Just a number: Four ways marketers can tackle the concept of age

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Age is a difficult concept for marketers to build strategies on. Several studies have shown that age can very much be an issue of perception, and that it’s often viewed differently across different generations.

As the idea of age becomes more and more complex, businesses need to look into what their consumers are thinking in order to forge a strong connection with them. Here’s what your brand can consider when tackling age in messaging, according to McCann Worldgroup’s study, “The Truth About Age”.

1. Start young.

McCann’s study found that people in their 20s and 30s thought about aging more often than those aged 40 and above. On a slightly grimmer note, they also found that this group is also very anxious about dying alone, moreso than their older counterparts.

With most of the messaging targeted towards the younger demographic not discussing this prevalent worry, marketers would do good to bridge the gap through their messaging. McCann’s study suggests opening up and normalizing these discussions, doing so in a realistic but optimistic manner.

2. Celebrate the gains.

Messaging tends to emphasize the “losses” that the older demographic are experiencing, such as reduced physical abilities and the onset of retirement. But this demographic actually attests to their lives getting richer and happier over time, even saying that they’ve become more liberal, spiritual, and idealistic. They’ve also found a way to “hack” retirement, enjoying both leisure and work instead of focusing on stagnancy.

“I don’t think of retirement [as] stopping to work completely, because we like what we do,” said a Filipino study respondent in her 50s. “We will continue to work because we want to feel we are still completely useful.”

Thus, the challenge is for marketers to develop a new lexicon and imagery that emphasizes other gains for each age group. Keywords like “retirement” and “empty nest” must be reconsidered.

3. Go beyond the number.

Since every age group was found to think about aging in some way, it’s safe to say that traditional age segmentation isn’t as reliable as it used to be. Therefore, it’s time to think outside the box when it comes to the demographics that your brand chooses to target.

For instance, McCann devised a new segmentation that clusters according to attitude rather than numerical age:

  • Ageless adventurers: “Aging is a journey of limitless opportunities and personal growth.”
  • Communal caretakers: “Aging is a time of engaging with community and enriching personal relationships.”
  • Actualizing adults: “Aging is a process of maturity and acquisition of adult responsibilities.”
  • Future fearers: “Aging is a time of anxiety and uncertainty due to risks associated with old age.”
  • Youth chasers: “Aging is a decline and loss of their youth and vitality.”

4. Promote intergenerational connections.

The idea of “healthy aging” is defined differently in various cultures. Chileans see it as staying happy and positive, while the Japanese put a premium on getting enough sleep.

But the study found that the importance of connecting with different generations is consistent across the surveyed market. When asked to envision how they see a world where people age positively, the theme of intergenerational connection was prevalent as well.

Marketers can utilize this by launching efforts that will encourage generations to interact and connect with each other, helping foster a positive culture whose effects will permeate through the years.