Report: Brands Need To Rethink Attitudes About Consumers And Aging

Following Procter & Gamble's Marc Pritchard's recent prediction that age will be the next issue on the agenda for advertisers to address as the industry seeks to dispel stereotypes it helped to create, McCann has unveiled new research that further explores how aging is the next frontier for an advertising overhaul. 

The agency's The Truth About Age research suggests brands must develop an "Age Philosophy." For example, brands in the beauty and pharmaceutical industries cannot operate in an age-agnostic way because they’re dealing with problems that are correlated with age. Thus the challenge for brands is to strike a healthy balance between age-awareness without tipping over into age-obsession. 

McCann's report outlines recommendations for brands seeking to address this issue. 



For one, young people are thinking about and worrying about age more than any other generation...but no one is talking to them about it. Nearly half of those in their 20s (46%) constantly think about aging compared to 35% of those in their 60s. Similarly, 60% of those in their 20s worry about dying alone compared to only 43% of those in their 70s. 

The agency urges brands to address the challenges associated with getting older among young people to provide a more realistic — but optimistic — view of the aging process. 

Also brands need to move away from traditional age-related stereotypes. Only 24% of those surveyed by the report believe the fashion industry understands the aging population and only 30% believe media or news organizations understand issues related to aging. 

Too often the broader cultural conversation focuses on the “losses” associated with age (from reduced cognition to limited physicality) and aging is primarily framed as a negative process.  The loss-oriented language associated with the second half of life—”retirement,” “empty nest,” "downsizing" — is particularly in need of a rethink, per the McCann report.

There is an opportunity for brands to rewrite the narrative and focus on the plusses at every age. Two in three people 70 and older feel positive about the process of aging. This group also reports becoming more spiritual, liberal and idealistic over time, as compared with their younger counterparts — adjectives not often associated with the older population. 

McCann identifies five consumer segments more appropriate for advertisers to target rather than the current numbered demographic set. Ageless Adventurers (19% of the global population) define aging as a journey of limitless opportunities and personal growth. Communal Caretakers (20%) believe aging is a time of engaging with community and enriching personal relationships. Actualizing Adults (17%) view aging as a process of maturity and acquisition of adult responsibilities. Future Fearers (20%) see aging as a time of anxiety and uncertainty due to risks associated with old age. And Youth Chasers (24%) see aging as a decline and loss of their youth and vitality. 

Intergenerational connections are seen as the key to aging well, but these are increasingly hard to come by in the modern world which is why McCann says brands have a responsibility to build connections between the generations and co-create an age-positive future. "For many people, life gets better and fuller over time, but society conspires to convince us otherwise," concludes the report.



4 comments about "Report: Brands Need To Rethink Attitudes About Consumers And Aging".
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  1. Jeff Weiss from Age of Majority, July 19, 2018 at 11:49 a.m.

    This report is bang on.  Our research shows that only 1/4 of consumers 55+ think that marketers are doing a good job of engaging them compared to 50% of younger consumers who think marketers are doing a good job at reaching their (younger) age group.  Since the vast majority of marketers are under the age of 40, we need to break the myths and stereotypes associated with aging in order to properly market to these active aging consumers.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 19, 2018 at 3:36 p.m.

    Jeff, I agree with you about the age bias in advertising but are you sure that "the vast majority of marketers are under the age of 40"? I find that a pretty hard claim to accept---assuming that by marketer you refer to CMOs, and higher execs. On the other hand, the vast majority of  product buying and consumption is done by folks over the age of 40. That's more like it. I think.

  3. Jeff Weiss from Age of Majority replied, July 19, 2018 at 3:47 p.m.

    Ed, I agree that CMOs and more senior execs are going to be older but not sure what that % is.  I am referring to all marketing folks and the number that I heard was that only 6% are over 40.  Hence my thoughts and comments.

  4. Amy LaGrant from BrandMETTLE, August 17, 2018 at 11:07 a.m.

    As a gerontologist who has spent my career working in the agency world, it is exciting to see the focus shift to this audience.  However, the challenge that existed in client conversations ten years ago still remains:  what factors need to be better understood to market to this audience?  I created my agency BrandMETTLE for this reason: we’re a marketing firm focused on what we call the "Experienced Consumer" helping brands authentically engage with this consumer group.  

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