Digitas And Yahoo: When The Big Boys Notice Boomers

With all due respect to the readers of this blog, those of us who toil in the marketing-to-Boomer space all recognize from time to time that we’re preaching to the choir – that is, when we aren’t tearing off those choir robes for the occasional spat.  

I’ve always said that marketing to Boomers – marketing to any American over the age of 40 – could not declare success until the marketers who didn’t have to pay attention to aging consumers started to recognize their value.

Over the past two years, several signs have suggested that we’re turning that corner, with big media and marketing companies like NBCU, Neilsen, Coke, and General Mills starting to focus on the 40 million Americans who represent their biggest growth opportunities over the coming years.

Digitas Health and Yahoo

I think I witnessed another step towards success when hearing the twin powerhouses of Digitas Health and Yahoo present some important findings about the “40-Everything Woman.”



Based on extensive research on thousands of women aged 40-59, Susan Manber from Digitas Health (with Amy Janis from Yahoo) recently presented some very relevant findings at the “M2W-HW –Marketing Health & Wellness To Women Conference” in Chicago. 

Midlife is good and bad: Both “Wow” and “Ugh”

Even marketers who pay attention to Boomers have often failed to get their tone right, falling either for the goofily upbeat “Aren’t you fabulous” or the equally unrealistic “Life sucks if you’re old.”  The truth, for Boomers and anyone else making their way into midlife, is much closer to what Manber and Digitas Health call it:  Mostly “Wow” with a little good-natured “Ugh.”  

This is exactly right, and if you don’t recognize both sides of this statement you’ll get Boomers (at least Boomer women) wrong.  This woman feels more confident and positive about her life than younger women (women aged 20-39 were 15% more likely to call life “difficult” than women 40-59).  And she cares less about what others think of her than she did 10-20 years ago.  But that doesn’t mean she likes aging, and especially if you’re talking to her about health and wellness you have to acknowledge that aging requires its own kind of attention.  Just what kind of attention is something else that Digitas Health and Yahoo get right.

“Expert” means experienced 

Women who have been adults for 20-40 years, raised children, taken care of aging parents, and looked after their partners have learned a thing or two.

For that reason, they respect expert advice, but in two very different ways from their mothers.  

First, they trust experts to provide useful information, but are not willing to follow them blindly.  Manber calls this the transition from “Yes, doctor” to “Yes, doctor, but . . .” Women want others to help them make decisions, not to tell them what to do.  

Second is what counts as an expert.  Women 40-59 now respect amateur experts, too – anyone (especially other women) whose knowledge comes from direct experience with the condition.  As a result, they are turning to online communities as often as health publishers for information.  

In our own recent research, we found how quickly the world of health information has changed.  The Boomer woman has been relying on the health-publishing giants (like WebMD and Mayo Clinic) for over a decade, but she is now relying equally on trusted communities online, places where she can share information and advice with the millions of other women who are experts about something because they themselves have experienced and learned about it.  

Anyone marketing health and wellness to women (and for Boomer women almost every consumer category feels like health and wellness) needs to utilize the social platforms where women are exchanging advice.  Those who ignore it will be failing to engage the real experts this woman now trusts the most – other women like her.

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