Is ‘mid-life crisis’ only a MALE thing?

Porsche based a campaign on this insight and reaped the fruits of stoking, ‘the return of the Alpha male’. In fact the world of the Alpha Male never really disappears from the male psyche. It merely diminishes, albeit for a short while. As boys & and in their transition to adulthood, life is a series of conquests, events, discoveries…some in life and some others at work. During this time the strongest bond is often between men. As buddies. Forgiving. Ever evolving and accepting. With a common cause. Driven to succeed.

As and when the next stage of conquest is achieved….dating & marrying the girl chased, enjoying the initial months or years of becoming a father, becoming a senior executive in charge of a team….the Alpha Male starts prowling again. By middle age often, the adrenalin rush has enabled conquer most passions. Men have reached their peak. Then what?

WOMEN AT CROSSROADS: In contrast is the woman who is at her peak, in her teens and 20s. She is readying herself for the ultimate mating game. Her wedding. The clash between women here is apparent. Sizing each other, getting bitchy, being one up on the other and so on. She has plenty of friends, but at times may even prefer her male friends to the female ones. Why? Because she can trust them with her secrets. Her trousseau will always be better than her friends’. And she’s got the edge when her husband is an NRI or a rich dude…

Then comes motherhood, that pretty much subdues her femininity as she is now a nurturer and not merely a seducer. She calms down. The tempest becomes the earth mother. All conquests have been won. When she looks around, her husband is busy. She seeks other women as buddies again. Dear friends. Problem solvers. Agony aunts. Confidants. She is at crossroads in her mind (doesn’t matter her age) and exchanging notes on common problems. On relationships, children, home and even work.

These traits were very apparent in a small study on the Mid-Life Crisis Syndrome, that was based on many Facebook inspired reunions of men & women post 30.  We enjoyed picking up some interesting yet stark differences.


a. Comment on looks, apparently inadvertently (especially hairlines/waist lines)
a. Discuss job profile/designations/place of residence
b. Talk about travel occasions
c. Share achievement of kids/wife if she is working
d. Give leads for a possible next meet up by sharing: Affinity to hit the watering hole/social moments
e. Recall past humour/girl moments/meanness/things done together
f.  Exchange numbers
g. Get back into the real world, update their status a few times about the reunion & then move on with their lives


a. Scream, hug, kiss
b. Comment positively on looks (more so in comparison to geek status in school. Comments are part genuine/admiration/envy)
c. Discuss home
d. Hug again and talk about the place they live in
e. Loudly remind each other of the crazy things, silly things, stupid things done together / individually
f. Get deeper into the conversation with one or two of them
g. Postively rave about life but keep dropping hints on small issues
h. A new bond is made and numbers are exchanged
i. Some of them stay connected/meet often/write glowing updates on facebook/just are amazingly nice all the time

The Difference:

MEN…enjoy the reunion and are possibly at the peak of their individuality & at a highly competitive stage in their life. Hence seeking ONE UP-MANSHIP which must be achieved smartly and without much ado. Some believe their visiting card speaks volumes & a quiet sense of pride prevails. Also physically & mentally they are in every way men, but desirous of re-living the independence of their boyhood.

WOMEN….most just adore the return to innocence. But as they are often so focused on others, they are looking for some tender loving care (TLC) for themselves. And it’s fantastic to see other women rise up to the bait!! Then, there are some women who very recently having discovered their femininity, are comfortable flaunting it. Some others have crossed new milestones and their individuality is brimming with confidence.

If you look at it either way, both sexes are living in the midst of small or big mid-life tremors. Some are vocal, while some stay private. It’s the ‘how they seek to resolve the conflict’, that makes them a potent playground for brands. And how brands successfully tap the many motives to address these men or women in the cusp of conflict, is an enriching exercise for any marketeer.


A peek into a few storytellers gives us leads into this conflict resolution.
•    Dove creates a beautiful safety net for its soul sisters.
•    Platinum lets her celebrate her femininity.
•    BMW injects zest back into a man’s life & eulogizes him.
•    Tag Heur admires him for his relentless & insatiable appetite.
•    Davidoff Adventure recaptures his independent spirit

Davidoff Adventure


Besides of course brand stories, an example that beautifully captures the ‘aching desires’ of men who are going through the transition, is in a film I truly enjoyed titled, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’. The film of course reverses the spirit & agility of body and mind with the passage of time i.e. as defined by age. So at 40 or 45, Benjamin (Brad Pitt) looks and feels all of 20 yrs. Little wonder when they say today that, 40 is the new 20!!!!!!

I wonder how many mid-life crises our human species go through. Maybe one for every decade!!! Brands just need to find the most relevant crisis moment.

Would love to hear about any other brands that play this mid-life conundrum. What do you feel?

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  1. Sandy I just have a few stray thots. Where does the 7 year itch(and as a corollary the taking up of a far younger member of the opposite sex as a partner) figure in the whole mid-life crisis situation? For the man and increasingly even for the woman? My perception was (and I have no research to back this up) that the acquisition bug rears its ugly head in the male (and therefore the younger mate or the shiny Porsche) battling with mid life crisis. I’m not sure how the woman deals with it – whether it is self indulgence (a la L’oreal) or comfort with herself or being an alpha female who revisits her youth.
    Am I even on the right track here?

    • freshbrew team |

      Totally Farah. I agree with you. I would suspect that for both genders ‘Alpha’ is the operative word.

  2. Now this is in continuation of self-help books that help men understand women & vice versa. The venus/mars fever stays. It just gets more rigid and pronounced with time. I find some definitions of target customers quite nonsensical. Every one wants teens to love their produce too. I think this is quite a lesson. Gender divide stays. Be it teens or older customers. US/Japan markets have a very clear demarcation between teen attitude n their senior counterparts. China is just showing some differences. I would think subdued or energetic insights of what you shared above may be relevant for teens too. So in reality the crisis starts at teenage.

    • Good to hear from you Richard. Crisis moments are always lurking, waiting for brands to pick them up. Desperate to be resolved!!!!

      But the patterns are pretty much the same. Be it a young adult or a mature householder.

      I think we need to be less prejudiced and more exploratory in attitude, to find the differences as age progresses.

  3. In this new world where Men and Women don’t ‘behave their age’ , brand managers need to re-look at the brand propositions and even the engagement strategy. A very interesting perspective as usual. Thanks Sandhya.

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