Ashton Applewhite, the celebrated NY based author and the self-described “pro-aging radical” has defined ageism as something that “occurs when a dominant group uses its power to oppress or exploit or silence or simply ignore people who are much older or significantly younger. We experience ageism any time someone assumes we’re ‘too old’ for something-a-task, a relationship, a haircut-instead of finding out who we are and what we’re capable of.” In her powerful ‘Lets End Ageism’ talk at TED2017, Applewhite went on to say, “All prejudice relies on ‘othering’ — seeing a group of people as other than ourselves: other race, other religion, other nationality. The strange thing about ageism: That other is us.”
For women over 50, it will come as no surprise that when it comes to the advertising and media sectors, this is a largely overlooked demographic. Once you realise some startling facts, you may be left scratching your head as to why this is a reality.
For example, Forbes has called women over 50 “super consumers,” because, with “over $15 trillion in purchasing power, women over 50 are the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation in history.” Forbes cites data from the U.S. Government Consumer Expenditure Survey and Nielsen that shows 50-plus women are the largest demographic with incomes over $100,000; they control 95 percent of household purchasing decisions and 80 percent of luxury travel purchases.
Smart brands appear to be noticing and paying attention – and for good reason. That’s a huge slice of the consumer pie!
According to Poshly.com, a website that tracks beauty consumer insights, 64 percent of women over 50 have jumped on board with the latest contouring trend, up 27 percent from the three years prior. According to Nielsen research, 54 percent of women over the age of 45 purchase cosmetics, compared with only 33 percent of women under 45. Perhaps the most important piece of that research was that 75 percent of older women say they are willing to pay more for quality and convenience. A third are also willing to upgrade to a new car model even if their current one works “well enough.” The same data shows that 82 percent of women in this demographic are open to new brands.
Savvy brands are moving towards pro-ageing rather than anti-ageing messaging, using models that are more inclusive and diverse.
If you need further proof, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign captured the attention of the media as well as women 50 years old and older. This campaign, which featured women of all shapes and sizes in their underwear, increased Dove’s sales by a whopping 700 percent in its first four months and gained media coverage in more than 800 publications. Unilever, the company behind Dove then launched their Pro-Age line of personal care products. Dove research revealed that 97 percent of the women it surveyed said society is less accepting of appearance considerations for women over 50 years old than their younger counterparts, with showcasing one’s body the least acceptable. 91 percent said media and ad companies need to do a better job of representing realistic images of women over 50. 79 percent said they wished a woman could be considered beautiful even if she is not physically perfect.
Perhaps what the advertising and media industries may have failed to notice is that ageing now is so different from the generation before us. Women over 50 in 2022 tend to be tech savvy, embracing new platforms such as podcasts and social media sites, including TikTok and Instagram. They are craving more realistic representation of women over 50 in media, TV, and film. Women in this age demographic are wealthier, more energetic, and entrepreneurial than any previous similar age-group. The adage that brands should focus only on young consumers seems to be outmoded. Given people are living longer than former generations (currently 79 for men and 82 for women), the fact remains that if brands garnish loyalty from women from the age of 50, they are likely to keep them as consumers for decades.
Ignoring women over 50 when thinking about brand strategies means companies are missing out on a large group of consumers who would absolutely reward those brands for authentic acknowledgment with both their money and loyalty. Now, that’s food for thought.