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We Are Young: Branding for the 'Young Old'
By: Maryann Fabian
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A pack of senior citizens out for a bit of late night clubbing and cruising is played out to comedic effect in Taco Bell’s newest ad. But underneath the yuck-yucks, the brand is on to something. There’s a new breed of seniors out there.  

10,000 people a day sign up for Social Security and Medicare. Yes, those Baby Boomers that account for one in five of us are getting old. But if you asked, they would still say, we are young. There’s even a new phrase coined to describe them: the “Young Old” is the first wave of senior Boomers, ages 65 to 74. And they are putting us all on notice that things are going to be done differently from now on.

Remember at the Hurricane Sandy relief concert when 68-year-old Roger Daltry caused a Twitstorm by unbuttoning his shirt and showing off his spray-tanned, waxed, and still toned torso? Did your grandpa ever do anything like that? (Mine always wore a neatly tucked and pressed Hanes undershirt, thank goodness.) Well, the Young Old exercise twice as much as their predecessors did. And they’re obviously proud of that. Why, Jane Fonda, 74, just put out another exercise DVD aimed at this “primetime” demo.

So Taco Bell, knowingly or unknowingly, poses an interesting thought for discussion. Just how should a brand incorporate the Young Old into its marketing? If your brand catered to the Boomers, how will you follow them into their golden years? What if your brand always marketed to seniors? How will you alter your strategy to appeal to this new demo without alienating your core? From the looks of it, I doubt Roger and Jane are ready for their rocking chairs, early-bird specials and Clappers. They still want to be thought of as hip (with moves like nearing-70 Jagger), as fit, as sexy.

According to Marty Gertler and Mechele Flaum, Principals at BoomerHead, a consulting firm in New York that specializes in all things-Baby Boomer, “Marketers need to realize that Boomers will move into their older years with a younger mindset. They welcome brands they grew up with, but shun brands associated with traditional old age. The only way to have Boomers pay attention to these old brands is for the brands to reinvent themselves.” 
 
For example, they added, “The Clapper has a place if it represents hip convenience rather than a symbol of advancing immobility. Elastic waists need to become an element of style with a convenience and practical benefit rather than a symbol of style deterioration. Kudos to hearing aid manufacturers for finding ways to make the devices invisible, and perfecting the sound for living out rather than staying in.”
 
Marty and Mechele also offer this tidbit: “We estimate that two-thirds will continue working in some form for another decade. A significant percentage will turn that decade into one of adventure, not sedentary life. Marketers need to recognize that style and brand fansmanship doesn’t stop at 65.“


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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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