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The Supermodel's Guide to 50+ Marketing

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The iconic September issue of Vogue, long seen as an arbiter not only of fashion but of contemporary culture – as well as an advertising juggernaut – is having another moment. With four of the most famous supermodels in history on its widely coveted cover – Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington – 2023’s statement issue is a gorgeous affirmation that our world has changed.

Add in Martha Stewart landing the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue just a few months ago, and you might even think it’s the start of some sort of timeless glamor trend.

But there’s a lot more to this change than meets the eye. Society – and successful marketers – have long recognized that as a demographic, women (and men) over the age of 50 are vital, relevant, and dominant – responsible for more than half of all consumer spending and wielding significant cultural clout.

Now, mass media is finally catching up.

If you’re marketing to 50+ consumers, here are three lessons this milestone moment – and the supermodels – can help you keep in mind.

Our Life Is Now

Even the quickest flip through Vogue’s pages will show you that the supermodels are not merely striking throwback poses, but dazzling us anew with their definitions of sophistication, grace, and beauty. They’re embodying Now, not nostalgia.

For marketers, it’s a reminder to meet your audience where they are and want to be, not where they used to be or might have been. People feel more positive about aging than you think – and we all have a lot to live for, at any age.

Life satisfaction and happiness increase from age 50 onward. Nine of ten (88%) adults ages 50-80 say they feel more comfortable being themselves. (Source: 2021 Language of Aging.) So, it’s important to ensure that your marketing continues to accurately reflect your target audience on their journey at every stage of life.

We Are Cover-Worthy

The supermodels lead full and complex lives that extend well beyond their impressive careers. They’ve endured physical and mental health challenges, personal and family tragedies, and they’ve survived the gantlet of global fame.

The takeaway for marketers is not that the supermodels are “just like us” – but that, like all of their 50+ peers, they have stories worth hearing and lessons worth sharing.

They still want to grow, too. More than nine of ten (92%) adults 50+ agree that “Aging isn’t about getting old, it’s about living.” Nearly all (96%) believe that “every year should be teaching us all something valuable.” (Source: 2021 Language of Aging.) So, adopt a holistic marketing approach to build deeper relationships with these consumers that will grow over time.

We’re Just Getting Started

This is hardly the last we’ll see of the supermodels – and certainly not the last time we’ll see a 50-something (or 80- or 90-something!) on a magazine cover. And that’s good news for all of us, because it’s a more candid reflection of how we live today and what the future holds.

For marketers, the takeaway is that consumers 50+ want brands that understand and relate to them. Seven in ten (70%) women age 50+ would consider switching to a brand they feel represents people their age. (Source: 2021 Language of Aging)

And getting this right can mean significant bottom-line impact, particularly in the coming years. By 2028, women are projected to control 75 percent of discretionary spending globally and, by 2030, they will control 66 percent of America’s wealth, according to research from noted financial expert Jean Chatzky. (Source: Miller, J.B., Alexander, S., Accius, J. (2023). How Women Aged 50-Plus Are Driving The Global Longevity Economy.)

Bottom line: We’re now well past the era when “a woman of a certain age” was expected to be invisible, when we were considered old at 40, 30, or, yes, 25. So having a contemporary understanding of what it means to be a 50+ adult and ensuring that your advertising credibly demonstrates such an understanding, is a must for marketers. Avoid ageist stereotypes and biases and meet 50+ consumers where they are with a holistic approach that taps into 50+ adults’ wide-ranging information needs, engaged lifestyles, and willingness to invest in themselves, and you’ll enhance your brand’s connections with this dominant demographic in business-building ways.

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This article originally appeared in Advertising Week.