About six months ago, I hit a milestone. I turned 50. A few weeks before the big day, I received a letter from the non profit, social welfare organization AARP encouraging me to register so that I could take advantage of discounts and member benefits. The letter made me feel uncomfortable. I tore it up. I faced my upcoming birthday by making jokes with my other Gen-X friends about joining the American Association of Retired Persons.
Ha, me, an AARP member? Unfathomable. I am not ready for AARP. I am nowhere near retirement; I do not have white hair: I do not have aches and pains; I do not do jazzercise, nor travel around the country in an RV. At least not yet.
Am I brand stereotyping? You betcha.
Good news. AARP is working on changing their image.
The transformation started with a report commissioned by AARP about the impacts of aging on society. One of the key takeaways from a communications standpoint was that society has a negative understanding of aging and that new tools are needed to remove the stigma associated with life after 50.
In an effort to shift perceptions of its brand, AARP invested an estimated $25 million on a media campaign which launched at the Grammy Awards in 2013. The “Real Possibilities” campaign is anchored by a new slogan, integrating website tools, Facebook, Twitter, print and digital media spots that support a perception realignment of life after 50. This YouTube vignette featuring millennials, who meet active older adults, is really interesting.
The company aims to re-position as an ally in aging and empowerment. The re-branded acronym is now “An Ally for Real Possibilities.” They are also moving away from A-A-R-P to just “arp” (rhymes with harp).
Under the leadership of CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, the organization is working to improve their image and promote that age is just a state of mind. According to Jenkins, people need to stop worrying about getting old and instead think about living.
This is a concept that I can sink my teeth into. After all, I am currently in the middle of a graduate program at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I am eager for positive messages about life after 50. I want to be a part of an organization that will help me re-calibrate into the next chapter of my life. It’s very appealing to be “Active”,”Appreciated”, “Rewarded” and “Positive” about the future. I think I will join. Can you imagine the possibilities?!