Generation Rebel. Patronising brands fail to capture Baby Boomer+ vitality

Generation Rebel

Patronising brands fail to capture Baby Boomer+ vitality

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Welcome to the original rule breaker generation, the adventurous life-loving cohort reshaping the way that later life is defined. Those of retirement age are defying elderly stereotypes.

Baby boomer pluses (roughly identified as those over 60),  feel decades younger than their parents did at their age. Just as they threw out their parents’ playbook as they moved into adulthood, they are once again questioning out-dated assumptions. Only, marketers haven’t caught up yet.

  • Independent poll shows that only 8% of over 65s recognise themselves in advertising targeted at their age group
  • Just 14% of over 65s feel understood by brands, with over half finding adverts aimed at them patronising
  • Findings highlight the disconnect between brands and the baby boomer plus population
Source: Research by Opinium, commissioned by Parsley Box

British retail consultant and queen of the high street, Mary Portas (60)

Patronising and offensive

Does it come as a surprise to you that just 8% of over 65s in the UK recognise themselves in adverts targeted at their age group with many considering the approach from brands to be patronising and in some cases offensive?

It’s hard to imagine feisty journalist and media personality Janet Street-Porter (74 years young) or the queen of the high street Mary Portas, who turned 60 last year, being pigeon-holed and ignored by brands. These women represent a spirited generation that are seizing the moment with a zest for life.

Now is the time to rethink how the ‘elderly’ are portrayed in the media and represented by advertisers.

As seen on SkyTV

Our Founder and Chief of Product, Adrienne MacAulay was featured on Ian King Live on Sky News discussing the pervasive failure of advertising to accurately capture and represent the over 60s demographic.

Misunderstood and misrepresented

By 2039 it is forecast that almost one in three of us (29%) in the UK will be over 60. Yet, despite being the fastest growing demographic, brands are failing to effectively communicate to or capture the vibrancy of this audience.

Almost a third of the UK population will be over 60 by 2039

Source: Future of an Ageing Population

Research by Opinium, commissioned by Parsley Box, shows that just 10% of over 65s find adverts aimed at people their age appealing, with over half (55%) going as far as saying they are actually patronising.

Smashing stereotypes

Baby boomer pluses are often typecast as the withering grey-haired brigade, sat in front of their two-bar fire, cosy slippers on, a blanket draped over their lap with the remote in one hand and a sherry in the other.

They’re largely depicted as one homogenous group of inactive people, set in their ways and fearful of technology.

The message to younger advertisers trying to target older consumers is forget what you think you know – the reality is very different.

Diverse and vibrant

Consider this… from birth to 40 represents a huge personal transformation with a myriad of milestones along the way from infancy through to adulthood and beyond. For advertisers it wouldn’t make any sense to lump all these life stages together, so why put those aged 60-100+ under one classification?

Not all one in the same

Within this broad 60-100+ age bracket, baby boomers sit at one end and the so-called  Silent Generation at the other. They are multifaceted in their experiences and opinions and yet all face ageism, described by the World Health Organisation as the ‘most normalised of any prejudice’.


this is NOT the Silent Generation this is the Rebel Generation

Don’t be mistaken, there’s nothing ‘silent’ about the Silent Generation. The label refers to those born between 1926 and 1945, people who lived through World War Two. Time magazine coined the phrase in the 1950s, alluding to the fact that the children of this generation were taught to be seen and not heard. But, they’re all grown up now and are sick of being side-lined.

Out of touch, out of pocket

Brands are consistently failing to understand the realities of the baby boomer plus lifestyle, with a majority feeling completely misrepresented. Only 6% of over 65s think advertising targeted at them is representative of either them or their lifestyle.

Baby boomer pluses are tuning out on mass, with a majority (67%) completely uninterested in the products they see in adverts, while half (49%) think the people in the adverts seem reliant on others for help and not reflective of the independent lives they live.

Reports of people seeing products suited to an older less independent audience evoke images of stair lifts, orthopaedic shoes, and cruise holidays and reinforces how misunderstood the lifestyle of this section of society is.

Adrienne MacAulay , Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Parsley Box

Move over Millennials

Baby boomer plusses are the biggest spenders, the fastest-growing and highest-earning segment of the population, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It’s time that advertisers showed them some respect and attention. One thing’s for sure, those that don’t wake up to the opportunity will lose out.

Many companies have tended to neglect older consumers, prioritising winning over the comparably less affluent  Millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2015).

Younger outlook

A cohort of the population that are living longer and more active lives, with household names Bruno Toniolo, Judi Dench and Ruth Langsford already or soon to be counted within their ranks, are consistently reporting that the products being advertised to them don’t match their lifestyle (72%). A big criticism is products being aimed at people less independent (57%).

Brands are so far off the mark that a third (30%) are actually finding the portrayal of people their age in adverts ‘offensive’.

Hey big spender

The baby boomer plus demographic has largely seen themselves less affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic, with 65% of over 60s reporting that they expect their financial situation to stay the same or even improve over the next 12 months.

Despite having the spending power, the unappealing adverts show that brands completely misunderstand the demographic. A third of over 65s (33%) think the products targeted at them are for an older audience and very few find them useful.

Incredibly, only 7% of over 65s say the products being advertised to them are actually useful.

Source: Research by Opinium, commissioned by Parsley Box

This is despite latest data showing that over 65s account for 36% of the UK’s household wealth, the equivalent of 36p in every pound.

Join the Rebel Campaign

Parsley Box is on a mission to dispel the stereotype of the baby boomer plus demographic, having developed a deep understanding of its loyal customer base, who seek convenience to free up time for adventure.

What are your thoughts about advertising directed at you? Do you find it relevant or patronising?