There are now more adults over the age of 40 than children under 18 for the first time in human history — they’re the new consumer majority.
Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN

Around 10,000 boomers today are turning 65; by 2029, all boomers will be 65 or older – that milestone’s seven years away. 

Historically, the boomers have always been the largest generation in the US. That changed two years ago when the Millennials became the largest generation.

Marketers need to be aware of this demographic shift because there are now more adults over 40 than children under 18 for the first time in human history – older adults are the New Consumer Majority. 

Also, adults aged 50 and over control 70% of America’s household disposable income, spending $0.51 on every dollar. But by 2050, they will be spending $0.61 per dollar. 

In total, this group is projected to spend 84 billion annually just on tech products by 2030, and they are projected to contribute over 26 trillion to the US economy by 2050. 

These statistics speak to the spending power that marketers may not be fully tapping into. Business as usual will need to change – which is a good thing if you want to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace and a shifting media environment.

What do you need to know about this demographic shift? Tune in to This Is Getting Old: Moving Towards An Age-Friendly World to learn more.

Key points covered in this episode: 

✔️ Older Adult’s Spending Power 

Adults aged 50 and over control 70% of America’s household disposable income, spending $0.51 on every dollar. But by 2050, they will be spending $0.61 per dollar. 

In total, this group is projected to spend 84 billion annually just on tech products by 2030, and they are projected to contribute over 26 trillion to the US economy by 2050.

✔️ Why Ageism Awareness Matters in Marketing

Baby Boomers are leading the way in reinventing the concept of older age – they aren’t accepting what has generally been a negative connotation about aging. Marketers who learn how to translate the new concept of older age have the opportunity to develop actionable advertising, promotion, public relations, and social media strategies that will have profitable results.

✔️ What’s The Problem With Current Marketing Strategies?

The problem is that most current media marketing strategies aren’t keeping up with most portrayals of this group. Either their images aren’t included, or the messages are not around healthy aging or aging well – which most Americans over 40 are doing. 

The majority of older adults are living at home, they’re managing their own lives, and they’re not dependent on others. The media often shows negative portrayals of growing old, basically equating aging with decline rather than healthy aging or aging well.

✔️But Wait, There’s More – IMPLICIT BIAS + PERSONAL BELIEFS ABOUT AGING.

AGEISM is stereotypes (how we think), prejudices (how we feel), and discrimination (how we act) about aging. This can be institutional, interpersonal, or self-directed.

Ageist beliefs can impact marketing teams and the strategies used, mainly when most marking team members are under 40 themselves. The team’s beliefs about aging can impact the language and tagline wording used. 

And the images used – do they use images or videos that show older adults as frail and debilitated? Or active, engaged members of society? 

AARP recently did a study that found that while adults 50+ make up 46% of the US population, they only account for only 15% of images containing adults These decisions can be influenced by the personal beliefs of the marketing team.

✔️ What Should We Change? 

All industries need to pay attention to the 40-plus if they want to maximize revenue. However, as a marketing team, your messaging matters. Being aware of ageism will help you effectively develop a marketing campaign for the new consumer majority. 

Marketers who learn how to translate this new concept of older age are going to have the opportunity to develop actionable advertising, promotion, public relations, and social media strategies that will have profitable results. 

✔️ How To Make Age-Friendly Marketing Campaigns

Here are some research-based tips and techniques to make your marketing campaigns effective for older adults:

  • Older Adults Should Not Be Treated As Or Viewed As A Specific Demographic

Marketing to older adults is going to demand a new kind of thinking and an alternative set of strategies. Any time you market to an age demographic is known as age-based marketing, and it’s generally exclusive. A better approach is ageless or age-inclusive marketing, essentially as a way of marketing that includes people of all ages. 

