Are You Talking Like a Grown-up? Crafting Copy to Address Audiences 50 Years and Older

Golden years. Sunset years. Nest egg. Despite the advances America has made in talking to the diversity of genders, races, and nationalities, tired and tone-deaf cliches like these continue to crop up in marketing communications, reflecting a persistent bias in how we talk to mature audiences. It’s time to grow up.

Honestly, who over 50 years old truly spends their days living in a retirement community, playing bridge (or golf),  and waiting for the early bird special? Why is it assumed that once you’re over 50, your life is downing Viagra, wearing Depends, and driving a Camry? As 51-year old J.Lo proved during the Super Bowl LIV half-time show (that lit up social media), there’s a lot of life in the mature audience. Savvy marketers know there’s also enormous spending power and decision making.

Defying Age Expectations 

According to a study by global consultants Korn Ferry,the average age for a CEO across industries is 58, with the oldest average CEO age 60 in financial services and the youngest 55 in the technology sector.”

The age of the financial CEO may not be so surprising, but the age of the tech CEO contradicts the pervasive media image of a sneaker-wearing 26-year old. Yes, there are lots of cool tech start-ups launched by millennials. But there’s also an ocean of enterprise tech companies led by seasoned executives, and a swarm of time-tested execs who are appointed to leadership positions in start-ups precisely because of their decades of experience and network ties.

In everyday living, as in the executive suite, age carries power. AARP’s Longevity Economy outlook found that “the 50-plus age cohort contributes $8.3 trillion to the U.S. economy each year or 40% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).” And yet, despite this powerful economic influence, 2019 AARP research found that “80% of consumers ages 50-plus say that marketers portray their lifestyle based on stereotypes.”

Maturity in Marketing

These ageist stereotypes persist in both the world of B2B and B2C marketing. Fortunately, there are movements to be more inclusive of our mature cohorts. Getty Images recently teamed up with AARP to launch The Disrupt Aging® Collection. The 1,400-piece collection shows more authentic images of today’s 50, 60, and 70+-year-olds.  

And considerations that apply to persuasive imagery, also apply to copywriting. At MarketSmiths, we craft a voice that resonates whether our client’s audience is 27 or 67, or all along the age spectrum. Whether the product is artisanal cheese or cloud-based life-long learning courses, good copywriting speaks to a buyer’s motivations, desires, and pain points—no matter their age.

In short, we seek to address the whole person, not just a singular demographic aspect. If there is universal agreement, it is that everyone, including mature audiences, want copy that is real and relevant. As the AARP Longevity report found: “more than 80% of consumers ages 18-plus say they feel better about brands that feature a mix of ages.”

This approach is even more essential when it comes to B2B copywriting, which happens to be a healthy portion of our work. As a business, if your decision-makers are Baby Boomers or early Gen Xers, you have an audience that is astute, experienced and expects to be spoken to like the adults they are, not folks doddering towards obsolescence.

When these high-level decision-makers look for information, they want it delivered with crisp wording, tight organization, and an intelligent point of view. They want content that is written by people who speak their language.

So, what exactly is inclusive copywriting that covers all ages? 

Here are three pillars that we adhere to:

  1. Words. Yes, they matter. Audiences of any age are fine with words that go beyond two syllables—as long as they add to precision. There’s a rich vocabulary to pull from, and we use it to add depth, clarity, and vibrancy to explain concepts, products, and services.
  2. Cliches. Avoided. Golden years, sunset years, nest egg –who really talks like that in real life? Probably not you, and certainly not us. Inclusive writing gets to the kernel of the idea. It isn’t lazy, relying on clichés that entered our lexicon either recently or decades ago—it’s authentic to real life.
  3. Structure. The essential element. Everyone is busy. Just like a 38-year old, a 58-year old doesn’t have time to guess exactly what you are getting at. Whether it’s an email campaign or an eBook, good copywriting leads you through the piece with a defined purpose, and without an excess of verbiage.

If your organization wants copy that’s grown-up and reaches decision-makers, we’re your copywriting agency—with the experience to prove it. Let’s talk.

Clients warm up to Michele immediately and so do those who read her writing. As MarketSmiths' Senior Director of Strategy, Michele makes even the most complex B2B concepts inviting and knows how to add just the right touch of personality. Michele's experienced in three-word taglines and 30-page websites and everything in-between—white papers, press releases, e-communications, brochures, social media, and video scripts. She's worked at award winning agencies and in strategy at HBO and Tri-Star Pictures. She loves (and we mean loves) anything that gets the wind in her hair—boating, biking, skiing.

Michele earned her business acumen with an MBA in Finance from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in marketing, summa cum laude, from Boston University.

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