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Perception is reality. That is, Ms. Jones’ perception is the reality you have to deal with every day. The reality may be that Ms. Jones is a middle-aged woman facing an empty nest and semiretirement. She droops where she used to perk. She used to be a trendsetter, but now she thinks animal prints are too wild. She has money to spend but needs glasses to see what she’s spending it on. That’s what you see, anyway.

But when Ms. Jones looks in the mirror, she perceives herself as being about 17 years younger than her actual age. She’s still hip, but not hippy (the measurement, not the lifestyle). Her days are divided between caring for her elderly parents and her young adult children – which is exactly where her psyche is stuck, too. Some days she feels responsible and mature, some days she feels unsure and naïve.

Just don’t you go telling her that.

Have you ever heard someone make a joke about a certain state, then follow it up with, “I can say that, because my family’s from there,” as though that makes it less offensive? Well, unless you are a middle-aged Ms. Jones yourself, you’d better cater to her perception of herself and not what you see as her reality.

Does the mirror of your marketing reflect the woman Ms. Jones perceives herself to be, or the woman you saw walk through your front door?

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