Ageism...kills trust in marketing

Discriminating by age, ageism, kills trust of your brand.

Ageism is defined as age-based segmentation/discrimination. It refers to prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age.  It used to refer to the elderly. But today, the term has come to mean any age-specific group used for targeting or…avoiding.

World Health Organization (WHO)

The WHO has a lot to share about ageism and its impact on cultures.  It's not all pretty. Culture is dependent on how people within that culture interact and connect. When you ignore or stereotype one segment, society suffers.

In Western culture, getting older is something that has been falsely labeled as a negative thing.  This despite a large number of celebrities and actors who defy cultural stigmatisms. They continue to draw massive crowds and perform/act regardless of their age. 

This is the segment of the population with the largest buying power…yet it is often ignored.

Ageism is stereotyping.

It is a form of prejudice and discrimination against people solely on the basis of their age.

Unfortunately, ageism is widespread and an insidious practice that has harmful effects on the health of older adults and the society they live in. For older people, ageism is an everyday challenge.

Overlooked for employment, restricted from social services and stereotyped in the media, ageism shoves them into corners and excludes older people in their communities.

Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice internationally. Sadly, it is not widely countered – like racism or sexism.

Ageism attitudes lead to the segmenting and marginalizing older people within our communities.  It has negative impacts on their health and well-being.

Here are some facts you may not know…

  • Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world's population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22%.  In 2015 – 900 million. By 2050 – 2 billion.
  • By 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years.
  • The pace of population aging is much faster than in the past. – We’re living longer.
  • All countries face major challenges to ensure that their health and social systems are ready to make the most of this demographic shift.
  • Older people are not necessarily frail or dependent. Many people don’t want to quit work and remain in the workforce until their 70s or beyond.

Ageism is fraught with misconceptions…

 Just as there is no typical child or 20-year old, there is no typical person over 50.

Some may require extensive care and support. Many others retain the physical and mental capacity of people in their 20s. In fact, only a small proportion of the elderly are dependent on others for their care. 

Research in the UK revealed that in 2011 the contributions of older people made through taxes and spending contributed nearly GBP 40 billion more than government expenses on pensions, welfare and health care combined.

By 2030 that figure is expected to rise to 77 billion. Ignore the person who has the money and wants to buy, at your peril.

Abolish designated retirement ages

The notion that a person should retire at a certain age due to diminished productivity has proven false.  It is not a reliable indicator.

If you are laid-off or considered “redundant,” it can be hard to get another job. This is true in many countries including the US and UK.  These dated practices should be abolished.

The unanswered question is ageism's impact on sales lost with age-based demographic marketing. Marketing Week tackled this issue in a recent article. 

Marketing Week reports…

The gold standard of age and gender as marketing guides are losing popularity. The increased volume of data on customers means companies can evaluate much more.

Consumer behavior, attitudes, and life view-points are there for the observing.

Targeting specific life phases like new moms, new home buyers or those seeking a luxury sports car are not age-dependent. And they are more reliable in generating sales.

Other companies call their segmenting “tribes” referring to interests in common or passions. Segmenting and targeting each different segment of a tribe led to a sharp increase in sales.

Behaviors win over ageism...

In a Marketing Week survey of over 800 marketers, behavior (91%) was the new number one choice for targeting,  with location and age in positions two and three. 

There has been a significant rise in the interest in behavior over the past 5 years. Marketing Week reported in another article on ageism, the impact on brands. They show that brands risk the loss of sales, and erosion of their brand if they define those over 50 by age alone. 

This segment has much greater spending power than millennials. A lot of sales are missed.


Frequently marketers use much younger or older actors to target a group, but it can backfire.

Consider that those over 50 are often portrayed as someone in dire need of a funeral plan. Reality couldn’t be farther from the truth.  They are vital active people with busy lives, hobbies, and interests.

The UK, Office for National Statistics reported there are over 23 million people over the age of 50. That is the third of the population with the highest level of disposable income. 

Did you know men over the age of 75 buy five times as many cars as those aged 18-24?  Someone is missing a lot of potential profit by misrepresenting them or completely ignoring them.

Your marketing affects how they think of you.

It’s important to keep in mind that ignoring a market segment based on age influences how they think of you. Poor targeting can lead to their disliking you. Why? Because your attitudes toward them. 

They feel under-represented or misrepresented in advertising and it is a big brand turn-off.

Modern technology has leveled the playing field. Anyone can use technology.  There's no age discrimination except by individual choice. It’s a huge mistake to think that because someone is a specific age it will impact the type of social media that they use.

Ageism... last thoughts

One last thought…

Studies by Gransnet and Mumsnet Research showed a gap in the marketing team. 88% felt there needed to be a broader age mix. They want better representation.

Brands that want to survive and thrive will need to rethink their marketing and segmenting for maximum effectiveness and profits.

Need help with your psychographics? We can enhance your profits. Contact me: [email protected].

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