In this episode:

Wendy Liebmann talks to Michael Clinton, author of ROAR into the Second Half of Your Life – Before It’s Too Late, and CEO and Founder of ROARforward, a joint venture with Hearst Ventures.

They discuss:

  • The new 50+ cohort and the social movement driving change in the developed world, as people live longer.
  • One-third of the population is already 50-plus with substantial – and growing spending power.
  • They’re not brand loyal. They’re blowing up all of the stereotypes, rejecting brands and retailers where they don’t feel they represent them accurately.
  • How marketing strategy and merchandising approaches need to be rethought.
  • How understanding this new cohort is critical for business, employees, brands, and retailers.
  • The implications for brands and retailers – most of whom are currently getting an F grade.

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Watch the video episode:

Wendy 00:09

Hello, everyone. I'm Wendy Liebmann. I'm the CEO and chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail and this is Future Shop. Well, it feels like over the last few months, maybe a few years, many of us WSL included, have been spending lots of time, maybe way too much time research and also brainpower on discovering how younger shoppers younger generations, especially Gen Z, and even Gen a and our end of the world are going to change brands retailers the world. But what struck me recently maybe as Boomer number one me is that there's so much untapped commercial potential right at our fingertips at these moments, especially when we think about those who are over 50 over 60 or and even Heaven forbid over 70. So why are we ignoring them? Us? And why? And how do we need to stop? Well, my guest today is going to actually unravel all that for us because he's figured it all out. Here's Michael Clinton is the former president and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, he now also serves, they wouldn't let them out of their sight, as special media adviser to the CEO at Hearst. He is also the CEO and founder of an organization he's developed called ROAR Forward, which was actually based on a best selling book he wrote in 2021. About how do you roll forward in the second half of your life. He's also built this into a joint venture with her. So lots to tell about that. So clearly, Michael has figured out what all the opportunity is here, and how we should move on. So I am delighted to have you with us. Michael, welcome.

Michael 02:00

Why don't you thanks so much. It's always great to be with you and see you. Thank you.

Wendy 02:03

Yeah, it feels like we've known each other from when we were maybe our own Gen Z's maybe not quite. But there abouts, and, and long enough, not long enough, never long enough. But that it always made me think that you have this extraordinary lens before the whole raw movement that you're creating. But you've had this extraordinary lens through your media expertise, all the touch points around CPG brands, how to communicate how to build businesses from a publishing perspective, and marketing in general, you've always been at that sensitive forefront of where the world is heading and how we communicate. And so when you all of a sudden not maybe not introduced this new book that you wrote called roar, I was actually not so surprised. As I looked at it, read it and thought about it, I started to step back and sort of brace myself for saying why are we all going down this only younger path, when clearly there's so much more opportunity personally as well as from a commercial standpoint. So after that long Hello, how are you? And how's life in the world? Tell us about how you came to actually write the book and create what I call the roll movement?

Michael 03:20

Yeah, again, no, thank you. I think the big headline is that this is probably the biggest social movements of our lives in that the world, the developed world, in particular, is going through a massive, massive shift in terms of living longer, we'd like to use that phrase as opposed to getting older, because if you're 50, and healthy, there's a very good chance you're going to live to be 90. So the whole lifecycle of the second half of life is going to change dramatically for us personally, individually, but also for brands, companies retailers, because this group is redefining their 50s 60s 70s and beyond. And you're beginning to see that all over the popular press, it is a dramatically different time for the people in that cohort. And by the way, it affects everyone regardless of race, gender, politics, religion, because everyone is going to be in this cohort. So I wanted to put a spotlight on not only that, but the people who are really at the forefront of redefining this cohort. I call them the reimagine errs, and they are the people who are really very, very different than any generation that's ever lived on planet Earth. We can start there. I would add that right now in the United States alone. 35% of the population is already 50 plus the millennials turned 50. In seven years, they have a spending power of 8.3 trillion a year which will grow to 13 trillion. They're not brand loyal. They're not interested in same old, same old, they're blowing up all of the stereotypes, and they were force and they also by the way, have all of the assets and all The money. So they're a powerful cohort, I actually call them the new growth market for smart marketers and smart retailers.

Wendy 05:08

Yeah. And the thing that strikes me about that we, as you know, have been doing our how America shops research for years. And it's not that we've been ignoring older millennials, Gen X boomers and beyond. But we've also seen within this, you've got this, as you say, this sort of new cohort, but the influence, so we've got people who are caregivers that are the word of the moment, and so they could be millennials caring for older parents, friends, family, whatever that is. And so understanding this group, and caregiving doesn't mean that people have to be suffering from chronic disease, it could be just economic issues or other issues. And so I just see the sort of the implications of this has been really dramatic. So that's the other reason why all this work you've been doing really intrigued me now you went off and did some primary research, as part of all this, tell us what that revealed?

