The Friends Reunion: Four New Marketing Insights about 50+ Consumers

By Patricia Lippe Davis, VP Marketing, AARP Media Solutions

The Friends reunion special, which has been “on a break” this past year, is back in production at last – giving fans everywhere something to look forward to as we think about what our own post-pandemic lives will look like.

For many Gen Xers and Boomers like myself, Friends was a cultural touchstone; it reflected who we were as twenty- and thirty-somethings before it signed off in 2004. While the reunion special is more of an unscripted talk show rather than a revival episode, with the cast gathering on set to reminisce, it does beg an intriguing question: how would the present-day, fifty-something versions of Phoebe, Joey, Rachel, Ross, Chandler and Monica represent the new 50+? It’s safe to say they would be far more active and engaged than any of the 50+ characters who appeared on Friends during its run. We thought it would be fun to create our own “imaginary revival” episode to illustrate the point and offer some insights.

The Phoebe Lesson: Speak their language

Picture an episode with Phoebe, still married to charming everyday guy Mike, deciding to celebrate the half-century mark by becoming a fitness influencer with her own Instagram show. “Fitness Phoebe” is hardly alone: 84% of 50+ adults agree that exercise boosts general health. Marketers need to remember that 50+ isn’t about slowing down but aiming higher. It’s a time of new beginnings, so when you’re speaking to the 50+ audience be sure to speak their language.

The Monica & Chandler Lesson: Recognize their financial priorities

Modern-day Monica would be a long way from her days as a chef: she might now be the CEO of a conglomerate that includes five-star restaurants, a cleaning-and-organizing business, and a life-coaching enterprise. Chandler, more of a “Type A-minus,” could still somehow have managed to parlay his experience in IT and advertising into a stint as “Employee Number Twelve-and-a-half” at Facebook; now quite comfortable, he’d mostly worry that Monica’s portfolio will surpass his own. Households like Chandler’s and Monica’s spend $325 billion more every year compared to younger households, and maintaining their standard of living is their number one financial priority.

The Ross & Rachel Lesson: Acknowledge their adventurous side

Ross and Rachel are world travelers. Their busy careers in academia and fashion have taken them from archaeological digs to fashion shows. And they have this thing with airplanes… so we can bet they’re eager to get back to racking up those frequent flyer miles again. Ross and Rachel are like most 50+ adults: they can’t wait to hit the road, according to the AARP 2021 Travel Trends Study. Now’s a great time for marketers to offer products, services and ideas that appeal to the 50+ consumer’s spirit of adventure and curiosity, which has been pent up for too long.

The Joey Lesson: Deliver on your brand promise

And Joey? Well, imagine an episode where he hits the big time. A struggling actor no more, Joey is now in his prime, pals around with the likes of George Clooney, and has his pick of action thriller and superhero roles. But of course, he’ll never forget who his true friends are. Joey reminds us that the 50+ consumer segment is an economic powerhouse whose loyalty should never be taken for granted. Over the past 6 years, 50+ households have driven more than half of all consumer spending, according to the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey. Today, their financial position is stronger than ever. So, marketers, always remember to ask for the order — and deliver on those promises!

The Bottom Line

The Friends reunion special is a cultural moment that offers important insights for marketers trying to build relationships with the 50+ audience.

Friends was successful not only because it was entertaining, but also because it was grounded in certain social truths. It reflected our search for identity and meaning. It celebrated new beginnings and possibilities. We tuned in because, in ways, we didn’t always expect, Friends helped us see ourselves in a new light.

In 2021, we need that more than ever.