“Between 2010 and 2040, Malaysians aged 65 years and above are projected to increase more than three folds of the 2010 population. The increase will lead Malaysia to become an ageing population in 2021 when the population aged 65 years and over reach 7.1%”: National Statistics Department ( excerpted from the Malaymail online Feb 27, 2014 and The Star online from their story “A growing and aging populace” July 2013).
But that’s only looking at those aged 65 and above. What about those aged 50 and above today? In the UK, over-50s will account for 50% of the population in 2020 and they already control 79% of disposable wealth. Stefano Hatfield asks a pertinent question which well applies to Malaysia too. He writes:
I turned 50 last month, and no more know how I got there than how I should feel. I’m anticipating the crisis to kick in, the hair to go grey, the physical slowdown to start, new technology to become unfathomable and Viagra to be on the shopping list.
I’m also waiting for advertisers to talk to me; target me in a look and tone that is aspirational. It looks like being a long wait, even though by 2020, 50% of the population will be over the age of 50, and we already control 79% of UK disposable wealth. According to The 50+ Project, a recent survey by High50.com, a lifestyle brand for 50-somethings for which I am editor, an incredible 96% of those aged 50 and over do not believe that advertising is aimed at us at all. Only 11% believe that brands target us.
Of course, there are exceptions. John Lewis, the BBC and Waitrose are among those that regularly top the polls of those that talk to contemporary 50+ well – in the way that M&S once did too. And you can also see that brands as varied as Louis Vuitton, L’Oreal and and NARS cosmetics are trying.
But, what most of the advertising industry, in particular, and the media generally have failed to notice is that today’s 50 is not our parents’ 50. We are not only blessed with greater life expectancy (currently 79 for men and 82 for women), but are healthier, wealthier, more energetic, and entrepreneurial than any previous similar age-group.
Could this be because only 5.6% of the UK advertising industry is 50+? Or, could it be that they cling on to two outmoded marketing truths: that you have to acquire consumers young to keep them for life; and to attract them you have to market to our younger sense of self. Now, you can hook people to your brand aged 50, and have them as consumers for decades to come.
The former concept has been smashed by the digital economy, which helped enable 1.2 million Britons to switch banks last year. The latter is turned on its head by today’s 50 being represented by Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Lenny Kravitz, Elle Macpherson, Yasmin Le Bon and Sandra Bullock. We don’t need Cara Delevingne to make us feel good about buying a brand.
It’s not just celebrities. According to another new research study into Britons aged 50 to 69, called the elastic generation by the JWT ad agency, people feel no different at 50 or even 60 today. More than a million of us say we are on the lookout for a new romance; just under a quarter claim our sex lives have never been better. Travel is our number one aspiration. We take an average of 3.4 holidays per year, and two thirds of us book those trips online.
We’re digitally savvy elsewhere too. And when we’re online, 70% regularly price compare, despite the faux surprise: “You use WhatsApp? Really? You have Snapchat?” It’s well documented that tablet sales are being fuelled by 50+, also the group driving of Facebook and Skype users.
The attitude is nearly as patronising as: “Oh you look great – for your age!” It’s hardly surprising when the media industry is so youth-focused and obsessed. Look at the frequent furore over female presenters like Miriam O’Reilly being booted off our screens, once they pass the dreaded 50. Mariella Frostrup, the High50 brand ambassador, has claimed she lost half her work when she turned 50.
This situation has to change.
The demographic shift and the economics behind it will dictate that. Soon, there will be a host of new brands and products from existing brands that would have never been thought possible, let alone necessary a decade ago. That’s largely because notions of retirement today are different.
Already, we are seeing a huge increase in the level of businesses being set up by mid-life entrepreneurs, particularly women. Faced with the rise in the female pension age and a hostile job market, this may be because they have little choice.
Society will begin to shift its perspective. There will be more 50+ intern schemes, more back to work initiatives for over-50s. The image libraries may stop lumping 51 and 75-year-olds together as silver surfers, and we may all get our heads around the notion that we have to provide for our parents and even our grandparents’ care.
The elastic generation knows it has to deal with all of this and the brutal reality that our dependent children will have no money for years to come and no longer empty the nest. But, we will cope with it all and more. Fitter and more energetic than any previous 50+ generation in history, we cannot and will not be bent out of shape.
Stefano Hatfield is editor-in-chief of High50. This story is from theguardian.com