How Marketers Can Connect With the Audience Defining Culture

By Danielle McMurray, VP Marketing, AARP Media Advertising Network

The hotly anticipated new Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny premiered at Cannes this month to much fanfare. And just ahead of his 81st birthday, Harrison Ford is set to sweep the box office when the film opens in June.

Shortly after, 60-year-old Tom Cruise promises to serve up some of his signature death-defying stunts in the first of a new two-part installment, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, which opens in July.

These films starring some of Hollywood’s most iconic actors are just the latest in a year where the 50-plus demo is dominating all things pop culture.

With 50-plus world leaders, authors, artists and innovators prominently represented in this year’s TIME 100 and outlets heralding “the Year of the 50+ Woman” and a “silver wave,” the energy and excitement around this demo is undeniable.

The cultural fervor presents an enormous opportunity for marketers to tap into a demo that spends 56 cents of every dollar in the U.S., and whose annual economic contributions are expected to triple by 2050, reaching $26.8 trillion.

Here are three tips for marketers looking to reach this ‘holy grail’ audience:

1. Leverage the magic of nostalgia

Nostalgia can be a powerful tool when it comes to connecting with 50-plus consumers and leaving a positive impression.

Hollywood has adopted this strategy to score big at the box office with new installments in timeless cinematic series like Top Gun and, most recently, Indiana Jones. Even the Barbie movie, premiering in July, evokes sentimentality around a legendary childhood toy.

This year’s biggest ads have also been packed with nostalgic references to everything from classic rock to iconic movies from decades past, like Clueless and Caddyshack. And major award shows like the Grammys are celebrating historic milestones including the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

If you can connect your brand to historic cultural moments that bring back fond memories, your messaging and marketing is more likely to resonate with your target audience.

2. Enlist 50-plus star power

As the palpable excitement around Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible illustrates, actors and artists over 50 have captured the attention of consumers and are stealing the show at the biggest cultural events of the year, from Cannes to The Golden Globes.

The Oscars were hosted by late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel (55) with an impressive bench of 50-plus nominees, including actors Brendan Gleeson (68), Cate Blanchett (53) and Angela Bassett (64), as well as directors Steven Spielberg (76) and Todd Field (58). And, 50-plus stars Michelle Yeoh (60) and Brendan Fraser (54) took home the Academy Awards for best actress and actor.

Recognizing that these celebs are planted firmly in the spotlight, brands are leveraging their star power to amplify their campaigns. Hoping to connect with the 50-plus demographic, brands are paying big bucks to broadcast ads that feature celebs over 50. This year’s annual Super Bowl ad blitz included Missy Elliott (51), Kevin Bacon (64) and Maya Rudolph (50).

3. Demonstrate knowledge of the 50-plus lifestyle

But it’s not enough to simply plug a 50-plus celeb into your campaign and press go. Brands need to be creative and strategic if they want to reach this powerful demo.

They need to demonstrate how their products and services add value to the lives of over 50 consumers and play a role in their unique everyday experiences, whether it’s traveling the world, staying in shape, cooking at home or investing in their future.

Research suggests that authentic marketing and media portrayals of 50+ adults active in their lives generate positive attitudes toward aging.

On the contrary, one in five 50-plus adults have gone as far as to boycott a brand that had ageist advertising, so be sure you showcase 50-plus people (not just stars) in your creative to prove you understand what matters to them.

The bottom line

The 50-plus demo is having a huge moment in culture right now. Their award appearances are going viral, their performances are in high demand in the box office, and they’re starring in the most visible (and expensive) advertising.

As brands look to successfully showcase and connect with 50-plus consumers, they have to demonstrate that they truly know the audience, whether that’s the stars they admire, the moments that make them feel nostalgic, their day-to-day experiences or their internal POV on your brand.