The over 50s are the UK’s biggest and fastest growing demographic. There are over 23.6 million people aged 50 years and above in the UK, over a third of the total population.
Someone in the UK turns 50 every 40 seconds; that’s around 15,000 people every week. By 2031 over 50s are expected to represent approximately 40 per cent of the UK population (27.2 million).
Yet marketers seem to be falling over themselves to understand millennials and avidly pursue Generation Z with fervour. But why isn’t there the same enthusiasm for those older consumers who have more money, more time, and more need for products and services across more categories?
All too often marketers are still grouping those aged over 50 into a homogeneous group defined by their age and representing them through stereotypes.
Or worse still they ignore them all together, as is the case with some fashion brands, who work on the assumption that by targeting over-50s (who, by the way, are already their customers), they will somehow devalue the brand and make it less appealing to their ideal consumer in their 35s-45s.
The over-50s have been considered to be a conservative, traditional, retrospective, and to be a closed-minded group with declining health and increasingly limited mobility.
However, this is somewhat at odds with the generation’s own perceptions, as an increasing proportion describe themselves as open-minded, altruistic, healthy, and adventurous with 15-20 good years ahead of them.
There are longstanding myths about these consumers; they are stuck in their ways, not technically savvy, over the hill and they don’t respond to advertising.
However, the over 50s take more holidays than any other age group: nearly half take two or three trips abroad every year. They embrace technology despite being stereotyped as technophobes. Older people buy smart phones, computers, party foods, Prosecco, top of the range expensive cars, DIY products – just like everybody else - in fact more so.
Moving beyond age will enable brands to understand consumers on a much deeper level to deliver better ROI. Brand owners will maximise their efficiency by interrogating their audience beyond just age alone, by understanding attitudes towards their brand, their usage of the brand, and how familiar they are with the category.
By not doing so, brands risk becoming homogeneous and less relevant to anybody. A brand might be widely recognised, but it will only be truly valued by very few.
With an ageing audience and the new gradient of how wealth, and property in particular, is allocated in the UK, these groups have more time and spending power than older equivalent generations did which manifests in their buying behaviour.
Learning more about specific activities and behaviours will improve the accuracy of targeting these age groups and the available data available is attainable. So rather than targeting purely on age ranges there’s far more opportunity to target on how these consumers act.
Either way, it’s clear many brands are failing to effectively market to over-50s, and given we’re an ageing population, it’s about time marketers took a more active approach to understanding this vast audience. Not doing so means that brands are in danger of not surviving.
by Jane Silk, Silver Marketing