Brands court influencers who aren’t Gen X, Y or Z

Author Ruskin Bond recently made an appearance on senior living community operator Columbia Pacific Communities’ social media timelines to talk about ‘positive ageing’. The 86-year-old writer from his picturesque home in Landour, Mussoorie, was also engaged in a book reading session for the brand. Bond is not the first senior celebrity that the company has worked with. Columbia Pacific Communities has also collaborated with Bollywood stars Anupam Kher and Zeenat Aman in the past. Isolation and loneliness is increasing among elderly populations across the world due to the Covid-19 health crisis. All they want is someone to talk to, observe mental health experts.

That’s why brands are keeping content at the heart of their marketing strategy while targeting this segment. “A category such as ours that requires a massive shift in perceptions and paradigms, leans on narrative-based marketing and soft selling, as opposed to hard-selling,” explains Piali Dasgupta, senior vice president – marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities. This trend has also given the confidence to seniors to nurture their passions and hobbies using social media platforms. From cooking, art and designing to political commentary and dance videos, seniors are going all out to express themselves and make the best use of their talent and time.

A few weeks ago, Hindustan Unilever released an Instagram campaign featuring actor Neena Gupta and karaoke for Brooke Bond Red Label Tea. Gupta was seen singing her heart out. The actor says in the piece, “Yahi to umar hai saare labels hatane ki (this is the time to get rid of all labels).” The video ends with #LetsUnstereotypeIndia. Another influencer who was recently seen in a brand collaboration is Ravi Bala Sharma, popularly known as Dancing Dadi on social media. Sharma was seen in smartphone Oppo’s digital film in which she talks about her new career as a content creator.

According to Columbia Pacific Communities’ research, seniors are “fiercely independent and individualistic.” However, their realistic views on life don’t always make marketers excited. “Brands are not interested in marketing to them or talking to them, advertising campaigns underrepresent them hugely and pop culture doesn’t pay enough attention to them. As a result, they are, what we like to call ‘an invisible demographic’ without much of a voice,” says Dasgupta. Seniors constitute 8% of the country’s population but, by 2050, they will constitute 20% of the country’s population. Chew on that for a bit.

“The senior segment like to propel a certain philosophy on social media. They cannot be flashy and show an unrealistic side of life,” says Harshil Karia, founder of independent digital agency Schbang. Karia believes baby boomers love “making a statement and taking a stand.” What makes them stand out is their “originality” and “organic approach” to put together content pieces, he adds. Karia suggests, if brands are looking for some “realness” in their communication, seniors will lead them in the right direction.