Combat Ageism With Leadership and Marketing

This blog is a companion to the interview with Karen Sands on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017 Navigating the Graying Demographic: Rock Your Age and Manage Inter-generationally. It was written by Karen Sands.

Once in an Engage Boomers article on Mediapost.com, Expressing Herself: What Marketers Can Learn
When Madonna Tackles Ageism, Mark Bradbury discusses how cultural attitudes about age commonly shift as people enter their 50s. Sharing negative ageist comments (e.g. “old hag”) made about, of all people, the vibrant, successful 56-year-old performer, Madonna, he inquires as to whether ageism is the last acceptable prejudice. He suggests that our satisfaction in life correlates to our feelings about aging, which should serve as a clarion call to marketers to provide realistic, positive images of dignified aging which ensure that Boomers can more easily embrace all aspects of growing older.

For decades, I have spoken at length about, and coached clients regarding, the need for marketing products and services to serve the fast-expanding over-40 demographic. I even devote a chapter to the subject of over-40 business wisdom in my #1 Amazon Best Seller, The Ageless Way. Here are just a few *sneak peek* excerpts below.

Everyone from solopreneurs to large corporations needs to recognize that this market is essential to staying in business in the future, or even in the present. Especially important is that Ageless Women themselves are in a unique position to serve this market just as they are in this market to be served. In other words, Gray is the New Green!

As pioneering David Wolfe observed, “I believe companies are largely ignoring the largest and richest customer group in history for three reasons. First, stereotypical beliefs about older customers paint them as resistant to change, so why bother. Second, there is widespread uneasiness about how to market to older customers, so let’s spare ourselves the pain of failure. Third, people under 40, who are not in the same mental space as members of the new adult marketplace majority, dominate marketing processes. They relate most comfortably to customers of their own ages or younger.”

Yet, the economy, business, and the workplace are all undergoing glacial change from the status quo, despite a combination of massive upheavals and a constant media focus on the aging Boomer population. Throughout history, chaos and major shifts have always been accompanied by renewed attempts to hold on for dear life to the (false) security of How Things Have Always Been Done. There is an ongoing conflict between the stories of our past and the stories of our future, and the battlefield between them is inevitably our present story…

My message continues to be “Here’s how to stay in sync with the generation that keeps you in business.” I present to professional and corporate marketers, strategists and entrepreneurs (experienced and newbies) across many sectors. I attempt to wake up those who have the most to gain or lose in market share and reach if they close their eyes to the forty-plus market potential. While sharing my perspective on the truth about their future if they stay youth-focused, I cajole them by quoting popular lyrics like Fleetwood Mac’s “Yesterday’s Gone…Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” I warn them that they best get on board fast because their ability to monetize going forward will be based on their willingness to serve this enormous force field of new Boomer demand in the workplace, the United States marketplace, and around the globe.
No matter your industry or field, those who recognize the new rules of the game will reap the benefits and gobble up market share. For starters the new rules are customer-centric, not product-centered, as has been the case for eons. At least until Millennials turn forty, youth no longer rules! But “Prime Time Women” do! Let’s get back to the here and now stats that should blow your socks off! Based on a briefing paper prepared by Oxford Economics for AARP it is estimated that “…a 106 million-plus market is expected to grow by over 30% in the next 20 years.” If you snooze, you lose. Any entrepreneur or service professional that ignores the enormous power of the Big Gray already on our threshold might as well kiss their business goodbye. To anyone not paying attention I must ask, are sure you want to leave money on the table by ignoring this forty-plus market?

If you are not already serving or planning to serve the forty-plus market, you are not only missing out financially—you are missing out on the chance to align what matters with an audience that is consciously choosing companies that are making a difference as well as a profit.

The aftermath of the Great Recession can seem like the worst possible time to focus your business on your values, but the opposite is true. Boomers are an indication of how your clients are changing. Living your values and focusing on what matters in your business is not only what you need, it’s what the world needs—and it’s what the world is willing to pay for.

Businesses that want to tap into this trend must shift their focus from value to values, from the bottom-line to the Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profits…

A finding in a Nielsen study projects that by 2017 Baby Boomers will control seventy percent of the country’s disposable income. Whether or not you like Madonna’s style… or that of the millions of other active, engaged, energetic, successful performers over 50 (for starters: Michael Jordan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Betty White, Denzel Washington, Hilary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah, Nascar Driver Morgan Shepherd, or Yoga Teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch, 96…), there is no doubt that the new emerging story will be written by those marketers and product makers who recognize that it is worthwhile to get beyond the rampant malevolent ageism and misogyny in corporate marketing and product development decision-making.

What ways do you think the over-40 demographic can be best served by businesses? Have you seen examples of marketers already reaching out to this age group and doing it well? Have you seen examples of how savvy leaders and organizations leverage this workforce?

About the Author:
Karen Sands, MCC, BCC is a Visionary Game Changer and Leading GeroFuturist™ on the Longevity Economy, the Business of Aging, and Ageless Aging. An advocate for The New Story of Our Age, she is a “visionary with wrinkles” who empowers people to rock their AGE. High-impact Certified Master & Mentor Coach for visionary world shakers, conscious entrepreneurs, sacred activists and change makers 40+ who are ready to shape the world and their role in it. A Trusted Advisor and expert authority on careers post 40, midlife reinvention, Boomers and women 40+ in the new business of aging for go-getters who want to stay in sync with the people who keep them in business. #1 Amazon Best Selling Author, Firecracker Speaker and All-Around Trailblazing Game Changer.