Since when has donning a fake leather purse held more cachet than a designer Italian handbag? And when has the idea of keeping up with the Jones’ have more to do with a paid-off mortgage than a showcase home? A new MS&L research study, conducted with GFK Roper, reveals that in the wake of societal shifts American women’s definition of “status” is undergoing a sea change. The online survey polled 525 women, with a focus on mothers with kids under the age of 18, single women, and affluent women households to identify emerging trends. Among other findings, the vast majority of women (67%) feel an “animal friendly” faux handbag carries more status than the Italian-designed version. Notably, 68 percent of the survey respondents associate “status” with a paid-off mortgage more so than a beautiful home.  “This research suggests that 2008 clearly marks a major mind shift when it comes to women’s perceptions of status and success,” said Holly Jarrell, MS&L’s global director of insights and research. Jarrell along with her colleague Renee Wilson, deputy managing director of MS&L’s New York office, originally spoke about this new definition of status during the 2008 M2W®-The Marketing To Women Conference.  “Women are not only driving positive changes like going green and doing good works, they are also coming to terms with the current downturn by making the most economical choices look chic.”  Some of the societal shifts MS&L’s High Society research revealed:

  • Parenthood is all or nothing: The proverbial good life was once defined by having two children and a dog, but today a majority of women (54%) agree that people who can comfortably afford to raise more than two kids have really made it financially.
  • Doing good never felt so good: A trend connected to philanthropy has emerged, as 87 percent of women view giving back to society as a “personal sign of success.”
  • Discipline is making a comeback: According to women, discipline-focused success traits far surpass traditional marks of success, including being attractive (64%), having kids (63%) and even having a lot of money (74%).
  • Made in the USA: The much-hyped return of “made in the USA” is substantiated by the survey results, with 77 percent of women saying status in 2008 and beyond is more about being “made and dreamt up in the USA” than “European made and designed” (23%). 
  • Health is the new wealth: Finally, the survey reveals that health really is the new wealth. Among 15 possible symbols of personal success, being emotionally healthy is ranked second among American women (94%), followed closely by being physically healthy (93%).  And 74 percent claim that looking healthy represents status more than looking young (26%).

“This survey shows us that what women find important these days is drastically changing, and marketers should take these findings seriously to understand their target better,” said Wilson. “The ways marketers connect with consumers has to adapt to women’s shifting standards, and this study is a guidebook into the new culture of women,” notes Wilson