Marketers neglect older consumers in US

20 July 2010

NEW YORK: Marketers are still failing to engage with older consumers in the US, despite the fact this audience is responsible for a significant share of the country's overall wealth and expenditure.

Shoppers in the 18-49 year old demographic are often perceived as having more liberal spending habits and a greater willingness to try new products.

However, a study by Nielsen, the research firm, has suggested that customers of 50 years of age and above have considerable potential for companies which promote their portfolio in the right way.

"There will be a huge number of people over the age of 65, 75, and 85 over the coming decade," said Doug Anderson, Nielsen's svp, research and thought leadership.

"We as a species have never had this many older people before. It's new ground."

Declining birth rates have triggered this situation, the consequences of which will be exaggerated by reduced salaries and expenditure among younger generations as a result of the downturn.

Estimates from Nielsen show that "baby boomers" will deliver 38.5% of consumer packaged goods revenues in 2010.

This segment also constitutes 40% of all wireless subscribers and 41% of the user base for PCs made by Apple, indicating the broad range of sectors in which they have an enormous influence.

"Targeting older consumers makes sense because you might be reaching more of your consumers," Pat McDonough, Nielsen's svp, planning and policy analysis, said.

A nuanced approach will be essential, as this cohort generally expect brands to exactly meet their needs, and readily switch when this is not the case.

In demonstration of the benefits that could follow from focusing on this group, the average TV viewer in the US is 51 years of age, meaning a shift in priorities will have to be widespread.

"There isn't a single media-content company that won't face this, and the same is true for mass marketers," Alan Wurtzel, president, research and media development at NBC Universal, said.

"Their value is actually increasing in many ways and no one has noticed it. For many years, we all got along with it."

NBC and Procter & Gamble have recently attempted to connect with web users fitting this profile, launching an internet hub operating under the banner "Life Goes Strong".

"With this property in particular, we're enabling advertisers and brands to reach a powerful demographic with an annual spending power of $1 trillion (€787bn; £677bn)," Rich DelCore, director, branded entertainment at P&G, said.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff