Meet Mel and Tana-Maria – Catalyx strategists share their menopause research points of view
Having researched the subject of menopause for clients over the past few months, we spoke to Mel and Tana-Maria to discover their key takeaways from the project – and the brand opportunities on offer for the right businesses to make a real difference to women’s lives.
A worldwide issue
Following on from our deep dive about perimenopause in Australia and generally keeping our eye on what’s going on in the UK, we’ve recently completed some research in the US about the subject too – and, in many ways, it seems even more taboo there than it does in either Australia or the UK. So, this is very much a worldwide issue.
The sound of silence
If women are not able to talk about menopause, even to friends, relatives or colleagues in the workplace, then there’s no way we can ever improve women’s equity. There needs to be a more supported environment in place. In some ways, it’s almost Victorian at the moment – and, in 2023, it seems crazy that the female body is still so taboo that even women don’t really talk about certain subjects.
An unspoken problem
There’s a level of shame involved here. Women have a real fear that they’re standing on a precipice because they’re going through these massive life changes but don’t always fully understand what is happening – and they maybe can’t articulate the feelings or pinpoint the symptoms. It’s something that’s so unspoken, perhaps because it only happens to women and not men. Women are just left to experience it and deal with it in their own ways. Because there’s so little conversation about it, GPs can even be relatively dismissive and therefore women can’t really get a clear diagnosis – and can even start to blame menopause issues on other health conditions.
The search for solutions
We’ve noticed that women are literally crying out for help – they want someone to listen to what they have to say, whether it’s a friend or a GP professional. But it just doesn’t happen. The study we ran in Australia highlighted that there are products on the market that are available; that a small percentage of women have sought out what they can use; and some even know the details of every single ingredient in those products – but they’re not supported on an emotional level. Brands that are well-known for supplements, vitamins and other OTC medication are almost apologetic with their product placement when there are huge opportunities for education to ease the taboo.
Building a supportive community
We believe women are crying out for some sort of holistic approach. Currently, we’re in a very clinical/medical place with regards to menopause products. The wider support system in so many areas of women’s health has been helped by the feeling of building a community, which is currently lacking in this space.
Ignoring women as they age
It’s strange in a way, as products have become more rounded, informative and welcoming at all stages in women’s lives, whether they’re trying to get pregnant, taking care of the baby, taking care of themselves during and after pregnancy – but then we reach menopause, and that support stops. You always hear about female actresses or TV personalities saying that they’re written off once they reach a certain age, and so it’s a broader point about women and their position in society. It’s clear that there needs to be more importance given to enabling women with more autonomy and empowerment. It’s so important. And brands need to think about how we’ve got a huge number of women largely uncatered for in this market. There’s a real opportunity to help with products and services.
Showing that women are not alone
The hardest thing is always to break down any cultural taboos – that takes a while but is vital for getting the public conversation moving… and, in turn, helping people to be more widely appreciative and understanding. So that is going to be a longer-term solution, but brands can play a significant role to start to push the dial. A lot of this revolves around stating that intention. Just talking about it more broadly, making it more real, more accessible and something that isn’t being demonised, would help women to realise they’re not alone in going through this natural change.
A massive challenge that brands can step into
Maybe it’s because the decision makers in the health industry have so often been men and, perhaps, because women reaching menopause have tended to be more inward looking, but the menopause market has been overlooked. A massive challenge with growing any market is to find a route to authentic messaging – a way to speak directly to the customer in a sensitive way and take them along on the journey. Because of the lack of education and wider understanding, this still seems to be a way off when we look at current brands in the market. There are products that could help ease some of the symptoms of menopause, including vitamins and supplements, but women don’t even recognize them as being for menopause – the brands are so generic and often trying to appeal to other audiences. But the demand is there for the right company with the right voice to make a huge change in society.
No easy one-size-fits-all solution
One of the things we’ve seen from our research is that there is frustration from women when using certain supplements, as there’s not currently one product that fits all. We’re looking for quite an elusive solution here – as women have to find the right treatment for each of their symptoms by trial and error, and that can get very expensive. Not having the education they need on the subject means women struggle to find solutions – and after many unsuccessful attempts to make it work for them, they just give up; so, brands lose so many opportunities with this demographic group. In the long run, you’re ideally looking for something that will help to deal with all their symptoms, at once.
Making a solution accessible
Until that one size fits all solution is found for menopause, we’re going to have a split market, like so many other strands of health. There’s the potential for bespoke and personalised mixes of supplements and vitamins, for instance, as we see in other parts of health and fitness – but these always come at a price. Currently this means there’s a massive inequality in how treatment is handled, as women who can afford private healthcare are far more likely to get exactly what they need.
Issues with wider understanding
Something that came out during our studies is that women are finding that some doctors are just not listening. Perhaps due to the complexity of the issues and the strains on health systems, women have reported being told that they’re too young to be experiencing menopause or that they’re not suffering as badly as others are. If they don’t have mothers or older sisters to talk to, then many women will only discuss menopause with friends they’ve known since childhood (or at least for a long time). There isn’t really adequate information online to be self-sufficient in dealing with the menopause either, or to help women find the right products for them.
Brands can help to lead the conversation
Considering the level of impact menopause has for so many women (recent studies report that one in ten women leave work because of it), it may be that government intervention will be needed in the long run to make treatment affordable and equitable for everyone. All levels of society need to have a voice in this, but brands could certainly help to lead that conversation. It’s all about understanding the need, providing that support and then empowering decisions. It’s a huge task for any brand, but Catalyx has solutions to help you unlock your target audience.
A chance to be a part of a bigger movement
There are different roles that brands can play too. You might not be able to solve this huge and complex issue with one inspired moment of product innovation, or you could play a strong role in one area that really pushes part of the conversation forward. This isn’t just for one brand, it’s just too big a challenge, but there is an opportunity for lots of brands in this space in different forms and approaches. Brands are starting to understand that we’ve got a huge untapped market here – we’re just at the start of the conversation before the floodgates open.