How do you sell products designed for older people? The linguistic twists and turns of advertisers have always interested me, so I took a look at the collection The Aging Consumer, edited by Aimee Doret (New York, 2010.) The most fascinating article was “Age Branding,” by researchers Harry R. Moody and Sanjoy Sood.
They track four different methods that companies use to attract older consumers. Some, like Botox, promise to turn back the clock and eliminate aging. These are the age deniers. Their message: use our product and you won’t look old. Others, like hearing aid companies, promise to compensate for the decline that comes with age. They are age adaptive. Their message: aging happens, but we make it less painful. Still others, like New Balance, design their advertising to appeal to both young and old. They tailor messages to many audiences as an age irrelevant brand. By pitching inclusive commercials, New Balance has consistently outperformed Nike in the US since the 1990s. Their message: our product will not brand you as old.
But the most fascinating category is the fourth, age affirmative advertising. In the words of the authors, “Age affirmative brands do not ignore or deny age but instead focus on elements we can celebrate and affirm.” (238)
The best example of an age affirmative brand is a skin care line by Dove called “Pro Age.” Launched in 2007, Pro Age was introduced with a provocative photos that showed wrinkles and age spots on women over fifty. The picture above is an example. I’ve cropped it to focus on her face, but the full ad shows the woman’s entire body (artfully arranged). Over the image we read, “too many wrinkles to be in an anti-aging ad.” The next page of the two page spread says, “but this isn’t an anti aging ad. this is pro age. a new line of skin care from dove. beauty has no age limit.”
How has this worked out for Dove? I had never heard of the product until I read the article. My local grocery store, which sells a lot of anti aging products, doesn’t carry it.
And how does this strategy resonate with you? If I’m absolutely honest, I think that I at least want the illusion that my skin cream will make my wrinkles go away.