Founder and CEO
Marti Barletta helps organizations "get smart about marketing to women."
She is the author of the groundbreaking book, Marketing to Women, which established her as the thought-leader in the field. Her new book, PrimeTime Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds, and Business of Boomer Big Spenders, breaks the story on the unprecedented buying power of women in their prime (ages 50-70) and details why this “silver bullet” segment is the prime source of business growth for the next two decades.
A Wharton MBA, Barletta founded her consulting think tank, The TrendSight Group, to help companies pull ahead of the competition by marketing and selling more effectively to women consumers, corporate executives and business owners. The firm’s clients have included Wachovia, Deloitte Consulting, Volvo, Trade Secret and Logitech. Barletta is a member of the distinguished Women Gurus Network.
A recognized international authority on marketing to women, Barletta is frequently quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, and Business Week, and has appeared on The CBS Evening News, ABC Money Matters, MSNBC’s Squawk Box and NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Her startling new findings, lively sense of humor and ability to translate insights into concrete tactical applications have made her a popular speaker at conferences and corporations.
Q. What makes PrimeTime Women so special?
A. Their numbers and spending power – that’s pretty much all you have to know. They’re the largest segment of the population, expected to grow by 45 percent from 2000-2020, while the under-50 population actually declines. Prime Time Women are the segment that commands 79 percent of the financial assets in the country and the group that spends 2.5 times more than younger consumers on a per capita basis. What could be a more ideal target? That’s why I call them “the silver bullet” segment. In terms of lifestage demographics, they’re going to be the sole source of growth for the next twenty years.
Q. Why do you call them PrimeTime Women?
A. That’s a term I coined because the only language we’ve had for this market carries so much negative baggage -- that puts blinders on marketers’ ability to see the opportunity. “Middle-aged” – dumpy and frumpy, right? “Mature market” – sober, sedate – boy, they don’t sound like any fun. And “senior” is the worst – “poor old doddering dears looking for the early-bird special.”
And the reality is, people 50-70 years old are nothing like that! In fact, every single research study I turned up said people in their 50s and 60s report these are the happiest decades of their lives, especially women. Once the kids go off to start their own households, women are released to follow their own interests and buy what they want, instead of what their family needs. It’s a time of great liberation for women.
PrimeTime Women captures two ideas – that these are people in the prime of their lives; and they are, bar none, the number one prime marketing opportunity for 98% of all consumer categories for the next 20 years.
Q. Why do so many marketers ignore these rich and powerful consumers?
A. Most marketers don’t look above the age of 49, which is ironic, because we’ve been paying attention to the Baby Boomers since they were 18, and now we’re dropping them just when they have the most money to spend.
Q. In PrimeTime Women you describe as “nonsense” the theory that “if you get them while they’re young, they’re yours for life.” Why doesn’t this theory hold true?
A. I guess it might have held true forty years ago, when there were three brands of toothpaste and two brands of peanut butter. This is ridiculous when you consider the volume of products on the shelves these days. There is ample research that shows that PrimeTime Women are just as apt to try new products as younger women.
Q. In your book you report that more women 50 to 70 say they “feel a lot younger than I am” than women 25 to 49. Older women also have more self-confidence, and more of them feel their greatest achievements lie ahead. Did this research surprise you?
A. Yes. Actually all the research for this book surprised me. I bought into the old stereotypes, and I had no awareness that the 50s and 60s are your best decades.
Q. You write that women don’t have the same midlife crisis problem that men do. What can Boomer men learn from Boomer women?
A. To look forward and not be so single-minded on their careers. To build consciously their interest in family and commitment to friends. Women’s connections with their friends are different than men’s.
Q. There is a gender gap at the management levels of American business. Is this lack of leadership diversity one of the reasons some companies neglect older women?
A. I think there’s no doubt about it. Marketers in general and male marketers in particular do not understand how to market to older women--it’s different than the way you need to market to older men and different from the way you market to younger women.
The current marketing communications models were created in the 1950s and 60s by men – brilliant men, with some great thinking on what worked well with a mindset like their own. What they didn’t take into account – and frankly I didn’t take it into account either until I did all the research for my first book five years ago – was that women have different priorities and decision styles than men, and respond quite differently to various communications approaches. The fact of the matter is, the principles of marketing communications never did apply to women very well.
Q. Women and men make buying decisions differently -- for example you say men prefer to research a decision by reading about it, whereas women like to ask people their opinions about it. Can you talk about these buying differences between genders?
A. Women literally can perceive a finer gauge of detail, so they care about things that men generally consider unimportant. Men make up their minds what they want, defined in terms of their most important criteria, and then go out and locate it. They’re buyers.
Women set out to find “the perfect answer.” They don’t define what they’re looking for as rigidly, because they expect to learn about things throughout the process that will influence their preferences and change their priorities. They’re shoppers. Whereas men set out on a process of elimination, women set out on a process of discovery. That’s where the stereotype of women being “fickle” comes from. You know – “Why can’t women make up their minds? Right in the middle of the process, they change the specs, and go off after something different.” What’s really going on is that women have a more comprehensive decision process. It takes them longer to reach a decision – this is borne out by studies in about mutual funds, apparel and cell phones, incidentally – because they are seeking and searching for the best possible combination of benefits.
So when people ask me that classic question, “What do women want? Do they want something different than men?” I tell them no, not really. Women want all the same “important” things that men do…and then some. They have a longer list. Men meet their top criteria, purchase, and move on. Women are looking for the perfect answer, without predetermining what it’s going to be. There’s another implication of this different decision style. Companies used to worry that if they marketed to women, they might alienate their male customers. In fact, companies like Ford, Merrill Lynch, Wyndham Hotels and Jiffy Lube have found that when you do a better job marketing to women, your customer satisfaction among men goes up as well. And that’s because – with women’s longer list, when you meet the expectations of women, you generally exceed the expectations of men.
Q. Your book presents a positive look at the enormous upside potential of PrimeTime Women. What can marketers do to tap into this huge market?
A. First thing is to acknowledge them. Marketers always say they are looking for innovative ways to expand their markets and while this huge “silver bullet segment is the most obvious, it’s also the most innovative because absolutely no one – nobody – is going after any consumer over 54. It’s crazy. They have the most money, the largest numbers, and you really can’t beat that. It is the perfect target market for the next 20 years.
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