Brand Communities and Well-being: Learning to Age in a Red Hat

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Virginia Tech


The older female segment plays a critical role in society's fabric, as women past retirement volunteer a significant amount in their communities and provide essential caregiving to family members and friends. Moreover, older females outnumber older males and with the baby boomer population aging over 65, this segment is becoming more influential. Yet there is surprisingly little marketing research that focuses on this older female segment, their lived experiences, and their well-being. Working within the tradition of consumer culture theory, this project is an ethnographic exploration of the Red Hat Society (RHS), a brand community which focuses on celebrating older women. This research adds to the theoretical understanding of older female consumers by exploring how older women negotiate the meaning of aging, gender, and identity. Extending on brand community literature, I suggest how the RHS manages to create a supportive, 'safe space' in which members are able to engage play and learning. Play performances, enacted in through costuming and other rituals within the brand community, are extended beyond the bounds of this 'safe space' to influence the identities and well-being of these women.



older consumers, play, costuming, social support