Inclusive marketing is an approach to advertising that embraces people from all different ages, races, genders, and backgrounds. And though this strategy can help to build trust, loyalty, and real relationships with customers, many companies are still falling short.
In fact, Kantar – the world’s leading marketing analytics company – recently announced that companies failing to act on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) could risk losing out on 102bn annual spend from marginalised groups.
Kantar’s study also showed that 54% of respondents said that they’d experienced some level of discrimination in the last 12 months, with most (51%) saying that it happened when coming into contact with a brand.
What’s more, with regard to age diversity in marketing, Creative X – a branding and merchandise consultancy – recently analysed 126,000+ ads from around the world. They found that only 4% of the people depicted in them were over the age of 60. Plus, two-thirds of these were shown in family or domestic settings and less than 1% in professional or leadership environments.
However, with over 50s dominating the consumer market and being expected to spend £550 billion a year by 2040, it’s crucial that brands know how best to connect with this demographic and help meet their needs. This is especially relevant after Kantar’s research revealed that 53% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by a brand’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
While there’s much work to be done on making branding more diverse and inclusive, Kantar’s research shows that some brands do seem to be getting it right – with Dove, Nationwide, Coca-Cola, and Vodafone being named by respondents as the most inclusive brands in the UK.
Many also commented on Dove’s reputation as a trailblazer in DEI through its representation of people of different genders, body sizes, skin, colours, and physical abilities before it was popular to do so.
So what exactly can other brands do to follow suit? While a DEI approach that encompasses all types of people is important in marketing, for the purposes of this article, we’ve largely focused on age. So, here are eight tips to help you make your branding more age-inclusive.
1. Create adverts that reflect real people and experiences
A 2017 survey of 1,000 UK adults by digital insights company Toluna found that respondents preferred ads that featured ordinary people. Over half (57.6%) of people said that they connected more with ads that feature real people, and 62.3% agreed that a brand featuring ordinary people was more likely to understand what its customers wanted.
Though, unfortunately, 34.9% of respondents also felt that brands usually produced unrealistic portrayals of their customers.
As a result, when casting for ads, it’s important to think about how you can use people and stories that’ll connect with people of all ages, genders, races, and backgrounds on a human level.
What shared experiences do we have as a human race? And are the people being cast to tell these stories from a range of different societal groups, to allow as many customers as possible to recognise themselves in your branding?
Some brands stick to using celebrities or professional models in their ads but, for many people, this can still feel unrelatable.
The US Coca-Cola advert in the video below has been praised for its portrayal of the diversity of the human spirit – and shows a wide range of ordinary-looking people. You can also see plenty of examples of age-positive images of real people (which you can download and use for free) on the CFAB website.
2. Use images and videos that represent the diverse lifestyles of over 50s in 2023
We’ve already heard that just 4% of people featured in over 126,000+ ads from around the world were over the age of 60. So, it’s important that more companies work on increasing the age diversity of their branding if they intend to appeal to people in their 50s, 60s, and beyond.
Using stock images and videos of over 50s in ads may seem simple enough – but it’s also important to consider how in tune with today’s society this content is.
This means putting careful thought and research into what the people in this demographic are like in 2023, and avoiding ads that conform them to outdated stereotypes – such as those that only show over 50s in domestic settings.
For example, from interacting with Rest Less members, we know that many over 50s aren’t looking to retire – but, instead, hope to change careers or go on midlife gap years. We also know that many of them are incredibly busy, with hobbies, activities, work, family life, travel, and everything in between. Some have also completed university degrees later in life while others have climbed some of the world’s largest mountains or run triathlons.
Today’s over 50s are also more attuned with technology than society would often have us believe, with many Rest Less members taking steps to develop their digital skills further – and regularly playing video games.
If you only have a vague idea of who your customers really are, it’s important to get to know them, so you can understand how best to reach them. One way to do this is through regular surveys and focus groups.
3. Consider conducting your own photoshoots
If you can’t find stock images and videos that reflect the over 50s of today, then consider holding your own photoshoot, featuring real people in age-positive settings. Limited stock content can become a barrier to creating age-inclusive branding if you let it, so it can pay to think outside the box.
