There are many reasons for companies to target 50+ consumers with their advertising. The most obvious is that they control more than 75% of our nation’s wealth. And they are spending that wealth, outpacing other generations in nearly every buying category.
With more people working longer, the argument that targeting younger generations because of future growth no longer applies. Even if Boomers work less, we’re still talking about a starting point of $2.4 trillion in annual income. That is not likely to diminish significantly enough to make this demographic less critical to businesses anytime soon.
Yet too many businesses and media seem to be stuck in the idea that they can’t or shouldn’t target this demographic unless they are advertising only to this demographic, such as ads for second mortgages or retirement services. The belief seems to be that for products and services that appeal to multiple generations, ads should target the young.
We see the young faces everywhere in advertising, with the clear message that youth is not only what we all aspire to but that the young are the primary consumer. The facts certainly don’t line up with the latter, and even the former is an assumption that, when put to the test, falls short.
Take, for example, the Dos Equis advertisements featuring The Most Interesting Man in the World, with an actor in his seventies that all ages find appealing and aspirational.
Even if it’s true that we are a youth-obsessed culture (and I don’t argue this), it does not follow that youth is the only thing we aspire to. It doesn’t follow that targeting our advertising (and our media as a whole) to 50-plussers means we are not also targeting other generations. This idea is based on the artificial differences between generations that our culture fosters.
Businesses should be looking for the common ground, the common aspirations of all ages, and not be afraid of showing 50+ women and men embodying what people of all ages aspire to—wisdom, experience, confidence, strong relationships, freedom in our work and lifestyle, and so on. A first step is simply to show multiple generations together in advertisements that typically show groups of young people without having to call attention to the older actors and models being grandparents or retirees.
Businesses spend too much time targeting stereotypes of what people have wanted in the past. Visionary businesses create not only what people want but what we all can aspire to.
Featured image by Flickr user Amy the Nurse.