Michael 06:05

Well, what we saw, and we actually have another big piece of research in the field now, but what we saw is that many brands and marketers and retailers have always said yes, yes, we know about this cohort, we know it's coming, we know that there's going to be a bulge in the population. But first of all, we discovered a, it's here, right now we're living at it, we're in the moments of it. The second thing that we saw, which was really eye opening is how individuals are rejecting brands and retailers where they don't feel they represent them accurately in representation. We did some work with a group called CivicScience, which is an opinion analytics platform that you might be familiar with. And 60% of people over 55 said, they don't see themselves represented in brand communications. 46% said they are likely to decide against purchasing a product service or go to a retailer who doesn't represent them accurately. And actually 33% have actually done that. So I think the big thing here is that if you're not accurately presenting in a contemporary way, or communicating in a temporary way, you're gonna lose that customer. And so while of course, we have to cultivate Gen Z and younger generations. But meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, you know, you don't want to lose that customer. And in fact, you want that customer to come in as a new customer. So lots of work that has been done to show that the attitudes are dramatically different than they were in past generation.

Wendy 07:34

And the other thing that strikes me about that, right, and one of this generation I'm talking about, as I know you are, and part of it is, you know, I stream most of the content I watch, but I do watch, heaven forbid, usually the evening news at 6:30. At night, it's my way of stopping and having a glass of wine right from the workday. What strikes me about that when you talk about representation, is I look at all the ads that run and either they're all the medical ads, or there may be phone ads or something and everybody while active, I look at them. And I think is that really how I want to be represented. So there feels like there's a lot of nuance to all of this as we think about roaring forward.

Michael 08:18

Well, I think it's a great observation. I sometimes say that the television commercials on the news are more depressing the news itself because of that representation. But here's the conundrum, which is going to be turned on its head in the media matrix where marketers buy advertising, they generally stopped at age 54. And what happens if they want to target people over 54, they tend to buy things like the evening news and syndication, and then they feed off of the stereotype. And so what has to happen is the media buying industrial complex, first of all has to be blown up. Because we all know, the 55 to 75 year olds who are dynamic, digitally savvy fit all of the things that are contemporary, they don't see themselves at all. And they're not even being bought from the media standpoint, let alone being placed in creative executions. It's a very big agenda item, and the people will force the issue ultimately.

Wendy 09:15

Yeah. So that whole notion now as we think about this, it also feels like this is sort of either lack of knowledge or awareness, but also this discomfort. I don't know. I can't figure it out myself. And you're so close to that. How do these companies have to think about this, both brands and media and retailers have to realign their thinking?

Michael 09:40

Yeah, well, first of all, you're absolutely right. They have to realign their thinking. Part of the dilemma is that many people who are around the creative table the world has done a wonderful job at creating diversity around the table. But the world has done a horrible job of creating 50 Plus as part of the diversity around the table. People. So what happens is a 25 year old, who's creating advertising sort of defaults to a stereotype. It's kind of like how when women were not represented around the table, there are a bunch of white men who decided what women really thought. So it's an inauthentic representation, because the default is to stereotype. So integrating people of all ages, including 50 Plus is a really important part of getting an authentic representation. And that goes the same with marketing and strategy and building, merchandising approaches, and so forth. So one thing is happening, which is really interesting is for the first time in history, you're gonna have five generations of people in the workplace. And getting input from all the various generations is the secret sauce for what will be successful brands, marketers and retailers moving forward. And that includes those 50 Plus folks who have a lot of experience and wisdom.

Wendy 10:55

So it feels like in some ways, Michael, that companies are beginning to get it. You know, I've been watching this all this conversation around menopause, lots of new brands in that space retailers beginning to try to figure out how to talk to and merchandise and market to women through menopause, which actually can begin quite early. So it's not only 50 Plus, I was remarked, we had a guest on the show, I don't know a couple of months ago, and Dr. Somi Javaid. Then she talked about how women would live, I think like 40% of their life in menopause. And I was like, oh my god poke my eye out. But that at least feels like there's some momentum around it. And people like Naomi Watts and others who are now in this space. Is that a good sign? Is that that we're recognizing this opportunity, at least in one category? Yeah, it's

Michael 11:51

actually a very good sign. I think the more voices around the topic, the better. I'm on the board of the Stanford University Center on Longevity, which has a lot of interesting voices. There's a great piece called the new map of life, which they created, which I think has been very helpful for brands. Our team launched Oprah Winfrey's magazine and Oprah on is now just last week, it had a longevity day and a longevity curriculum. I wrote two pieces for her for that space. We had Dr. Attia who wrote the book Outlive, which you might be familiar with a Tamsin doll from a New York broadcaster is taking on the menopause topic. I think the more voices the better. But here's what's great. I think that the people who represent the new cohort are great voices. So you know, we think about Jennifer Lopez in her 50s. You know, we think about Sex in the City, women who in the Golden Girls, they were in their 50s. So just think about the difference. So unique contemporary images of people who are voicing the old expression, you can't be what you can't see these voices. And these contemporary images are the ones that are putting a new Spotlight on what the new 50, 60, 70, plus looks like. That's great. I think the more the better.

Wendy 13:07

And as you think about this in other industries, I mentioned before, you know, health, obviously, financial services, technology, travel those areas beauty, you know, to some degree, we still struggle with that a bit. But are there less obvious areas where you're beginning to see the change reflected in the

Michael 13:27

categories that you mentioned are moving along, I think travel has done a really great job and travel category, I'm gonna go right to the flip side and save it fashion high end luxury, retail gets an F because generally the representation of anyone in their advertising who was over 30, forget over 40 is hard to find. We did a look see at 25 fashion luxury brands, advertising campaigns, and only one in 25 campaigns had anyone over 30, maybe over 27, 28 in their campaign. And that was Dolce and Gabbana with Sharon Stone, who was 64 and is a great representation of what the new 64 looks like. And I think some of the research we found is that women who are 50 or 60, who have the means and the style quotient, they're all saying we don't want to look like a 25 year old. We want to look like a great 50 year old. We want to be the best 60 year old we can be where am I represented where's my representation, and some of the beauty companies like L'Oreal have done a really great job of that with their limited worth campaign, which you're familiar with, all the way from Helen Mirren to Viola Davis to many others who are dynamic and credible women who represent the new 50, the new 60 and all that. So we also have to stop saying that you know, 60 is the new 40 and start saying that 60 is the new 60 and this is what it looks like. So I think fashion retail Luxury in general are really way behind the curve. And looking at some of the other categories that you mentioned travel in particular, there's a company called caddis, which I'm sure you're familiar with Caddis, I think they are really a next gen brands. They're an eyewear company, they call themselves I appliances and spend some time on their site. They really have captured it to me, Tim Caddis, who's the entrepreneur founder has nailed it with this brand. And so he's next gen for sure.

Wendy 15:29

But I think the point you just made that it's not saying 60s The new 40, because who cares, right? That's a very different voice to it isn't just women where the issue is, or is it men as well,

Michael 15:41

it's been two although men tend to get a bit of a break. Harrison Ford has a new movie coming out. He's ad. They've got a lot of great stories about him and how he works. There aren't as many female actresses who are ad who are working in roles as much as men out so more roles tend to get better roles, diversified roles. You know, Helen Marin and Judi Dench are two examples of women who have broken that code. But many other women, you tend to see roles that are more traditional, you know, homemakers, grandmothers, doting grandmother, like were the badass women. You know, like Helen Mirren playing an assassin, you know, we need to see that you know, so men get a little bit of a break, we need more women representing diverse roles,

Wendy 16:28

or they marry very,

Michael 16:31

exactly. I mean, there's a great new studio in Los Angeles called landline, and they're only producing films for the Metacomet is for people over 50 with actors and actresses over 50 It's a great niche to develop, I think we're gonna see more of it.

Wendy 16:46

And it's not that we speak, you know, mother in law study of one, that we don't want to see younger things or younger people or learn new things or another I think we learned during COVID, right, one of our dear friends and colleagues who used to run CVS, and then Hudson Bay Company Helena Folks talked about her dad, who at the point was at and had to learn to shop online. And now of course, COVID over fortunately, he's safe and well and continues to shop online. So it's not that it's one or the other, I think you made the very good point about represented around the table. If we think about gender, if we think about diversity, still, in some industries a long way to come. But at least there's representation with the people who are either creating imagery, making decisions, developing new products, all of those things that make a big difference in having this full view of what comes next or what the rest looks like. So I didn't tell the whole story that you've just come down from marathons in the Himalayas, and that you are also a noted photographer and writer of amazing travel books. So you have a very multifaceted life and have always so as we mere mortals move on, what do you think we'll be seeing in this mere mortal space, as we think about as brands and retailers opportunities, of who we're trying to bring into this not bring into the fall, but represent in this fold, and they're gonna be like you climbing mountains and jumping out of planes and flying. And

Michael 18:19

thank you. I think this reimagine your cohort are the front runners. This is like I make the analogy that in every social movement, there are always people on the front line and the leaders, whether it was the women's movement, or the civil rights movement, or the LGBTQ movement, there are always people who lead the charge on redefining perceptions, redefining roles, redefining the representation of them in mainstream media and advertising all of the above, you're already seeing this massive shift at people who are redefining the script. They are not necessarily retiring, they're working longer, or they're rewiring as we like to say in the book to new careers in their 50s or 60. They are going back to school, they are running marathons, they are competing and masters sports, their imagery is going to change the perceptions of what this group looks like. You're seeing it play out a lot in social media with the grand influentials, which you're probably familiar with. There's a group in London called the Queen Agers who own their age and have images of them. You're certainly filled with coastal grandmother. You're seeing it in social media, but you're not seeing it in mainstream advertising, marketing imagery, merchandising, all of the above. And I would argue that the people will force the change the way women force the change on the culture and brands and other social movements did as well. It's all coming like a freight train. So retailers who are not aware of this are going to be having some real challenges.

Wendy 20:01

When you lead me right there, I was going to say, you know, you gave retail in its broadest sense, I assume an F. How do you think retailers whether it's mass or big boxes, whether it's specialty luxury department stores, ecommerce, whatever in the breadth of all the things that we cover anywhere people shop? What are the things that they need to be thinking about here? Is that product? Is it imagery? Is that design of store? What does it mean? What should they be looking at? So they move up from operable F.

Michael 20:32

I think it's all of the above give you an example, in the automotive industry, what's happening is the average age of the car buyer in America today is 60. And the number of drivers who are on the road are considerably aging and getting older. And so the design of automotive products, both the software and the hardware are changing dramatically. Things as simple as push buttons, and where are the levers are in terms of opening doors, where your seat belts are, all of this has been done by the engineers, I would argue that while that's the leaning, it helps everyone it helps everyone of all ages, people who have may have disabilities, people may have problems. So being age agnostic is important. Having representation of people that are contemporary versions of them, not some the husband and wife walking into the sunset, or petting the cat or playing with the grandchild, how about mountain biking or doing something that is sort of a different kind of representation. And of course, also, you know, the way a store is merchandise to reflect that in terms of not segregating people out based on age. And you know, a lot of the drugstore chains, when they're focusing on that cohort, it's all about medical and health. Well, they're consumers who are buying lots of other things in their stores. So they should be integrated into those messages as well. Those are just a few examples of what they can do.

Wendy 22:00

It's really helpful. We actually, you remind me, there's a great retailer in the UK in London, actually John Bell and Croyden, which is a drugstore pharmacy retailer. And one of the things that's so interesting about what they've done even in their durable medical equipment, which even the name by itself is so depressing. But in that they have defined their walking sticks and canes by you know, what a sexy walk one day, whatever, it doesn't matter how old you are, or young you are, the verbiage, the commentary, the story they're telling is so much more fun, as opposed to durable medical equipment, whatever that means. So all of that feels like you know, everybody's included.

Michael 22:43

I think that the markets that America can look to Japan is doing a great job. As you know, they're the oldest country on Earth, in terms of the percentage of people age wise, Singapore is doing an interesting job on it as well. So there are places where people can look for inspiration, in terms of just positioning, even China, even China is doing some interesting things with an aging population. So this is a phenomena that is, as I mentioned earlier, all over the developed world. And so this is only going to get more and more enhanced over the next years and decades.

Wendy 23:20

It's inspiring, because, as you said, one, the generations that we're talking about. And now here, I love the idea that it's not 60 as the new 40, which makes me really annoyed and makes my red hair even fire. Yeah, that's definitely part of it, you buy yourself for a great inspiration of all things when I follow you on Instagram. It's interesting. You said that about social media too, because they think about if traditional media does not reflect this, that pushes people more and more to the social media that does reflect who they are, or the communities that they can be part of which is really interesting. But you've also done something else. So I must learn a little bit more about this, before we wrap up. You've also built this subscription service that you're actually in real life as we speak. Tell me a little bit more about that. Because anybody who's in this cohort, or supporting those might be interested.

Michael 24:12

Thank you. We have a variety of activities that we've launched in our joint venture, which is really to put a spotlight on this new longevity, roar. lays it all out. But the one thing we really want to do is bring information and intelligence to the C suite to people to really get a good understanding of how this is going to affect their worlds, their business, their employees, their brands, all the above. So we have something called the roar report, which is quarterly and then has a supplement of war bulletins which come out every two weeks. And it's designed to really give the C suite intel on this topic. We have a group called the roar mastermind, which is a community group and we have a series of events and we'll have a summit in New York in November. I hope you'll come on November 9, is called the Roll Forward Summit and other kinds of activities. We also have a free newsletter monthly newsletter where people can sign up for. So we want to be one of the voices in the space along with all the other voices that are joining in this chorus. And yeah, so the Hearst was very excited about partnering up with roar in terms of this initiative. So yeah, thanks for letting me put in that little commercial message.

