Like it or lump it, the pervasive ageism that exists in society makes women over 50 an under-represented — and untapped — consumer demographic.
The over 50s is such a large and growing customer segment, but it’s so misunderstood that it’s being bypassed.
While we all agree it’s rather wonderful to have the likes of Dame Helen or Dame Judi or Dame Julie acknowledged as the national treasures they so deserve to be, why can’t we make it easier for us mere mortals to be acknowledged in shop aisles? Especially when we’re a good two decades younger. Or why don’t enough women look like us in magazines that are supposed to be selling products to us?
Peony Li, Jude’s founder, sums it up. “I think no one likes to be “marketed to”, we all like to be heard,” she said. “Regardless of age.”
The Jude team have done their homework when it comes to their over-50s audience, listening to how your needs haven’t been met.
“As a team collectively, we have done nearly a thousand hours of calls and conversations with our community of women who experience the issue we are aiming to improve,” Peony said.
“From our research, an average 60-year-old British woman tends to feel 21 years younger than their biological age. ‘How young one feels’ is a subjective concept, age, as an identifier, no longer really works when it comes to targeting a hugely diversified demographic. I think the lesson here for me is to never make any uninformed assumptions (due to ignorance or prejudice) about a constantly evolving demographic that is dynamic, full of life and curiosity.
“What really inspires me about this community is that you taught me to never assume. For example, the over-50s care and spend more on environmentally friendly products than any millennial would ever do."
According to research published in April by Kantar, the data analytics and brand consulting company, many marketers target their products and ads under-50s. As a result, they miss out on demographics that often have the most disposable income.
This is despite 65% of consumers saying it’s important to them that they buy from companies that actively promote diversity and inclusion in their own business or society as a whole.
“Where over 50s are featured, there is a tendency to portray them in a way that suggests an old mentality among people who still have a lot of life left in them,” the branding agency concludes. Charming!
However, not all hope is lost. Recent data from Mintel, a trend tracking and consumer analysis firm, shows that 19% of the current UK population is currently over 65, with that percentage expected to rise to 24% by 2041. While the over-55’s are currently often overlooked, the increasing age of the population could make them a “vitally important part of the market heading into the future”.
“Their increased usage of technology, as well as increased health anxieties, could provide potential market opportunities coming out of the pandemic,” the research concludes.
Mintel also calls on companies to engage with, what it so flatteringly dubs “the wider senior population”, to take advantage of “their increased technology and social media usage making them easier to market to”.
Furthermore, it’s a myth universally acknowledged that older consumers are loyal to the brands they like and are not open to trying new things.
A recent survey conducted by Age of Majority, experts in marketing to older demographics, found that more than half (52%) of over-55’s indicated that they are open to switching brands and trying new things.
The over-50s are living longer and growing richer, yet they continue to be neglected by advertisers.
It sounds crazy, but the over-50s want - just like everyone else - to feel empowered and respected, not talked down to. Yet sadly, much of the advertising they see does just that.
Millennial and Gen Z briefs dominate the marketing and advertising landscape, meaning that campaigns or products that engage older people don’t get nearly as much air time.
It’s no secret that gender-based ageism is rife in the fashion and beauty industries and that brands have always been focused on youth.
But there are some who are insistent on bucking the trend. In 2019, L'Oréal Paris collaborated with British Vogue magazine to create a special issue that saw then 81-year-old Jane Fonda as its cover star. The Non-Issue, as it was called, featured 80 pages of fashion and editorial content entirely made by and dedicated to women over 50. The issue attracted over 40,000 new readers to the magazine.
Dove’s much-heralded Real Beauty campaign - launched over a decade ago - to target older women has continued to challenge the industry’s definition of beauty and stigma around ageing, featuring real women as their poster girls.
With its recent launch of ‘Brands at M&S’, Marks and Spencer’s exclusive collaborations and capsule collections with labels such as Ghost, Finery London, Hobbs and Nobody’s Child, have that rare appeal of appealing to a range of age demographics - aka marketing fairy dust. The company recently revealed that nearly 10% of customers who purchased something from the Nobody’s Child capsule collection (the first brand to launch last Autumn) were new to M&S womenswear.
High-end fashion brands and car manufacturers — such as Chanel and Porsche — are also usually spot on when it comes to knowing their client base. However, when it comes to the lower value consumer goods and brand innovation (which is usually prioritised last by big conglomerates) “they are definitely late to the party,” Peony said.
Type ‘over 50s’ into Google images and you’ll see silver-haired pensioners cradling a cuppa, an old dear enjoying some water aerobics, and many photos that link back to the Age UK website.
Did you also know that Julia Roberts (53), Jennifer Anniston (52), Jennifer Lopez (52), Nicole Kidman (54), Cate Blanchett (52), Nigella Lawson (61), Helena Bonham Carter (55), Cher (75), Madonna (63), Julianne Moore (60), Dianne Abbot MP (68), Theresa May MP (65), and Hilary Mantel (69), are all in this age-bracket, yet are not instantly synonymous with it?
Middle-aged women are an untapped consumer group, and ageism within the marketing industry only serves to add to their erasure from public life. It’s the reason why we don’t see people who look like us in fashion and beauty campaigns, even though they’re trying to sell products to us.