Op-Ed: To win silver, you must give PR gold

Op-Ed: To win silver, you must give PR gold

By Wonna Wen, Telum Media

With increased life expectancies and rapid medical advancement, population ageing has quickly risen to become a top global concern. In 2019, Deloitte estimated that by 2030, the 50-plus population will constitute 32 percent of Asia Pacific’s population. This populace is expected to contribute to over half of the region’s consumer expenditure. In particular, China (excluding Hong Kong), South Korea, Thailand and Singapore are anticipated to lead in this “silver avalanche”.

While governments around the world scramble to come up with policies and infrastructures to support ageing populations, brands and organisations are increasingly on the lookout to connect with the silver generation.

On social media, “grandfluencers” have emerged in recent years as a popular and fresh concept for older and younger netizens alike. In 2019, the SCMP posted a video about “Glamma Beijing”, a group of stylish, 70-plus women that had taken Douyin by storm. A few months prior, the publication also shared a video about 65-year-old South Korean runway model, Kim Chil-doo. Most recently, Arena Homme+ Korea drew quite the buzz when it featured 78-year-old Squid Game actor Oh Young-soo modelling Balenciaga x adidas outfits.

The attractiveness of these three examples is highlighted not only in their refreshing concepts but also in their age neutrality. In showcasing the uniqueness of this older age group, the content is mindful to not “other” the subjects. This lesser-represented generation can participate in the latest social media trends unapologetically and with dignity, and by going a step further than age inclusivity, such content sidesteps the focus on age and ageing towards one of belonging.

Beyond social media, markets in the region have also been exploring opportunities in engaging the silver economy. Singapore hosts the annual World Ageing Festival while Hong Kong is anticipating the Senior Expo Asia in 2023. Government guidance in Mainland China has also pushed for better inclusion of the elderly in clothing and product catalogues. Experts followed suite, calling for brands to put more care in promoting product functionality and wellbeing when marketing to the “silver yuan”. It seems that one of the keys to winning gold is to become silver-tongued.

Beyond direct engagement, PR and comms has recently seen other creative ways to bring the elderly into conversation. This year, Ogilvy Taiwan garnered much attention via its REmemory campaign with the Taiwanese Alzheimer Disease Association. To raise public awareness around the disease, the campaign targeted people aged 18 to 39 using the viral story of a third-generation owner repurposing forgotten clothing at his dry cleaner into stylish outfits for his grandparents. The campaign featured online shops selling forgotten clothing from dry cleaners all over Taiwan, embedding the forgotten with life stories of the forgetting - patients affected by dementia.

By forging new connections between these items and young shoppers, the campaign created discussion and awareness around dementia among the younger generation. It not only brought an underrepresented population into the limelight but also created confluence between the generations through the clothing forgotten by the old, sought after by the young.

The conversation around ageing shouldn’t just be around population management or policy work. Coupled with declining birth rates, the silver economy is not one to forget in inclusivity agendas and campaigns. It’s inclusion, it’s neutrality and most of all, it’s recognition of the fact that the elderly is much more than a demographic and its spending power. Their place on the branding silver screen has only just begun.

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