Savvy marketers ignore the Third Age at their peril, warn James Murphy and Paul Flatters. If you're looking for growth, this is a segment well worth wooing and pursuing.

The marketing director sits pensively at her desk, the most recent quarterly sales figures spread in front of her. Things are not too clever. The general economy is sluggish and many luxury brands, including hers, are taking a clear and present hit. Her traditional target segment - relatively young urban professionals - seems to be growing unresponsive to her agency's expensive TV executions. What to do? There suddenly pops up the image of Lauren Hutton. Even though she is now aged 73, she is, according to the morning news, starring in the latest Calvin Klein underwear campaign.

We interrupt our MD's thoughts to raise some hesitations about the business of marketing to the Third Age:

  • We might alienate the young and the prosperous if they conclude that our products are for their grandparents too.
  • We might spend too much money by devising promotions differentially targeted at a spread of age segments.
  • The over-65s are cautious conservative spenders: too much like hard work.
  • Our markets are age-blind: our customers' age has never been interesting to us and it would be too risky to alter our approach.
  • We do not want to risk patronising the older consumer, seeming insensitive to his/her needs.