An Ageless Cafe by Olay popped-up at an up-market shopping mall in Bangkok recently.
This intrigued me for two reasons. Firstly, because Olay is one of P&G’s flagship brands and despite its extraordinary global marketing sophistication, P&G has made some fundamental mis-steps when tackling the issue of ageing. I wondered if the Ageless Cafe had signalled a change.
Secondly because one of Olay’s key competitors is Dove from arch rival Unilever, whose Pro-Age campaigns have been cleverly designed and well received.
P&G’s mis-steps in ageing go back a few years to the Crest and Oral‐B Pro‐Health For Life oral care products which claimed to be “Selected for Aged 50+ Consumers”.
At the time, I predicted the demise of the concept at a client meeting with the head of dental care products at another huge multinational FMCG marketer. He responded, “P&G don’t make those sorts of mistakes” and immediately assigned a staff strategist to prove me wrong.
I wasn’t. All traces of P&G’s Pro‐Health For Life misadventure now seem to have been erased from the public domain and relegated to the graveyard of failed attempts to effectively embrace the ageing consumer.
So, back to Olay. It was a very eye-catching pop-up shop. But I was confounded by the display which included a few strange posters (visible on the rear wall of the store) . The copy included a list of tired cliche’s;
- Age is just a number
- Ageless Society
- Live your life and forget your age
- Beauty has no age limit
- You’re never too old to become younger
- Don’t let age dictate what you can and cannot do
- Grow radical with age
- Be awesome in any age
- Age can change but not your beauty
- Aging is a fact of life, Looking your age is not
Goodness me! This reads like a few flip charts from a hasty workshop on the ageing consumer. Do they really expect consumers to read and respond to this stuff?
Pictures tell a thousand words so take a look at the profile of the ‘Ageless’ Olay customer. The image on the back wall (shown below from the Olay) website but must be from Olay’s image library. Compare this with the messaging from Dove and the insincerity of Olay’s approach is clear.
How much money, wasted effort and ageist sentiments must we tolerate before these companies wake up to what it really takes to engage with age?