Why Brands are Embracing Seniors over Millennials
By Lisa Montague, Vice President of Media & Operations
“Senior Citizens” in some parts of the world are officially outnumbering the young people, and there is a growing worldwide shift among brands to embrace older consumers. From athletics to lingerie, these products have traditionally targeted younger markets in the past, and are starting to target and tailor their brands toward the Baby Boomer generation.
The term “oldvertising” is starting to make its way through the advertising and branding communities and while the term itself may need a facelift, the sheer concept is one not to be ignored. This generation is active and redefining the “senior citizen” stereotype. Brands from Nike and Reebok to Sun Life are embracing seniors and even putting them in the spotlight of their ads. Even though advertisers have been aware of gray spending power for years, these stereotypes have never challenged the mold they came from until now. According to research, this demographic is perplexed, annoyed and amused by how little most brands understand them and how to engage them. Seniors don’t like to be referred to as senior, old, or really any other stereotypical adjective used to describe them. Nor do they relate to advertising that tries to speak to them in those stereotypes.
Seniors are fit and active; after all, age is just a number. To them, 60 is the new 40 and they are challenging themselves and what it really means to age. Modern seniors are growing with and have a desire to learn new technology. They see themselves in an aspirational way, so naturally they also respond well to being addressed in the same fashion. Like any trend, there is a risk of it being overdone. There is a fine line when portraying those who are 65+. You don’t want to portray them as “blue hair’s,” sitting around knitting and curling up under quilts, but you also don’t want to portray them as teenagers. What connects people is not necessarily their age, but their interests and passions. So, it’s not necessarily right to target seniors as a homogenous group. People don’t pay attention to age as much as we think they do, and they always appreciate powerful human stories that challenge conventions and keep us grounded in something more meaningful.
The term “perennials,” first coined by writer Gina Pell to describe the idea that people shouldn’t be describing and categorizing themselves by their generation, but rather based on their interests, passions and who they are as people. While this may not be a new idea for any brand that uses psychographics, the term is an elegant way to describe the simple idea that if we are going to be categorized for anything, it should be by what we believe in and love instead of what year we happened to be born. The days of targeting media and products at people based on their age is ending. Perennials are ever-blooming, relevant people of ALL ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. Perennials aren’t simply people over 40 who are still relevant, but people who understand that age is not a limiting factor. Perennials are involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle. They possess an inclusive, enduring mindset, and are not a divisive demographic. Perennials have a wide appeal and spread ideas and commerce faster than any single generation. Relevance belongs to every age, not only during the period of a generation’s ascension to power. As advertisers, we need to recognize and identify with perennials. They are replacing their constricting labels with something that better reflects their reality online and off. Amazon and Netflix got it right with recommendation engines that target people based on behavioral data over outmoded generational stereotypes, so why shouldn’t we?
Seniors want to be considered, want to feel relevant and want you as an advertiser to speak to them, not their “age.” The pendulum is shifting, and advertisers need to recognize the shift. We need to do research on who our consumer is, what their habits are, as well as the best way to reach and speak to them. Advertisers need to acknowledge that the market is changing, and it’s not just about adults 25-54. We need to recognize that older people are relevant and want our products and services, but don’t want to be called old!