Wendy 25:23

No, the other thing that struck me about that is, it's also there's so much information, rightly or wrongly out there in so many places about so many things, and the ability to have a plate, you know, for us, it's all about the shopper, as you know, but it's that notion of anyway, they want to make it easy. And to have a trusted resource, I think becomes the other piece, but also, how do you present it to the people who need to reflect the change and see the opportunity? Because that's the other bit we can all whine forever about inflation and getting younger shoppers, and aren't they fickle and all of this stuff. But if we're not going to do anything about this, I will tell you as a last comment, at least from me is that when my business partner Candace Corlett and I got together many years ago, after I'd already started the business, she had a consulting company that was all about baby boomers. And you know, the struggle to get enough big CPG companies and retail companies to pay attention. Now, granted, we're a long time since that, but it feels like Oh, my heavens. So I do feel like in the work you're doing, maybe we're getting the message. So I am delighted that you could come and talk about all this and inspire all of us. So if there's 123 things that we should be thinking about as we think about the future and the future of retail, what should we be thinking about here, as we call to action for all of those of us who are moving forward,

Michael 26:51

the 50 Plus market is huge, and is going to get bigger and bigger, and it is not going away, it's with us for the rest of our lives. As the population continues to live longer in that space. They're radically different. They're very different consumers, they are not brand loyal in any way, shape, or form, think Tesla, think Apple Watch could go down the list of brands that have captured consumers away from traditional brands, because of what they're offering. So looking at them in a new way, in a different way, in a fresh way, as one CEO of a major media company said to me, this is really the growth market of our lives if we play it, right, because they have the money and the resources. So I think that's one, the second thing I would say is make sure you're representing them in a contemporary modern way. Because not only is relevant for them, but it's for the next generation, because we want that 40 year old to say, oh, that's what 60 can look like. That's what 70 can be, you know, and be the role models that the next generations can follow. Because they are the ones that are going to live the 100 year life, they are the ones that are going to have belong are today's five year old, has a 50% chance to live to be 100. So it is going to be a radically different second half of life than what we have all known and we have all been wired for. Although those agitating baby boomers are really busting that up, because that's our new cars, right? We have sex and drugs and rock and roll. And now this is our new cause.

Wendy 28:19

Yeah, may there be more sex, drugs and rock'n'roll but how it will be defined?

Michael 28:23

Exactly. So I think that's the key. And I think smart brands fart retailers are paying attention. By the way, they're also focused on Gen Z and the next generation, but don't forget that they had cohorts, it's right in front of your face. That would be my wrap up.

Wendy 28:37

That's great guidance for us all. Well, it's not that we don't want to talk to the younger people or focus on them. But we, there's so much commercial opportunity and joy in all of that. So I'm delighted that you could join us. Thank you. What's the next mountain you're climbing literally or metaphorically?

Michael 28:53

Well, as you know, I just spent nine days hiking to the Everest base camp and ran a marathon down. So I like to say to people, this is what the 60s look like. And so I'm going to take a little breather. Actually, when the you'll find this interesting. I'm exploring a trip to Western Australia to the Kimberley. So that might be the next trip. So I'll be calling you with advice.

Wendy 29:17

Very good. Well done. Do follow Michael on Instagram. It's just inspiring amongst other things, and do sign up doing a little plug here because there's so much else to see through row. So Michael, lovely to see you. Thank you for joining us on Future Shop. And I look forward to seeing you in November.

Michael 29:34

Thank you one of these very pleasure. Thanks, everyone.

Wendy 29:36

Cheers. So Michael said at all. First of all those of you in the retail world you get an F here that again f clearly there is so much opportunity with this segment, this cohort as he called it of the population. It's not about looking backwards and making new frames of reference 60s, the new 40 Because that's just insulting but it is about creating environments and products and experiences that are relevant. And it is about bringing the right group of people around the table to make these decisions. And that's where the opportunity lies, whether you're in the brand business, the CPG, business, the fashion, business, any kind of retail, any kind of consumer experience where you want people to spend money, it's not that we're saying, ignore the younger shoppers. We are not for a minute, but we are saying there is a massive new group, new older group of consumers and shoppers who are an opportunity waiting for us in the future of retail inspiration right there. So join us in the future. We'll see you soon. Cheers for now.

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