Lean In Or Luck Out: Why Brands Need To Appeal To America's Over-50s

Gen Z is the go-to target audience for many brands, deemed digitally and culturally savvy. Some brands have transformed their identities, product lines and values to keep up with this beloved generation. But they’re not the only powerful collective in the digital age.

All consumers have adapted to the digital way of life, adopted social media profiles to interact with loved ones, influencers and brands, and watch content via their screens. And yet Gen Z is the demographic in the limelight -- despite only making up 20% of the U.S. population and having the lowest average net worth of all the generations.

There is another engaged and growing demographic that’s ready to purchase products from automotive to technology, clothing to household appliances. Disregarded by brands out of fear of becoming “irrelevant” by association, they are the over 50s.

Viewed often as a homogenous collective, the over-50s are an amalgamation of three generations -- Gen X, baby boomers and the Silent Generation -- each at different life stages, with lifestyles and experiences too myriad to be lumped together. But they do share the freedom from the tyranny of trying to get onto the housing ladder and often have the time to do and spend as they please. The brands ignoring this collective are too influenced by the global cultural mindset thatthe over-50s don’t have a voice -- or power -- past “a certain age.”



Reported by the ANA as making up 35% of the population and 53% of consumer expenditure, this wealthy and loyal consumer base provides a ream of experience, opinions and funds benefiting brands that target them.

Some brands do this well – namely, the luxury sector.

Rolex acknowledges that people who can purchase its products already have established wealth. Its recent partnership with the Academy Awards saw Rolex celebrate the excellence of the silver screen, not with the fresh faces on billboards but the living legends behind it such as Martin Scorsese and James Cameron.

Similarly, in an industry notoriously obsessed with youth, L’Oreal’s Age Perfect range is designed for mature women, enlisting celebrity spokespeople like Helen Mirren to represent the brand, and collaborating with Vogue for a special edition showcasing the beauty of ageing. Not only does the brand appeal to women over 50, but these campaigns tell all consumers that when they inevitably age, L’Oreal will cater to them.

How you approach the 50-plus cohort matters. They have brand experience, they know what they like and dislike, but that doesn’t mean they’re stuck in their ways. The AARP in fact reports that 62% of older consumers would consider switching to a brand that they feel accurately represents people their age.

The AARP also reports that over-50s are spending $8.3 trillion a year, a sum expected to increase to $13 trillion by 2030. That spending power needs to be embraced with products and services -- as well as advertising -- that caters to them.

This doesn’t make a brand old by association. Think of Nike celebrating its 50th anniversary with a short film fronted by Spike Lee. It celebrated decades of Nike athletes and consumers who gave the brand notoriety, all while discussing the future of a brand with universal appeal. 

Brands need not be afraid of the over-50s. Engaging thoughtfully with them breeds an informed and respected opinion. It allows brands to reframe a global cultural mindset and champion them as valued consumers – as well as countering ageism.

1 comment about "Lean In Or Luck Out: Why Brands Need To Appeal To America's Over-50s".
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  1. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, December 5, 2023 at 7:24 p.m.

    This essay makes excellent points that are supported by good data. The over 50 segment may be ignored because many, if not most, marketing positions are filled by much younger people, who may be unable to relate to and understand the over 50 consumers. 

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