Old Facts, Fresh Insights

The business community probably knows quite a lot of facts about this 60-70-80 generation. The broad sweep of our demographics is a visual stalwart of every futurist’s presentation deck. Populist redtops, meanwhile, carry a headline every day about dementia, the victims, the cures, the lifestyle counsels. This month, many a Marketing or Communications Director will attend a scholarly seminar on our national/Western ageing, its consequences for the public purse, for the financing of care, for all those ejected too soon from the career market (with lots left still to give), etc, etc. Such quasi-academic conversations might well drift towards the future of intergenerational frictions and conflicts – over access to skills, revenues, concessions and, of course, political power. The grey hubbub is always in the air, broad outline sort-of-understood.

And some facts are indeed compelling enough to give the medium-range corporate planner (specially in the consumer-facing sectors) much tofu for thought. For example:

·       Already 30% of our workforce is aged over 50.

·       The national median age (ie as many above as below) has risen to over 40.

·       Three-quarters of 65-74 year olds are regular internet users.

·       Some 75% of those aged 65-74 (plus those aged 75+) own their own home (cf only 36% of those aged 25-34).

·       Reaching 65 years, one can reasonably expect to live for another 20 years – more than 50% of which in good health.

·       The average septua now has an income equivalent to 80% of median gross weekly earnings of full-time employees.

(Sources : ONS, EHS, Nationwide, HMG Office for Science 2016/17)

Now, throbbing like a private jet beneath these bald but fascinating facts lies our whole Rinkli Funstaz proposition : that the lives / cultures of seventysomethings (plus those who see this state-of-being on their own personal horizons) are being seriously radicalised. Innovations in how they are approached by both the commercial and political world might be thought to be overdue. For the facts do not just need presenting – the need a good poking in the ribs too.

For this post, let’s briefly consider one specific theme / question…

·       Possibly like those who went before, is Gen-Septua letting itself go, insensitive to the demand to take good care of itself, guzzling like there is, so to speak, no tomorrow?

Well, our own Rinkli Funstaz research tells us that:

It’s now over 40% of those in their 70s who say that they are personally sticking to a regular exercise/fitness regime.

(Likely to rise? Yes – the social/sexual attractiveness market is now just too febrile).

Two thirds of them (more women than men) make sure they eat their five-a-day of fruits/vegetables.

(Likely to rise? Depends on shifts /emphases in the prevailing advice – but a more widespread pursuit of better nutrition now inevitable).

Already, one third of women in their 70s never or hardly ever eat red meat these days.

(Likely to rise? Yes – given the favourable publicity which non-meat diets are attracting).

(Source : Rinkli Funstaz Research Programme. ICM. 500 aged 70-80. Spring 2017)

Getting Older, Ageing Smarter

We offer this example to affirm that the 70s is increasingly an age of ever greater self-awareness, of deepening sensitivity to risks (to personal well-being and attractiveness) and consequently of firm lifestyle moderation. In a sense, this very proposition might be thought to have the effect of reducing Third Age exceptionalism, exposing the emergent generation of 70-80 year-olds as owners of basically the same lifestyle agendas as their grandchildren. Yes, there will be those Third Agers who are even more aggressive in their moderation than their younger relatives – rinklifunstadom being a form of elasticated youth – but the mass of them have no particular reason not to learn and enact basic good-lifestyle lessons just as rigorously as any other tribe.

This leads us to some focused thinking about the role of ageing inside commercial discourse ie how brands and their agencies should address it in their promotions and executions. Scanning the annals of advertising standards regulators across the Western world, one readily finds a long inventory of complaints against suppliers of cosmetics, health foods and various devices / procedures, all relating to the promise that their products will stall the ageing process. To this day, use-our-brand-and-you-will-look-less-old remains one of the most potent and most vexed pitch-motifs.

New Communicationisms, Less Verbal Tat

But should we conclude that this is all getting to be as contemporary, useful and appropriate as wolf-whistling or claiming that stout is good for you? Yes. Ageing is, if not entirely welcomed, not the demon it used to be; the term, as still too freely used, implies a kind of nervy embarrassed victimhood. Why would anyone not want to look or seem less old?  

Well, self-definition / self-validation is, all too literally, a grey area now. If I am 75 I can react to ageing by developing knowledge and skill about the changes that it brings – changes which are not necessarily synonymous with decline, not at all. I can have my Freedom Pass and eat it.

The surface point here is this. In many markets (more so than in decades now gone), the striking feature of the age is that the age of the customer may not matter very much – in the sense that discrete, age-segmented marketing may not be required to boost sales, indeed may cannibalise marketing spend. Fashion, for instance, is less age-referencing these days; so is insurance; so is alcohol; so is holiday-making…  (Btw,a clear majority of septuagenarians do NOT regard a holiday cruise as “my idea of fun” – as the RFRP has revealed).

The later, deepening point is that age is mattering in electrifyingly ways. The very term “anti-ageing” is just going to sound wrong and wrongerer into the future. The septuagenarian idiolect will progressively –  in every sense – exclude such language.

Breaking The New Triple Lock

We juxtapose our final thought here. There is no commercial sector which is not currently standing in need of a serious and sustained increase in spend on the part of Gen-Septua and their older cousins.

But the trouble is that there is something of a Triple-Lock at work here. Relatively prosperous older consumer-citizens might well not spend as much as they reasonably could because:

·       They are uncertain about how adequately to finance longer, healthier lives.

·       It is difficult to liquidise financial assets (eg downsizing can be both difficult and expensive to enact).

·       The quality of the promotional approach (aka the marketing, pricing, NPD, innovation…) – from sector to sector, brand to brand – may still be too 20th century, just not rinkli enough.

Even if our society is genuinely becoming a bit more age-blind and our markets a bit less age-segmentable, it is still our new Third Age in particular which is not making the tills ring enough, still not adventurous enough, still insufficiently mobilised or reassured. No supermarket or bank or pub-chain or tour company can break this Triple Lock on its own. But does opportunity lurk in our third point here? You bet.

More RFRP findings / analyses available to them that need them.