TREND—AGING REBRANDED: POSITIVELY COOL
They’re active, vibrant, more engaged than ever (and 60+!). It’s a powerful demographic with major marketing potential—and industries across all platforms are noticing.
The 60+ generation is aging radically different than previous generations. Today’s retirees start businesses, run marathons, and travel widely. With increased longevity and substantial wealth, they put a premium on health, wellness and nutrition. And yet this powerful demographic attracts only 10 percent of marketing budgets and less than one percent of global innovation. That’s changing, as multiple industries target seniors with product design, experiences and campaigns that speak to their strengths and sensibility.
Perceptions have changed since the “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” commercials of the late 1980s. No longer are baby boomers treated like feeble victims by way of fear-based messaging (or worse, simply ignored). Numerous legacy brands and start-ups realize this is an active, vivacious and connected group deserving of the same empowering, aspirational attention lauded on younger consumers.
It certainly makes financial sense: In countries such as the US and Japan, boomers control the highest percentage of disposable income. The “silver economy” has brands racing to appeal to older demographics—as well as the ones to come. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts the 60+ population will nearly double by 2050 from 12 percent to 22 percent.
“Four years ago, nobody would take our call. They fled from us,” recalls David Harry Stewart, CEO and founder of Ageist, a Los Angeles-based media company and consulting firm specializing in older markets. “[Our age group] was what they didn’t want. But now, it’s quite the opposite. These companies are noticing these people are really cool.
Ageist works with start-ups and multinational conglomerates eager to capitalize on the sunset years. Many incorporate senior feedback to create aesthetically driven products created with thoughtfulness, practicality and, more importantly, respect. This spans multiple categories, including fitness, food, tech, beauty, travel and transportation. Boomers, reports Nielsen, account for approximately $230 billion in sales in the US consumer-packaged goods category.
Brands still struggle with how to appeal to a diverse and often fractured 50+ demographic. Many lump whole age ranges into one uniform monoculture, assuming they all possess identical concerns and desires. But people don’t age equally. “The more people age, the greater the divergence,” says Stewart, noting the breadth of psychographics. “People see this gigantic demographic with these huge numbers and think they can capture this entire market. You need to pick a lane.”
With a 19-year age range, it’s naive to assume boomers constitute a cohesive group. And often, they’re subject to common misconceptions: They do not all fumble with technology, spend their days golfing, or desire to retire in Florida. In fact, a recent survey found that boomers spend nearly five hours a day on smartphones and spend more on online shopping than millennials. An increasing number move into hip condos in downtown urban areas, paving the way for new retirement housing projects within walking distance to cultural and foodie destinations.
Some companies and marketers get it right. Covergirl added Maye Musk, 71, as one of its spokesmodels. Cult fashion brand Rachel Comey regularly features silver-haired models in its campaigns. Meanwhile, brands such as Nike, JCPenney and Williams-Sonoma partner with over-50 social media influencers, who prove more approachable than their jet-setting Kardashian peers.
“More people are living longer and healthier,” says Stewart. “This is where the market is shifting to. You can’t ignore it.”
Forecasting the Future
- Industries (including food, beauty, fitness, tech, housing, fashion, etc.) will refocus on the 50+ because of overwhelming global facts: People over 60 will double by 2050 (from 12 percent to 22 percent of the world population); there will be one billion people over 65 by 2030; and we’ve just hit the tipping point where there are more elderly people than children in our world.
- Boomers invented the wellness concept/market, but the industry has been myopically obsessed with millennials. Dave Stewart of Ageist notes that one of the very top priorities of today’s 55+ is health and wellness seen through the lens of a self-empowered, educated consumer, rather than as a patient. The wellness market will wake up to this unprecedented opportunity.
- Ageism will be the world’s next big discrimination issue.
- More people will regularly live to be 80, 90 and even 100+, so companies need to “forget aging” and help them with these many chapters and with ongoing “new life building.”
This is an excerpt from the “Aging Rebranded: Positively Cool” trend in the 2020 Global Wellness Trends Report.