The New Old

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With the baby boomer generation hitting retirement their very own definition of age sets a new tone for marketers to address their needs and wants. Discover how brands are wising up to engaging with the new old.

Subtle hints towards a new perception of ‘the old’ were set by German Vogue when putting rock star Tina Turner on the cover. At 73, the icon demonstratively refutes the typical stereotypes associated with ‘age’.

It correlates with the anticipation of the "rise of the olds" in Western industrialized countries. According to the International Longevity Center at Columbia University ‘by 2025, one of every five Americans will be 65 or older’.



Similar forecasts go for Europe, where a report commissioned by the UK government predicts a 51% rise in those aged 65+ and a 101% increase in those aged 85+ from 2010 to 2030. ‘Society,’ writes the Guardian ‘can no longer afford to pretend that it is forever Peter Pan.’

A third of the wealth

This demographic shift in Western societies could ‘herald a sea change’, starting with the displacement of spending power. Studies by the Leo Burnett Group found that ‘seniors control nearly a third of total U.S. net wealth and this is a pattern repeated across the Western world.

People over 50 buy about half of all new cars and have a weakness for the top end of the range notes The Economist in an article about ‘Marketing To The Old: Over 60 and Overlooked’.


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As the large generation born in the 1950s and 1960s, will grow old states The Economist further, their different attitude to age will create new markets in the world's rich countries.

Still prevailing negative connotations associated with aging are making way for a desire that advertising should start depicting older people as normal people living normal lives concludes the Australian Human Rights Commission in a report.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Jarred Diamond, in a talk at the New School, questions those mainstream conceptions: “How often do we see old people in advertisements cracking open a can of beer and having a good time?"


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Viva young

The Superbowl 2013 Taco Bell ad exploits this idea. Says Mike Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch LA: “There's a common misconception that to appeal to millennials you have to show millennials, (but) you simply need to entertain and engage them. And that's what this entire integrated effort does. We've all had an epic night out followed by a trip to Taco Bell. 'Viva Young' is a surprising fresh way to remind people of that."

Style advancing with age

Feeling good in old age is even more so a matter of confidence achieved by living life to the fullest and, as glamorously as possible. An insight which is given by the fabulous characters starring in the movie Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen.

The street fashion photographer who runs a fashion blog of the same name dedicated to the elderly stylish and creative folk, as he describes it, 'offers proof that personal style advances with age'.

 Antidote to gray hair phobia

“Those brands that make an effort and reach out to seniors--in the right way--will disproportionately earn credibility and respect,” says Leo Burnett chief strategy officer Stephen Hahn-Griffiths.

Clothing label American Apparel, known for its provocative ads, invites a 61-year-old actress to star in one of their recent campaigns promoting advanced basics. It successfully links the brand’s appeal and image of ‘youthful coolness’ to an age group previously avoided by marketers suffering ‘gray hair phobia’.

McDonalds in its ‘Parallel Lives’ campaign takes on a different approach by comparing the lifestyles of the younger and the older generation. Although each group differs in the way they do the same thing, their loyalty to the same brand over the years looks beyond age. 

Key take-aways:
  • Seniors control nearly a third of US wealth and this is a pattern repeated across the globe
  • Appealing to seniors is not only a matter of showing images of older people but of engaging them
  • Communications focusing on more positive aspects of ageing are increasingly effective
  • There is a desire for advertising to depict older people as normal people, living normal lives

To browse a selection of images reflecting representations of seniors, click here

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