Founded Blog, Founded Thinking | March 6, 2019

Middle aged ‘til I die – the event

By Ellie Bissett, Account Manager

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After more than 100 hours of ethnographic research, expert interviews trend analysis and report writing, we finally held our Middle Aged Til’ I Die event – a panel session and debate – at the Ivy Club, London.

The breakfast event was attended by an audience of over 50 marketers from a diverse range of sectors including wealth management, automotive, healthcare, beauty and retail.

It was important for us to paint a realistic picture of today’s 50 and 60-somethings and to show that extended middle age today is presenting very different challenges and opportunities than it did for previous generations.

Our panel debate was hosted by Radio 4 presenter John Wilson, who had some great conversations with our panellists, deep diving into the ways in which traditional 50+ marketing practice risks talking to 24 million people as if they are one heterogeneous group.

Our panel was made up of Rebecca Valentine, owner of The Grey Agency, the UK’s only model agency for beautifully ageing models; Rob Scott, Vice President of Brand & Product Development at P&O Cruises; Suzanne Moore, award-winning columnist at The Guardian; Brad May, CMO of Staysure Travel Insurance; Robert Cavanah, stage and screen actor, writer and director; and Maria McHugh Founded’s Planning Partner.

“You would never use an under-50s approach in marketing, so why take an over-50s approach?” asked Brad May. Where previous advertising for Staysure medical travel insurance was built around a literal age-based insight and held a mirror up to its elderly customers’ health problems, the new campaign aims to appeal more broadly to anyone with a medical condition who wants to feel confident that they have a policy that is tailormade to their specific needs. The campaign uses a spokesman in his mid-50s who espouses the brand’s ‘Worth Doing Right’ ethos and is succeeding in attracting newcomers to the brand who are in their 40s and 50s, as well as increasing penetration among the brand’s heartland of those in their 60s.

Rob Scott was thinking very much along the same lines and talked passionately about P&O Cruises’ need to evolve, as it seeks to broaden its market. He went on to explain the practical challenges of managing the evolution of the brand to attract newcomers in their 50s in a way that doesn’t alienate older existing guests. Segmentation will become ever more important as they look to align their ships to different guests’ needs and wants.

Rebecca Valentine talked about the use of more mature talent in advertising campaigns. She described the danger of tokenism, with brands treating older models and actors as if they are another minority that needs to be featured for diversity reasons, rather than because they are aspirational in their own right. “There is no longer a justification for a bridge between youth and older age, and people should be celebrated for who they are.”

Suzanne Moore, felt that there seems to be an assumption by marketers that people don’t want to accept the age they are, and so the real picture is hardly ever shown. She strongly believes it would be much more beneficial for brands to show some truth in their advertising, rather than an idolised view. Where the arts and broader culture do this, her view is that advertising is still too timid.

Robert Cavanah, an impassioned observer of how this demographic is spoken to in advertising, talked about how he sees “middle-aged men” in the adverts on TV and “doesn’t recognise himself in them”. “Advertising should help you inhabit your own identity, not tell you what to like, wear or buy by much younger people.”

The panellists concluded that if today’s brands are looking to tell stories that truly engage their consumers, then why aren’t they recognising that the best stories come with age and life experience? The irony is that social media is empowering younger generations to tell their stories, but they don’t actually have any real stories to tell! Brands are leaving money on the table, and kudos, by failing to align with this audience.

Get in touch if you want to learn more about Founded’s study and how we can help you make your brand more relevant to today’s extended middle-agers.