Experience is not a handicap


Ageism has been a problem for a long time. The attitude that people have a “best-before”-date and that competence and employability are declining by the number of birthdays.

Ageism has been a problem for a long time. The attitude that people have a “best-before”-date and that competence and employability are declining by the number of birthdays.

This is especially problematic for the marketing industry, in three ways: 

First, the industry loses skills and experience. 

The whole industry becomes too homogeneous which also affects the possibility of understanding and communicating with all age groups.

There is also the problem with the constant focusing on younger target groups. This despite the fact that older audiences are larger, have more money to spend and willing to do that. The Mc Kinsey & Co-report “Urban World: The global consumer to watch” stated that future pensioners and the elderly, will be extremely important for global consumption during the period up to 2030.

Luckily things are slowly starting to happen. The debate on ageism is getting lively. And increasingly constructive. Even in Sweden. I would say that it is very much because of John Mellkvist. He is a PR consultant and futurist at Mindmakers PR in Stockholm and lit a spark a couple of years ago and has been feeding the fire ever since. From a heated stream of social media posts on the subject, he has become increasingly prominent in the growing debate.  

John Mellkvist has had a great impact on the discussion of ageism and was recently named “Swedish super communicator of 2019” by the trade journal Resumé.

Today John Mellkvist is also part of the government’s ”Delegation for Senior Workforce”. 

The issue is becoming more and more prominent. And we can se changes coming. Still small and slow, of course, but they are coming.


“At the same time as the Swedish parliament has been presented with a proposal to raise the retirement age, employers are already beginning to hesitate before 35-year-olds!”, John Mellkvist noted in a Morning News-show on TV some time ago.

Of course, ageism is not just a problem for all those who are considered to be finished at the age of 40-50. It is also a gigantic problem for society in whole – financially as well as socially.

For the marketing sector, this is especially problematic in three ways.

First, of course, through lost skills and experience. Just like in all other industries.

For anyone who thinks that the brain is shrinking soon after the 40th anniversary, it can be a good idea to listen to the Professor Emerita and author Bodil Jönsson. She has said that the brain continues to evolve, throughout life. In addition, the contact between the right and left hemispheres gets better and better over the years. Something that makes it easier for us to see patterns and contexts.

Another problem with age discrimination in the marketing sector is that it becomes more difficult to communicate with mature consumers if all creatives are in their 30s.

Already in 1996, PhD Lorentz Lyttken called for intelligent advertising for adults.

“The problem is the attitude and prejudices of young advertising guys. If advertising were made by 40-50-year-old women, it would probably look completely different. Those who produce much of the advertising today belong to a young metropolitan elite who generalize from their own experiences and their own generation,” he said in an interview in Quo Vadis, in August 1996.

But not much has really happened in the last 23 years.

A third, negative factor with marketers with age bracket, is the focus on young target groups. The companies strive to ”rejuvenate the target groups” and they want to reach millennials.

But, just about a year ago, Mc Kinsey & Co presented the report “Urban World: The global consumer to watch”. There, nine consumer groups were identified, which will account for 75 per cent of consumption growth in the coming decades.

The largest group is the 60-plus group in well-developed economies. They account for 19 percent of consumption increases. McKinsey believed that this category of consumers – future pensioners and the elderly, will be extremely important for global consumption during the period up to 2030.

Only this age group will grow in Western Europe and Northeast Asia. In North America and Canada, the 60s account for 60% of consumption increases.

It is a category that is more urban, ethnically mixed and well educated. And it is definitely much more technically savvy than previous generations.

In Sweden, 3.9 million people are 50 years or older (December 31, 2018). If we stick to the 50-75 group, they are 3 million people. Nearly 1.9 million are between 15 and 29. However, given the youth focus we have, one would think the relationship is the opposite.

This constant focus on ”young and hungry”, ”rejuvenation of the target group” and ”anti age”! It’s so tiering. And it’s so wrong.

But maybe we should blame ourselves a little, we who were young in the 60s and 70s?

We may have succeeded just too well when we carried out a more extensive, widespread and peaceful cultural revolution than the world has ever seen. It spread from London to California, to Stockholm, Berlin, Tokyo and Paris.

It created the teenage generation.

Certainly, the age group had existed at all times. But not the target group, to speak marketing lingo.

My older sister and her girlfriends most closely resembled younger copies of their mothers, with the same permanent hair and the same clothes. The boys became “men” directly after the confirmation.

But then we came, we who were born in the late 1940s and early 1950s. And with us teenage fashion and pop music.

New fashion stores just for young people were established, the music industry exploded, youth magazines flourished, and a series of new radio and TV programs started to entertain the large, young audience.

It was an exciting time.

But it was never intended that we, the teenagers, would become as prevailing as we did and the youth fixation grows firmly in all contexts and camps.

From previously scarcely to be expected at all, youth became the model for the normal and the desirable.

Along the way, the importance of experience and maturity faded.

But we who are peers with Bruce Springsteen or Madonna are just the same. In any case, inside.

Today’s ”seniors” are more to the number, healthier and can expect to live longer than their parents and grandparents.

And development continues.

The author Ludvig Rasmussonhas summed it all up in his book ”The Age Uprising”: ”The 40s generation is the one who helped create society as it is today and they are used to decide. They will not accept being treated like their parents”.

It would also be a terrible waste of energy, power and creativity.

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