Spreen and Associates, September 24, 2011 at 12:23 p.m.

    If you're interested in the Fonda vs. Boomers article, you can read it here:

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