2014 is a big milestone in American demographic history: The last of the Boomers will turn 50. I’m proud to join Michelle Obama, Rob Lowe, Laura Linney, Sandra Bullock and Johnny Depp as we hit AARP eligibility. I’m not putting myself in the celebrity category, although most of us 1964’ers do share a youthful appearance and attitude. (Speaking of AARP, when the application came a few weeks ago, I laughed and tossed it into the recycling bin. I get the part about the discounts, but it feels like it’s for old people, and that’s just not us. We’re a group that still self-identifies as young.)
There’s another milestone that’s getting less press, but will have similar implications for marketers and brands: In 2015, the first of Generation X starts turning 50 (with the youngest turning 35). Like the younger Boomers who came before them, they will also bring a youthful attitude to the silver birthday club. If it was not already clear to marketers, it’s time that content, campaigns and all other messages are tailored to younger Boomers … and older Gen X’ers.
Nearly 10 years ago, investors poured $32M into a site and portal called eons.com. It was supposed to be a place for people over 50 to come and connect and tap into various channels of content. Frankly, it sounded like a bad idea to me at the time, and unsurprisingly, it failed and no longer exists. It used age as the way to pull people in and make them feel like they belonged in a 50+ foot walled garden. They missed because people self-select content and community based on their passions, interests and desires. Age alone is not a community-organizing principal–no matter what demographic you’re targeting. You must identify and speak to their common interests.
It’s time to create a marketing plan for a group of consumers 45-55 who share a common bond and history and are at the peak of their earning and spending power. They’re starting to flex their muscle as is evidenced by relatively older actresses (read: not 20 years old) appearing regularly in fashion and makeup commercials. And savvy marketers are eager to cater to them. For instance, OurTime, the new site for singles over 50, is picking up steam. And the site Better After 50 speaks to women (and some men) looking for their second act while showing them how to get the most out of this phase of life. It is not about slowing down, but rather speeding up and making the most out of every minute.
Here are some industries that need to respond:
Financial Services and Planning – This group is likely to live another 30-40 years, which has significant implications on retirement planning. We need to account for a possible second career and stretching the money a long way. Messaging should be directed to this group that is different than those in their 60s. Planners need to have frank conversations about needing to fund a long retirement.
Sports and Fitness - Better sports science and medical advances have us competing harder and longer than ever. There are millions of masters athletes in the U.S. who are being ignored by the big sporting goods manufactures and retailers. From running and biking to Crossfit and team sports, Americans over 50 are still competing hard. I’m signed up for two Spartan races this year and hope to do them for many years to come.
Fashion and Apparel – Again, how about products and campaigns aimed this segment. There has to be a middle ground between youthful fashion, which makes us look silly, and clothes made for old men and women. I don’t want to look like Pauly or the Situation on the Jersey Shore, nor do I want to dress like I am heading to the clubhouse for cards at El Boca Del Vista.
Food and Beverage – In 15-20 years, we are likely to be the healthiest group of senior citizens ever. We have the benefit of a web’s worth of knowledge of all the advances in research and nutritional sciences. Many begin cutting back on meat and animal products as research has shown that a plant-based diet is extremely beneficial after 50. Companies who focus on organics, plant-protein and healthy living should target this group with information, recipes and social campaigns to engage and educate. They will find a willing audience.