The Power of Granny and Grandpa

The folders on our desktops are full of documents and blogs about trends, and since a few years ago we’ve seen more and more of them focused on the “ageing population”. We’ve seen so many of these reports that perhaps they have begun to lose their meaning. “Yes, yes, I know, thanks to medicine the population grows ever older, heard it all before, tell me something I don’t know”.

 

Well, if we were to double click on some of these reports, we’d see the oldest sector of the world population is by no means the stereotype we have made them out to be. Our contemporary societies continue to glorify the youth and pigeon hole our seniors as hostile, grumpy, intolerable, weak or sick. Without actively meaning to do so we as companies, as brands, as a societies as whole even, are discarding the importance of this sector prematurely. Even economists have their dependency ratio model, which basically states that prior to the age of 65 you contribute to the economy, and after this age you merely detract from it.

 

However, the power of active minorities as catalysts for new ways of thinking and for change, have been the focus of sociological research for years. Yet whether or not we consider seniors as a minority group, or whether we discriminate against them as marketeers, what can’t be denied is the power of the senior vote and the influence it has had in shaping the world today. Cited as huge factors behind the success of Brexit and Trump’s presidency, they have dispelled the notion that they have no voice quite spectacularly.

 

Whilst they have managed to dismiss the notion that they have no voice, their contribution to these political movements has done little to dispel their billing as burdens to society. The challenge of the older generations then, is to recuperate their forgotten status as accumulators of wisdom, as relics to be cherished, and to transcend their symbols of death and extinction.

 

We are currently witnessing the effects of this intergenerational clash and the attempts from both sides to reconcile the fractured and withered relationship. We are seeing it manifested more and more in different ways: like the insistence from the over 50s for fair hiring, or the growing trend of young people looking to lodge with older housemates, being but a couple of examples.
The time has come for companies to find some common ground between generations, to include seniors within their teams, and to communicate it so that everyone knows about it. The benefits of doing so could be huge, with both young and old people looking for some common ground and a reason to be optimistic. This presents exciting and fertile territory for brand communication that could reach across the generational divide and have an impact on both sides.

 

In marketing we are taught to look beyond just our immediate sphere of influence and consider the dangers of outsiders or smaller players who could one day eat away at our market position. However, what isn’t as readily discussed, is why we have a fixation with certain targets, namely Millennials, whilst ignoring others, like the ageing population, who can turn out to have a much greater influence than we perhaps ever thought. In this ever changing world where the trend is to “produce trends” we also face the danger of ignoring them, keep that in mind!

 

References:

  1. Campbell, C (2014) Community mobilisation in the 21st century: Updating our theory of social change? Journal Health Psychology. http://hpq.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/09/02/1359105313500262.abstract
  2. Charlan Jeanne Nemeth. (2010). “Minority Influence Theory.” IRLE Working Paper No. 218-10. http://irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/218-10.pdf
  3. Dawn, G (2014) How old People will decide your future. Retreived November 19th, 2016 from: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/17/how-older-voters-will-decide-your-future.html
  4. De la Riva (2016) Estudio Sindicado: “Consumer Trends Grey Market”
  5. Forbes Staff (Ed.). (2014, March 17). Millenials, Baby Boomers y Generación X: La combinación perfecta. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com.mx/millennials-baby-boomers-y-generacion-x-la-combinacion-perfecta/#gs.W6O0oN8
  6. Little, W. (n.d.). Chapter 13. Aging and the Elderly. In Introduction to Sociology. 1st Canadian Edition. BC Campus Open Ed.
  7. Lutz, W. (2014, January). The truth about Aging Populations. Harvard Business Review.
  8. Molly, B. (2016, October 25). Trump’s Graying Army. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/trumps-graying-army/505274/
  9. Whitely, P., & Clark, H. D. (2016, June 26). Brexit: Why did older voters choose to Leave the EU? Retrieved November 23, 2016, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-why-did-old-people-vote-leave-young-voters-remain-eu-referendum-a7103996.html