  • Correct Myths And Misconceptions About Older Adults 

Thinking that older adults aren’t steaming, engaged with social media, or gaming is a negative stereotype and simply is not true. When we look at the numbers:

  • 69% use social media
  • 45% of Baby Boomers stream TV 
  • 56% listen to audio programming regularly
  • Older adults spend 10 hours a week on social media
  • Nearly 60% of older adults use YouTube
  • Over 40% of older adults use online or mobile gaming regularly
  • Older adults spend 10% more time gaming daily than on social media.  
  •  Avoid Marketing That Misses The Bullseye

Avoid messaging focused on how the product or service aids a person in daily living rather than how it enhances life Also, refrain from ads designed from the perspective of the caregiver rather than the older adult.

  •  Use Titles That Reflect Older Adults’ Life Role

Words like “senior citizen” and “elderly” are shown to increase negative stereotypes by 7% compared to using role-based words and using words like older people or older adults So rather than using othering labels like senior citizen or the elderly, use titles that reflect their life role – grandparents, community members, teachers, volunteers.

  •  Make Sure That Your Images Are Intergenerational – Focus On Experiences 

Many older adults consider themselves a “work in progress,” and they’re open to new experiences. Older adults want to learn new things, which should not be underestimated. They’re checking something off their bucket list.

  •  Invest In – And Market To – The Grandparent Economy

It’s no secret that many grandparents dote on their grandchildren, but you may not know that it was actually to the tune of about $179 billion annually. 80% of grandparents say that their grandchildren are a top priority. 

One example of an industry that has tapped into this into the grandparents’ economy is the travel industry. They have come up with a new term called “glamping” – grandparents and grandchildren taking bonding trips while leaving their parents at home.

  •  Understand Generational Buying Criteria

Sell the product for what it will do for older adults and explain why they should want to use your product or service over the competition. 

  •  Design Personalized Consumer Interactions That Are Easy For The Customer

Make sure that your website, apps, and anything that requires you to click on the fine print is simple. 

  •  Prioritize Customer Service

Make sure that your phones are answered for any questions someone may have. Good quality customer service has always been personal. 

  •  Use Multi-Channel Marketing

The number of older adults that have smartphones is increasing, so marketers should use digital marketing, social media, print, and mailing strategies. You want to target the 40 plus, both online and offline. 

  •  Use Relatable Language

Don’t use a lot of teenage jargon, trendy language, or internet slang. Older adults just want to know how your product or service will improve their lives. 

✔️ What Age-Friendly Marketing Should Be?

? Chevrolet’s EV Car Commercial

Chevrolet has a brand new commercial for EV cars. The images used in the commercial covered race and gender very well. The ad also included a lot of older adults, which were usually left out. More notably, the tagline was “EV Cars for Everybody, Everywhere.”

The reason this commercial’s ageless is because the images were intergenerational. The experience of sitting in the car is an experience that all generations have and enjoy and expresses the shared value of thought and happiness. The words used in the commercial— “everybody” and “everywhere”– were inclusive.

? Marriot’s “Travel Makes Us” Campaign

Another example is Marriot’s “Travel Makes Us” campaign. The commercial taps into the core values such as time with family, happiness, and love of travel. The marketing ads include intergenerational images, and the language used is inclusive, age-blind, and value-based.

✔️ Where To Find Help With Developing Effective Age-Friendly Marketing Campaigns?

If you or your marketing team are interested in learning more or having a deeper conversation about age-friendly marketing campaigns, below are some resources you can check.

  • The best practices for communication are available from the   Reframing Aging Project, and a national reframing institute established earlier this year. 

You could also check your own implicit bias and that of your team through the Implicit Project Quiz that’s available on the Harvard website.

If you have questions, or comments or need help, please feel free to drop a one-minute audio or video clip and email it to me at melissabphd@gmail.com, and I will get back to you by recording an answer to your question. 

More Resources About Memory And Alzheimer’s Disease …

This Is Getting Old has several other episodes about memory and Alzheimer’s. You can check them out below:

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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at MelissaBPhD.com to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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