I was in Walgreens recently waiting for a prescription when I noticed a set of six tiled images on the wall above me. I easily recognized two of them — they were happy, smiling children. The other two stood out fairly easily as well as I saw them as grandparents. However, I had a hard time connecting to the remaining two images. Who are they supposed to be? I wondered if these images were supposed to represent me. Surely not, as these people were far too young. Were they late teens or young adults? If so, then, where am I?
It’s important for us to see ourselves reflected in society. Surely the point of this collection of images was to show inclusion and representation of the generations supported by the pharmacy. So, why did it leave me thinking that they missed someone?
As a woman of Generation X, born in the mid 60s to early 80s, I find that it is near impossible to actually see myself represented in most forms of media. Advertisers seem to be missing the mark. Skin care producers are displaying models who are either young enough to be my child, or old enough to be my grandmother. I see the ads and want to scream. I may be knocking on 50’s door, but by no means do I consider myself ‘old.’
Most of us don’t. We are living active, healthy, vibrant lives that are not always reflected in what society says middle-age women look like, want, or need. We are loyal customers and know what we want. And we often have the spending power to buy what we want, when we want it. So why don’t we see a true reflection of ourselves in the world?
Representation matters and when it comes to representing Gen X, it shouldn’t be this hard. Advertisers could make a big impact by making a few obvious changes.
If marketers played it smart, they would speak directly to us — and do so with people who actually look like us. But it’s not happening. In fact, 65% of Gen X women feel underrepresented in advertising imagery. According to AARP research data, a staggering 85% of Gen X women want advertisers to show more realistic images of people.
I, like many women my age, want a great night cream that actually works. But please don’t sell it to me with a model that looks five years older than my teen daughter. Like it or not, I am in the market for a natural remedy for night sweats. If you try to sell it to me with an image of my 86-year-old grandmother, I’ll pass.
So if marketers want to connect with us as consumers, then show us. And if the average woman is around 50 years old when she begins menopause, then show us your product using a 50-year-old spokeswoman. Simple fix — match the demographic target with members of the actual demographic.
Gen Xers are typically very loyal and are willing to spend more for products we want. Marketers could make huge gains by showing us that they are actually listening. Some of us Gen Xers have debt; a lot of it. Many are finding ourselves sandwiched in the middle of caring for our own families while also having to care for our aging parents. I want to read about how other women are carving out more flexibility in their lives while still maintaining a career. I want to connect with others on the topics of our financial future; or whether or not that actually exists.
Reflect Our Lives!
Many of us are still in the workforce, so show me wardrobe ideas that are well-made and easy to launder. I have no doubt that many of us are very interested in keeping up with fashion trends, however please, give me the last four inches of the skirt hem. Simple fix — actually get to know us.
Women are essentially a spending powerhouse. Globally, women contribute to over $32 trillion in spending. While some of us may have debt, the average Gen X household income is higher than average. Additionally, Gen X tends to outspend all other generations on clothing, food, and housing. As Gen X women, we know what we want and are willing to pay the price to get it. But not just on any brand. For many Gen Xers, it’s important to have a connection with the brands we pay for.
Research data suggest that women will actually reward brands that include age diversity in advertising. Approximately 78% of Gen X women will remain loyal to brands that feature age diversity in marketing. If Gen X women are statistically more likely to remain loyal to the brands that reflect them — why aren’t brands actually reflecting them?
If advertisers would simply make meaningful changes, everyone would benefit. The formula is simple — Show us that you know us and you’ll have customers for life. Reflect us and the lives we are actually living. Speak to us, with people who are like us; and about things that reflect us.
Girl Power Marketing (2021) https://girlpowermarketing.com/statistics-purchasing-power-women/
Mirror/Mirror: AARP Survey of Women’s Reflections on Beauty, Age, and Media. (2021) https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/life-leisure/2019/womens-reflections-beauty-age-media.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00337.001.pdf
Melanie Forstall is a freelance writer and blogger at Melanie Forstall: Stories of Life, Love, and Mothering. She is also an educator and full time wife and mother. She lives in Baton Rouge and makes herself laugh on Facebook and Instagram.