Friday, October 28, 2005

Oldies but goodies

An interesting article in the New York Times about the broadening sales clout of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). It's a lesson in cross-marketing and brand development that ought to be taken seriously particularly by agency people who dismiss anyone over 45 as "wrinklies", not worth paying attention to.

Long known for its magazine, which has a huge circulation (AARP has an astounding membership of 35 million) and major advertising reach, the association is now spending US $10 million to promote its new product lines, ranging from AARP branded products in drugstores to an investment fund designed for the needs of the over-50s. There may be an elder-friendly cellphone service. And luggage designed for easy handling and opening. All of this cannot help but plump up the magazine, which is a major benefit of membership. (The Canadian equivalent is 50 Plus, the official publication of the Canadian Association of Retired People.)

The NYT article notes that some 10,000 U.S. boomers turn 50 every day, and they are entering their later years with bulging wallets and a sense of adventure. The AARP's new, more aggressive posture is drawn from an understanding that boomer seniors are more healthy, more active and more demanding than their predecessors. With this comes some shift in emphasis editorially.

"AARP's monthly magazine now comes in several versions: one, with articles about fitness or pre-retirement investing, goes to members in their 50's, while another, with articles about managing money and staying fit past retirement, goes to older members. (50-Plus does much the same.)

AARP's annual "lifestyle" conferences (the conference this year, originally scheduled for New Orleans, was canceled) now include concerts by artists like Smokey Robinson and Queen Latifah, corporate booths giving away goody bags, even mixers for singles in attendance.


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