Imagine the Possibilities

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.

50+ Stereotype

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?!

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5 Responses to Imagine the Possibilities

  1. Wendy Woodhall says:

    Very interesting information and insights. I remember when my husband received that letter in the mail and he was less than happy about it! Good idea to start shifting perceptions!

  2. Lia says:

    Great post, Diane! Aw man — I can relate as I, too, hit the same milestone in recent months with similar reactions. I love the repositioning of the brand to focus on possibilities, which is much more forward-thinking and aligned with how many of us at this age live our lives!

    Now if only along with that letter was a realistic, actionable opportunity to retire immediately…
    …one can dream!

    Thanks for the insight!

  3. Tracy Gohari says:

    Diane, I’m 54 and my husband is 61. We get the mailers from AARP CONSTANTLY and I routinely throw them away!! (I don’t even open them.) I really like what they are trying to do with their rebrand as you described it in your post; however, that message has not yet reached me. I think in order to really change perceptions they’ll have to come up with an entirely new name. There is just too much history with AARP no matter what new concepts it’s supposed to stand for. Thanks for an entertaining post!

  4. Dena Lawless says:

    Great post Diane! The AARP is just perpetuating a stereotype and they need to change fast or just go away. No one is excited about receiving their ‘welcome’ magazine (I can imagine) plus 50 is the new 40, and so forth. People who are 50 today are very active and are a part of GenX, the connected consumers. The first change they need to make is the front covers of their magazine. They target 50+ and they show people in their 80s or 90s. That is like sending teenagers a copy of Parent magazine! They should put some actual 50-60 something year olds that are in great shape on the cover! Start taking pictures of real people in their 50s (maybe here in California it’s different?). The second change is definitely their entire brand and name. The third change is stop sending it to anyone who has not retired, as in age 65+.

    Let’s get something straight as a society – “old” is when you just can’t function anymore or don’t want to.

  5. Steve says:

    Diane,
    Great post! Rebranding is happening a lot recently especially with the aging brands that have been around for quite some time. Renewing a brand is tricky in that while it can attract a newer audience, it can also alienate dedicated customers. AARP is doing it right! JcPenney tried to rebrand itself and change pricing tiers a few years back, but customers that had been shoppers for a while did not like the changes, causing the brand to go back to its traditional pricing and promotional merchandising.