Top 5 ways to win with positive ageing

Posted: January 14, 2015

It’s a fact many marketers in established economies are having to come to terms with: populations are getting older. And it’s not just in the West: China will have the largest population over 65 years old by the year 2030. Gone are the simple days when marketers could target their products and services through mass media at younger audiences in an attempt to engender lifelong loyalty.

As sophisticated consumers live longer, healthier lives, they will re-evaluate experiences and seek brand solutions that chime with their evolving needs, attitudes and behaviours. One thing’s for sure: old age isn’t what it used to be.

Writing on, Paul Roberts and Jess Hill from Desire Brand Management in Sydney, Australia, pointed out that, contrary to popular media portrayal, as people age, so they become more diverse. They asked readers to think about it: there could be 40 years of difference between this ‘homogeneous’ group. And 78% of people aged 65-74 say that they do not feel old, which explains why they respond better to marketing that depicts people their age living healthy and active lives. L’Oreal, Danone, and Ford were quoted by the duo as brands taking steps to connect with older generations in a more relevant way.

“In 2001 (that’s 13 years ago) L’Oréal recruited the then 57-year-old French actress Catherine Deneuve to promote its hair care products (she refused to have her physical imperfections airbrushed out of the advertisements), and Estée Lauder looked to 54-year-old Karen Graham, its star model of the 1970s, as the face for a new cream for the mature market.

“But, it’s not all about image and communication; products and services also need to suit older consumers. When food and beverage giant Danone decided to target older consumers with its new calcium-rich Talians mineral water, it made sure that customers would have no problems with the bottle. The label was designed to be clear and readable, while its larger and easy-grip cap is simpler for arthritic hands to open.

“And, to help young designers to understand older users’ (predominantly 65+) they highlighted that Ford has come up with ‘the third-age suit’ to help its design engineers (most of whom are under 40) grasp the needs of aging drivers. The outfit adds about 30 years to the wearer’s age by stiffening the knees, elbows, ankles and wrists. It also adds material to the waist (a rotund stomach affects people’s ability to sit easily) and has gloves that reduce the sense of touch. Ford’s lucky designers also have to wear yellow-scratched goggles to find out what it’s like to have cataracts (an exhibit at the Sydney Biennale gave away cataract-simulating goggles; a shock to some younger visitors seen wandering around in them),” they wrote.

However, not all brands are as eager to engage with seniors as L’Oréal, Danone, and Ford; most are resistant.

“As sophisticated consumers live longer, healthier lives, they will re-evaluate experiences and seek brand solutions that chime with their evolving needs, attitudes and behaviours. One thing’s for sure: old age isn’t what it used to be,” added Added Value Paris Director, Cécile Gorgeon.

In the latest edition of its global newsletter, she suggested five ways that brands can win with seniors, from helping them to see the bright side of life, to making them feel bold and unique, to feeding their pride.

  1. See life as a playground

Seniors are looking for brands that are fun, optimistic and quirky. Don’t hesitate to be bold, unconventional and unexpected. Show them the bright side of life. Pespi has made a parallel between seniors and its brand, and has leveraged their appetite for life and fun to communicate its own values. They’ve called it ‘Pepsi Forever Young’.

  1. Youth is a mindset

Seniors are not counting the years, month and hours, but instead thinking in terms of everything they still want to achieve. Speak to this attitude, and not to their basic needs. Don’t question their capabilities, but promise performance and empowerment. Whatever you do, don’t think of seniors in terms of homogenous age groups. Marks & Spencer are making older women feel proud about who they are as strong women through empowered advertising celebrating influential British women across all ages, featuring Emma Thompson and Annie Lennox.

  1. I am what I do

Seniors are active and connected (socially and digitally). They are keen to prove that they can still bring something to the table, and they want to enjoy real life experiences. Let them be protagonists who are as active as possible in their own lives. For example, to celebrate its 70th anniversary, Jeep embarked on a wide-spread ‘Don’t Hold Back’ challenge. The brand featured the inspirational football legend, Tommy Hafey, as the face of the Jeep brand’s 70th anniversary celebration with a special commemorative 60 second television commercial.

4. Be meaningful and honest

Seniors are experienced, wise and not easily fooled. Don’t be ‘fake’ or mislead them; stay honest and true to your identity. Some still believe that marketing for seniors can’t depict, or even mention, age. Really? Dove took a different stand to promote its Pro Age shampoo range. The TV ad portrayed naked elderly women with a provocative base line: ‘Too old to be in an anti-aging ad?’. Dove doesn’t try to hide their age – the brand just talks transparently to how people feel inside.

  1. And just celebrate

These are not second tier citizens, and they demand and deserve the best. Feed their pride, make them feel unique and beautiful and just celebrate with them. Just like the beauty industry has started to do. L’Oréal has announced its newest UK ambassador – Helen Mirren, 69. She’s the latest 50-plus woman to front a major cosmetics campaign, along with Charlotte Rampling (68), Tilda Swinton (53) and Jessica Lange (65).