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Don't mention older consumers' age

News, 16 March 2016

LONDON: Older consumers in most markets own the greatest proportion of household wealth yet marketers tend to neglect them and to focus on a younger demographic whose spending is constrained by housing costs, family commitments and often debt.

So it is little surprise that many over-50s believe that most advertising is not targeted at them. There is also the likelihood of unconscious age bias as people working in agencies and marketing departments are rather younger.

But marketers need to buck up their ideas, as Mark Beasley, chairman of the Mature Marketing Association, notes in a Warc Best Practice paper. He says this age group is projected to make up 50% of the population within ten years and a growing proportion still will be in the workforce as retirement ages get pushed back.

"An ageing population is something of a game-changer for marketers, with significant implications for marketing theory and practice, which have developed alongside a youthful population," he writes.

Marketers should pay closer attention to the needs of older consumers, he suggests, and take time to assess how well their current marketing, advertising and communications strategies are serving a complex and diverse demographic.

There is no template for marketing communications for older people, but one thing that consistently emerges from research is that most over-50s don't want to be defined or targeted by age – except where there is a very good reason to do so – and they do want to be portrayed realistically in advertising.

"Segmentation by age can be a convenient starting point," Beasley says, "but is inappropriate as a primary targeting factor."

Many segmentation variables can be overlaid on to age, with the two most significant being socio-economic related factors and health. Others include attitudes, gender, geo-demographics, lifestyle, needs, product benefits, psychographics and usage.

But in an age of "post-demographic consumerism", traditional concepts of lifestage and social structure are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Marketers need to consider how boundaries are blurring across age groups as people share interests and needs with people of all ages rather than their own age group.

Inter-generational considerations are often important as people live longer and some 50+ consumers can find themselves faced with responsibilities for not only their elderly parents and their own children but often their grandchildren as well.

Data sourced from Warc