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  • Writer's pictureRichard Irvine


Updated: Aug 31, 2021

By Richard Irvine:

Maybe it’s just me, my age or the algorithmic echo chamber that I inhabit but Bucket Lists appear to be making something of a resurgence. Three Lock Downs and counting have no doubt had an impact but equally the BOOMERS, as they head towards the last quarter, have played their part too. After all the concept of the Bucket List was created on their watch.

The actual origins of the Bucket List can be traced back to Patrick Carlisle’s 2004 book: “Unfair & Unbalanced: The lunatic magniloquence of Henry E. Parky” (a title that had me googling furiously for the definition of magniloquence), when he wrote the following: “So, anyway, a Great Man, in his querulous twilight years who doesn’t want to go gently into the black night. He wants to cut loose, dance on the razor’s edge and pry off the lid of his bucket list”. Heady stuff. But the term Bucket List really entered the vernacular after the release of the 2007 film by the same name. A movie in which two terminally ill men, played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, carrying a handwritten wish list and a fully loaded credit card, embark on a high octane road trip determined to enjoy life to the fullest before…well… they “kick the bucket”.

Since then, bucket list writing has become something of a preoccupation for people of a certain age. Which got me thinking about the types of things that Bucket Listees list. A quick return to Google revealed that there are all manner of activities and literally page after page of Top 10’s. Let me share with you just one from the website

See the Northern Lights


Get a tattoo

Go on a cruise

Swim with dolphins

Go scuba diving

Run a marathon

Go zip lining

See the pyramids

Go skinny dipping

Not a single mention of joining a Book Club (sorry, Graham Norton), or Learning all there is to know about Equity Release, nor for that matter taking a coach tour of Britain’s top ten care homes. Packed lunch included.

So here lies the dichotomy.

If we as marketers, brand owners and advertising professionals exist to deliver against the unmet needs of our customers, why then are we not shaping, creating and promoting products and services that deliver against the real wants and aspirations of this particular cohort?

Admittedly these lists may represent little more than a fantasy, a dream that may never be realised. But even so they signal a particular mindset and a serious attitudinal difference between how they see themselves and how they’re normally portrayed in the advertising targeted at them.

And being Boomers, this is something that they’re very likely to rile against. Conversely, get it right and a whole paradise of incremental revenue awaits.

Perhaps then we should package the humble Bucket List as a new innovative diagnostic tool and flog it to Milward Brown.

Who knows, we may earn enough from the sale to pay for the sky diving.

Richard Irvine is Head of Creative and Innovation at A3A Agency for the Third Age

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