Catalyst magazine recently ran a cover story in their July 2019 issue titled “Age of Wonder: Diverse, Vibrant, Wealthy — Why Older Consumers Are Still Woefully Underserved” by Lucy Handley (@LucyHandley). It shares how David Stewart, Founder & CEO of AGEIST, started his consultancy and online publication after being “fed up” with how brands and the media portray people in their 50s, 60s, and over.
“Live fast, die old,” is the strapline of Ageist, an online publication and brand consultancy created by Los Angeles-based photographer, David Stewart. He was fed up with how people in mid-life were portrayed in the media and marketed to by brands. Stewart had a highly successful career working for clients such as The New York Times Magazine, CocaCola and American Express. Casting briefs typically specified people aged 22 to 28.
In it, David discusses how AGEIST is helping to redefine not just the visual portrayal of people over 50, but also the words used to describe them.
It was not just the visual portrayal that was broken. Stewart found the words used to describe people in their 50s or 60s were entirely wrong. “The language [was] of receding and then this kind of Hallmark card, like ‘golden, sunset years’ or ‘silver-set’ … My mom is 89. It’s great for my mom, it really captures her sense. But it does not capture me or anyone I know,” Stewart tells Catalyst. He chose Ageist as a name because it gets noticed, plus it positioned the company as an expert, “sort of like sartorialist or biologist”, he says.
What I’m seeing is a certain kind of stock photo, a couple of nice-looking, greyhaired people…They’re on a beach, they’ve got a bike, they’re pushing the bike, but they don’t ride the bike.
The article goes on to discuss the problem and the opportunity for brands and marketers to do a better job of understanding the demographic and not “lump” everyone 50+ together.
It also doesn’t help that people in this group are often lumped together as ‘the over-50s’, but they often are vastly different (and what kind of marketer would talk about ‘the under-50s’?). The sociologist Anne Karpf argues that people become more diverse as they age, not less.
David discusses part of the solution:
Part of the solution is to think about the types of people who this audience might look up to, and Stewart mentions the likes of Madonna (60) or the American pro-surfer Laird Hamilton (55). He concedes that while celebrities have a “very different reality” to the rest of us, there are plenty of mid-lifers who are attractive, successful and something to aspire to. “We say we look for North Stars that are hidden in plain sight. They’re around us all the time.” Ageist also helps brands to cast people for advertising. “If you put me out on the sidewalk for five minutes, I’ll get you ten of them,” Stewart says.
The full article can be found here.
Catalyst is CIM’s members-only magazine for the strategic marketer, bringing business leaders the latest insight and knowledge from across the profession. Catalyst magazine is packed with features that explore new thinking and deliver insightful content across key fields such as leadership, behavioral economics, and sociology.