The Rise of History’s Biggest Untapped Market — It’s Hiding in Plain Sight

In a Nutshell:

In 1787, the average life expectancy was 37. In 1900, it had risen to 47. Now, in 2021, it has skyrocketed to 78. The extra life span that's been conferred on baby boomers has given them the opportunity to chase new pursuits, new loves. Ken Dychtwald of the firm Age Wave advised organizations to eschew some of their ageist preconceptions in order to effectively market to this demographic.

Need more information on this or other topics? As part of your ANA membership, you have access to the Ask the Expert research service for all your pressing marketing challenges. Submit your request here, and a researcher will be in touch to discuss your deliverable.

Words of Wisdom:

"Even though some people like to propose that the new frontier is the next app, the next new tech, the most extraordinary change taking place on planet earth right now is, in fact, the massive explosion in the number and power of older adults."

"Two-thirds of all people who have lived past 65 in the entire history of the world are alive today."
     — Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D, founder of and CEO at Age Wave

Key Takeaways:

Dychtwald shared several observations on the current aging phenomenon.

  • Adopting a distributed life-plan: It was once supposed that people would spend all their time undergoing education in the years leading up to around the age of 20. Then they would dedicate the years until they turned approximately 55 to work and family. Any remaining years after that could be devoted to leisure. Baby boomers are turning that thinking on its head, as they look to distribute periods of time dedicated to work, education, and leisure throughout their lives.
  • Debunking myths about wealth: It's a misconception that people in their senior years have little money. Actually, consumers 50 and older control 79 percent of total net worth in the U.S. What's more, their purchases represent 51 percent of all groceries bought, 52 percent of all adult apparel bought, 52 percent of all personal care products bought, and 56 percent of all travel expenditures.
  • Surmounting prejudices: To effectively market to older adults, it's critical to eschew ageism and not disregard or ignore this group.

Action Steps:

  • Target life-stage and lifestyle, not age: Consider whether the members of your audience are grandparents or newlyweds. Are they just starting a new job? Have they stopped working? Do they enjoy reading, skiing, etc.?
  • Use generational anchors: To appeal to an age group, use actors, heroes, and music that they grew up with.
  • Be aspirational instead of highlighting desperation: Don't focus on an age group's shortcomings with messages like, "I've fallen, and I can't get up."
  • Show respect: Laugh with, not at, an age group.
  • Be inclusive with respect to age and focus on universal interests whenever possible: Highlight things that could appeal to people in their 20s, 40s, or 60s all at the same time.

"The Rise of History's Biggest Untapped Market — It's Hiding in Plain Sight." Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D, Founder of and CEO at Age Wave. 2021 ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference, 10/26/21.

You must be logged in to submit a comment.