As well as considering what roles and environments your ads showcase over 50s in, it’s also worth thinking about whether you’re portraying over 50s with a diverse range of characteristics and styles.
Some brands have a tendency to type-cast people in this demographic – by only selecting people who wear neutral tones (like beige) and have grey hair. While this may represent some over-50s, it’s important to remember that there are also over-50s with blonde, red, brunette, black, and even pink hair. Many wear bright colours, share clothes with their adult children, and keep up with the latest fashion trends.
4. Avoid using patronising language
One of the main pieces of feedback that we hear from Rest Less members is that they’re tired of hearing brands speak to them using condescending, patronising language. This usually happens when brands come across as kind and helpful but do so with a superior attitude – one that places a clear line between themselves and their customers.
Remaining on the same level as your customers can help you avoid this. This means adopting an inclusive ‘we’ mentality, rather than one of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It can also help to keep your language fairly neutral, which brings us to our next point…
5. Do use neutral language
One way to make sure that the language used in your branding is as inclusive of all ages as possible is to keep it neutral. This means avoiding language and grammar that’s too emphatic – i.e. ‘very’, ‘totally’, ‘awesome’, and the use of exclamation marks – as this has the potential to patronise customers and may have a bias towards a younger audience.
Research from the Centre for Ageing Better (CFAB) has also shown that this is true in job adverts, where the word ‘dynamic’ was seen by older adults to have younger connotations, and was therefore offputting.
Instead, it can be helpful to keep language straightforward and free from unnecessary ‘fluff’, as this will generally have broader appeal. It can also help to avoid jargon that might not be widely understood and to avoid stating the obvious or overexplaining concepts – as this can be condescending.
6. Consider the language you use to talk about over 50s, and how this may make them feel
The terms ‘seniors’, ‘old people’ and ‘old age’ are falling out of use because they don’t account for the lifestyles and abilities of over 50s today and often suggest frailty.
At Rest Less, we prefer to use more neutral terms such as ‘later in life’, ‘midlife’, and ‘mature’, and the response to these has been very positive. Our aim is to reflect that – with people living longer than ever before – at 50, someone may have another 20-50 years of life left and plenty more to give.
It can also help to use positive, empowering, and inspiring language when targeting over 50s, because this can signal to them that you’re aware of their value, which can help to build trust.
7. Take steps to build a more age-diverse marketing team
A recent survey from Marketing Week of more than 3,000 marketers in the UK found that almost three quarters (74.6%) were aged between 26 and 45 years old. In contrast, just 14.5% of the sample were aged between 46 and 65 years old.
Having a marketing team made up of mostly young people could impact marketing diversity – so it’s worth looking at the ages of your marketing team and considering whether you have a range of people from different generations. This will offer your company a richer pool of ideas, information, and perspectives, all of which can help to support the diverse needs of your customers.
For tips on hiring more over 50s talent, check out our article; 7 ways to make your recruitment strategy more age inclusive.
8. Remember that within any demographic, there will still be different needs and preferences – diversity exists in silos
When working on making your brand more diverse and inclusive, it’s important not to put people from different demographics in boxes – or assume that because they’re of a certain age or gender, they’ll act a certain way or have certain needs or interests.
Within any demographic, these things will differ considerably; and overlooking this could undo much of the work done to make your branding more inclusive in the first place.
Therefore, it can help to remain open-minded and avoid making assumptions about your customers. As previously mentioned, if you’re unsure what their needs and interests are, then it’s worth asking them.
With Kantar’s survey showing that 51% of people feel underrepresented by brands and companies they connect with, there’s still much work to be done in the world of marketing. And taking steps to make your brand more age-inclusive by learning more about your audience, using neutral language, and creating ads that reflect real people, is a great place to start.
We hope you found the tips in this article helpful. If you’d like more advice on creating compelling age-inclusive branding, you can email [email protected].
Do you use age-inclusive branding? Or is this something you’re looking to develop? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.