The Marketing of Aging Gracefully
On average, a person encounters between 4k to 10k ads daily. With the level of bombardment and sophistication in which ads are delivered, now more than ever, understanding marketing trends is critical since it provides insights into our own behavior and feelings. Like it or not, cultural values and advertisements work in unison. The process of marketing involves conjuring a problem, and offering solutions to address it. This is not just about selling—this is about tapping into our psyche.
One inevitable aspect of life that advertisers offer coping mechanisms for is aging.
The anti-aging industry is estimated to reach $331.41 billion in 2021. This is a $16.2 billion average annual increase since 2016. More than the traditional creams and lotions, companies now offer solutions to aging that go beyond skin deep. This includes vitamin drips, blood transfusions, cryotherapy, and collagen shots, just to name a few.
These regimens are marketed not as a way to “fight aging”, but as a form of “renewal”, using the power of science and nature.
The Linguistic Change
This new lingo is a sign of the dramatic changes in messaging the industry has undergone in the past decades. In the 90s and early 20th century, women were mobilized to “fight wrinkles”. The militaristic language has since been replaced with more pleasant and zen-like rhetoric such as “graceful aging” and “natural” products, backed by scientific terms such as hyaluronic acid.
The message: don’t stress about aging or feel the need to constantly fight it, because we have products that can do that for us.
The industry’s branding “has evolved in a ceaseless process of linguistic renewal, constantly shifting to exploit generational mood swings concerning how a woman should be. To the beauty industry, “changing the way we talk about aging” is not a challenge; it’s an invitation to spin old products to new consumers.”
Amanda Hess, The Ever Changing Business of Anti-Aging
Framing the Problem: How the Emotional Selling Has Evolved
Shame On You 30s
Palmolive advertisements in the 30s and 40s referred to a problem called ‘middle-age skin’, caused mostly by romantic disappointments that can start as early as 22 years old.
Early magazine advertisements focused on shaming women and insinuating that husbands would leave them whether it’s because of their “dishpan hands”, odors, and all sorts of body-related issues.
War in the 90s
In the latter half of the 20th century, anti-aging campaigns such as Revlon’s “Don’t Deny it. Defy it” slogan still framed aging as a problem, but stayed away from fear-tactics about men leaving women. Rather, ads empowered women to fight, so they can slowdown the inevitable wrinkles.
Currently, we are encouraged to embrace aging—not fight it. The goal is to be “ageless” or at least “age well”, such as Helen Mirren or Julia Roberts.
There’s an irony in this messaging: we are supposed to accept aging because aging itself is fine, if we follow certain regimens. Since aging is not the culprit, the problem is in the way we are dealing with it. There’s a right and a wrong way to age.
Point of View
Is Aging Really a Problem or Just a Phantom?
Aging can be scary and it’s inevitable. Man or woman, rich or poor, we all go through the process of getting old. Noticing your body change can be unnerving. Aging also reminds us of what follows when we do stop aging, which is death. In many ways, you want to age because to age means to live, but we want to do it on our own terms or at least not let it disrupt our lifestyle.
Society also makes judgement based on how people look and age is a part of that. For older people, assumptions can be that they are not tech savvy, or incapable of performing certain tasks. The judgement can come from the workplace, social settings, or just our daily interactions with strangers. For women, especially, we find ourselves “disappearing” from mainstream media.
In short, there are physical aches and pains that come with age, compounded by social stigma.
To Know Is to Take Control
My point here is not to tell you to ditch the moisturizers and night creams. I would be lying if I said that I don’t care about aging and all the baggage that comes with it. But I do encourage you to rethink the regimens and routines that we have been told we need, in order to address aging.
Define your own rules of aging. Rethink what you know and believe in, and evaluate what works for you.
The focus on appearances when it comes to coping with aging also overlooks aspects of getting old that are beyond skin deep and can’t be easily addressed by simply buying anti-wrinkle cream.
Aging is an Attitude
To think “old” means to be stuck in the ways of the past, so try to be open to new ideas or acquaint yourself with new ideas and ways of doing things, and technology. This doesn’t mean that you have to be on the latest social media platform, but devote time to understand how technology is evolving and if possible, give it a try. This can be as simple as getting rid of cable TV and relying on subscription streaming or reading about how artificial intelligence is changing the workplace. Having an insight on how the world is evolving will lessen the fear of an unrecognizable future way of life.
Aging is Mental and Not Just Physical
There is such a thing as an aging brain. Rather than spending money on more toners and makeup that’s suppose to make us feel radiant, spend resources on experiences that gives you joy, relieve stress, and challenge you. Take up a sport or a physical activity. Studies have shown that movement can be effective in stimulating an aging brain.
Old Age Is Relative
Go through old photos, say from 10 years ago. Did you feel old when the picture was taken and how do you feel about how you looked 10 years ago right now? Remember that you’re always going to be older than your past, so enjoy the age you’re in. The truth is, we’re all going to get older.
Don’t Get Caught Up With a Number
Biological age is more relevant than your numerical one.
To age it to be alive. Consider that a privilege.