February 19, 2021

The Future of Aging: What does it mean for Brand Communications?

by Aalastair Sibley in News

Havas Group Releases Latest Prosumer Report

We release our first Prosumer Report for 2021 this week, focused on “The Future of Aging” to help us better understand the realities of aging in the 21st century. Each year, Havas Group releases a series of research reports, unpacking trends identified by the real trend-setters ie. prosumers. If you are not familiar with the term “prosumer,” they are those of us who are ahead of trends and influence the brand choices and consumption behaviours of others. What they are doing today is what mainstreams consumers will be doing later.

In the age of COVID-19 and global youth-obsession, our report finds society is aging quickly and young people are worrying about what the future holds. While baby boomers still wield enormous economic, political and cultural power, it is unclear how long that will last in light of two main tensions influencing their perceptions and behaviours: the realities of aging, and the conflicts with the generations that will replace them.

Why Representation Matters

Now let’s keep in mind that 81% of millennials and 93% of boomers consider that elderly people contribute a good deal to society and, as the world is aging, a majority of study participants across all age groups resent the fact that brands and the media put pressure on them to remain young forever. In fact, two in three prosumers would like to see more people aged 65 and older in advertising and media. So it appears that older consumers would respond better to what they see when Jane Fonda is an ambassador to Uncle Bud’s skincare products than to Natalie Portman’s latest ad for Dior.

Speaking of using public figures from older generations as brand ambassadors, 56% of prosumers also wish brands would focus less on youth and more on people who are middle-aged or older. These respondents, aged 55 and older, want brands to stop stereotyping them because of their age and expect their favourite brands to adapt their products and services to suit them as they grow older. In a word, they want product and services to be tailored to aging customers while their marketing is non-age specific.

Bridging the Gap

Now when it comes to tensions between generations, these conflicts encompass multiple causes. There’s the fact that young people are drenched in financial worry or the growing gap between young and old when it comes to the use of new technologies like apps and social media. Only 17% of internet users globally are aged 55 and older. There are cultural and ideological ruptures as well within these generational tensions. However, 91% of Prosumers believe that society benefits when intergenerational bonds are strong. In fact, we are missing out on the wisdom of our elders when dialogue and cooperation between age groups is key. Brands need to make more efforts to bridge the divide by:

  • Finding ways to create products and services that target aging populations while marketing them in a way that doesn’t put consumers in age-related boxes
  • Being aware that the population is aging, and that consumers want brands they love to age subtly with them
  • Changing the narrative to celebrate aging, not shaming it
  • Always having inclusivity in mind for products and messaging

Ultimately, we live in a youth-obsessed society that is growing older by the minute. And while the baby boomer generation has sold much of the world on the notion that age is a mindset, physical realities get in the way for most people over time—curtailing their independence and limiting the scope of their activities. What is your view?

We released this report in collaboration with Market Probe International as part of a series of thought leadership publications on Prosumers and how they influence brand choices and consumption behaviours of others. This year’s prosumer study surveyed 12,521 people in 28 countries and territories.

Read the full report here.