A few years back JWT Intelligence published an interesting report called The Elastic Generation to describe a misunderstood group of Brits in their 50s and 60s that were not getting enough attention from brands. It made complete sense. A combination of increased longevity, financial affluence, and a downright refusal to grow old the way their parents did, singled out this group “as a force to be reckoned with”.
This year though (and in keeping with cultural trends), the report was refreshed to put the spotlight on women – looking at what’s happening as they hit their 50s, 60s and 70s, realizing that they might have decades of life remaining! Here’s some highlights from the study:
- Almost two-thirds of the female panel say they are enjoying life more than ever
- Eight out of ten say they care less now what others think of them than they did in their younger years
- 68% say they are more outspoken than they used to be
- They are active, engaged and involved: pillars of family, community and society
- They’re packing life to the fullest, not slowing down or withdrawing
But despite these vibrant findings, more than half of the women they polled feel that their age now makes them invisible to society. We’ve cautioned about the dangers of applying broad stereotypes, and the common (and frankly outdated) narrative around aging that assumes those over 50 to be on their way to infirmity. Age no longer dictates how a person lives. Physical capacity, financial circumstances and mindset arguably have far greater influence. And there’s no fixed pattern for how any of us grows older.
As a marketer, any trip to LinkedIn these days will likely reveal a newsfeed flooded by trends reports about all things millennials. While that’s well and good, there’s a new power consumer to be found in these ‘Elastic Women.’ Hitachi Capital UK and CEBR research have revealed that those over 50 now account for more than half of consumer spending in the UK, shelling out £376 billion on discretionary items in 2015 and accounting for more than 6% of GDP. Compared to those under 50, the report says, spending among the older age group has grown three times faster over the past decade, driven in part by greater life expectancy and labor market participation.
For brands that see an opportunity in this shift it will be important to build a strategy with these six insights in mind:
1. Realize that women over 50 are critically important customers. Instead of playing down to them, tailor your experience to what they actually want and how they want to be treated.
2. Don’t assume women over 50 are married or wish they were. Instead, focus on empowerment and independence, making it easy to enjoy brand experiences solo without excessive penalties for going alone.
3. Acknowledge that style is ageless, but bodies are not. Flip the narrative on trying to ‘recapture lost youth’ to one that celebrates the wisdom and self-awareness that comes with age, with designs that match. Just take a look at what they’re doing at Hope Fashion, who’s CEO Nayna McIntosh says, “When you have imagery with real women, quite often the fashion press are not interested in that because that’s not really what they see as fashion and yet my customers love it.”
4. Don’t be afraid to tackle wellness taboos by having real, honest conversations. There’s significant untapped potential to address things like menopause, sexuality, and a growing number of older mothers who, through techniques like IVF, egg donation and egg freezing, can have children into their 40s.
5. Being healthy and fit is a top priority for this group, so leisure and fitness brands should do more to include them. Sport England launched a campaign called This Girl Can to tackle age and difficult life situations. Humana supports the National Senior Games in the US, and Gap’s Athelta brand thinks carefully about the needs of older women, designing for bodies of all types and vowing not to photoshop any of their models.
6. Look at your workforce. Many women want to continue to work well into their 70s or return to work after taking some time to raise their children. O2’s Career Returners program was launched in 2016 is a mentorship and training program for workers that want to restart their career after a gap of two or more years. This is a model for many brands to follow where both sides win bringing different ages together.
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