Is ‘old’ the new 50 in branding?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Oasis singer Liam Gallagher declared that adults ‘could be killed in their sleep’ at his gig

Sixty-five is the new 50.

Which is not to say you should shun anything “old” in any way.

But ignore being labelled “old” and consider what the mainstream instead refers to as “the grans”, and it’s worth asking if their marketing priorities are really fair.

Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher’s off-colour remark on a recent tour of Australia was a significant shift: in the same week the band posted a barbed message to their online followers, asking them to “call it quits”, Liam issued a vicious attack on “old mums”.

He later clarified that he had really meant “fucking old sods” in those words, but it would be hard to imagine the fans’ reaction had they been informed of the original meaning.


The more characteristic, or plausible, interpretation would have been to remind young people that anyone making a bold or frank statement is likely to draw a response with a significant number of negative stereotypes that may resonate deeply with their younger peers.

Even now, more than 20 years on from he masterful Le Freak he has never entirely shaken the quote which opened the words to his debut single: “Your mummies could be killers.”

Or consider artist Jani Lane, whose much-anticipated Bollywood feature film features a mother who accidentally inherits the secrets of the universe and the importance of being politically correct. “As a mother myself” reads the blurb, “my heart aches at what Jani Lane is writing.”

Or singer-songwriter Anne Marie Forsyth, who details how her Mother the earth played a critical role in her early days, a potentially problematic message to share with the broader world.

And few here would expect a November/December 2018 announcement of The Voice UK’s fifth consecutive winner to be labelled the winner of “the great grans” – since it is still delivered as The Voice by the commercial network, ITV.

Even Graham Norton – presenter of the other big UK talk show – is not immune to the pitfalls, having described the first single by winner Ryan Lawrie – here we are talking about a young man – as the “first pop song written for elderly grans”.

The net effect of these unsettling messages is that it’s hard not to wonder if the overall purpose of branding the age group as “old” is to reinforce an unflattering stereotype – or to be used as a stand-in for our flawed perceptions of ageing.

I am beyond the 18 years of age when I adopted the dog-eared term “old”, as a sentence ending – essentially rather than including a half-remembered means of expression that evoked much more than its context – so I have rarely noticed myself being labelled as old.

But have I really stopped getting sent copies of The Archers or Bo Derek?

The phrase has not lost its ability to be a watershed event in my own life, prompting me to remember how I’d felt when the song Looper began: “I don’t know what can make you act/ In a way that makes it apparent/ You’re approaching late middle age”.

Not that that I wanted to be involved in being old in this context.

Even if I had the awareness that I was doing so, I would still turn the word down.

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