Silver Marketing Revolution: Navigating 2024’s Senior Consumer Trends

Christian Taylor, Head of Planning at The Kite Factory

Introduction

Demographics are constantly shifting and in 2024 we will see more evidence of the impact of senior consumers on the marketing landscape. While millennials and Gen Z may make the more newsworthy headlines and appeal to brands chasing the youth sweet-spot, the spending potential of the over 50s is making this group an ever more attractive audience.

Earlier this year, we conducted research into the over 50 demographic in our whitepaper, ‘Older, Wiser, Richer and Disengaged’ in which we delved into the untapped potential of the senior demographic – with its longer life expectancy and greater financial influence than any other.

In the UK, over 55s are 2.5 times wealthier than the rest of the population and are actively spending on their passions including food and drink, getaways and recreational activities. Whereas in the US, AARP’s Longevity Economy Outlook report revealed that consumers over the age of 50 contribute $8.3tn each year in economic activity, with women highlighted as ‘Chief Consumption Officers’ making direct purchasing decisions every day on health, personal finance, travel, housing, leisure and more.

The senior demographic represents a significant growth opportunity for businesses worldwide, in fact they should be an advertiser’s dream. But the unfortunate reality is that they just don’t enjoy advertising. To effectively engage and resonate with older groups, marketers need to ditch many of their pre-conceived notions of this growing population and embrace new strategies to reach and appeal to this cohort. In 2024, we predict marketers will focus on the following trends:

Adapting digital strategies to build trust

The technophobic grandparent stereotype is outdated. Data from both sides of the Atlantic reveal that the over 65s are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. In the UK, 67% of seniors own smartphones, an increase from just 3% in 2012 and this rises to 78% of seniors in the US.

Social media has become somewhat of a playground for the older generation in recent years. The rise of TikTok has seen the term ‘Granfluencers’ popularised – older creators with growing and committed audience bases. Social media channels fit well with the concept of ‘community’ which closely aligns with what many of this demographic are looking for from their digital interactions.

And yet despite their technological advancement, older audiences tend to have lower trust and engagement with online advertising. To combat this distrust, marketers must build balanced campaigns with tailored digital journeys. In 2024, expect to see:

  • A surge in online shopping and e-commerce platforms tailored to seniors.
  • Mobile-friendly, easy-to-navigate websites and apps designed with seniors in mind.
  • Multi-channel campaigns that build trust and drive to online journeys.

Adopting intergenerational marketing

Data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics reveals that multi-generational households are on the rise, and similarly Pew Research Centre data reveals that the number of Americans who live in a multigenerational family household is four times larger than it was in the 1970s.

The ongoing housing crisis is only going to see this trend becoming even more entrenched and savvy brands will start adapting their marketing campaigns to reflect this. In 2024 it will become essential for brands wanting to connect with this demographic to reflect this family living context as older groups are becoming active participants in their families’ purchasing decisions – sectors including travel, automotive and groceries being particularly impacted.

Oxfam’s recent Leave a Legacy. Stay in the fight campaign took an intergenerational marketing approach. By creating parallels between protests of the past and present, the campaign appealed to older audiences’ activist roots with nostalgia while reminding younger audiences of the similarities between them and their grandparents.

Putting personalisation at the heart of senior marketing

The problem with talking about the over 50s is that this sees everyone from 50 to 100 lumped into one demographic. How similar is a 50-year-old with teenagers living in the city to an 85-year-old widower living in rural Yorkshire?

With data from the World Health Organization indicating that the global senior population is living longer, there will be more people living beyond 60 than ever before.

So, in 2024, brands will need to be more sophisticated in marketing to older segments. They will need to be better at reflecting audiences rich with individual experiences – ‘over 55s’ or even the ‘over 60s’ still overlooks important differences in attitudes and values across multiple generations. When planning campaigns, we often refer to formative experiences to help frame the differences between age groups. Understanding what someone lived through in their teens brings a new perspective on who they are as individuals.

And reflecting the previous trend on social media use, online campaigns should be used by brands looking to drill down into tighter age groups – especially as the personalities of influencers means their appeal can be more focused. Whether it’s Joan MacDonald championing weight training for the over 80s or Gary Lineker continuing as the face of Walkers crisps into his 60s, the opportunity for better age-related personalisation is available to brands.

Becoming more culturally sensitive and inclusive

While marketers have made huge strides in adjusting their outlooks to make their campaigns aimed at Gen Z and Millennials more diverse and multicultural, the same approach is not often extended to the global senior population.

In 2024, expect to see this more diverse and inclusive approach adopted by marketers working in the older consumer space. Cultural elements we think of as associated with youth were made possible by generations before who championed change, such as Vivienne Westwood who proved that the old trope “black doesn’t sell” was nonsense by using ethnically diverse models in her fashion shows.

While brands like Dove championed all body shapes and sizes, we need to see a global brand doing the same with older people and the groups that feel underrepresented in media.

Building trust and empathy

Talking about trust and branding goes hand in hand for all generations. But older consumers particularly value authenticity and empathy from the companies they purchase from. A study by AARP found that 77% of seniors are more likely to engage with brands they trust. As mentioned, older consumers already show lower trust and engagement with online advertising, so building trust in 2024 will need to be a key focus.

Genuine, emotional storytelling that fosters connection is a strategy to build trust and empathy. Marketers can do so by enacting transparent pricing and communication. Confusion marketing is a bad tactic for the older demographic; they want transparent pricing that is clearly communicated. Brands that don’t take this approach will find older shoppers simply moving on to competitors that do.

Customer service is integral and those companies offering consistent and reliable customer service and support will be rewarded with loyalty. Nationwide’s recent rebrand reinforced the importance of an omnichannel approach to keep consumers on-side, and not alienate older customers.

Conclusion

Look no further than an 80-year-old president of the United States or a 61-year-old Best Actress Oscar Winner to see that older generations are playing a pivotal role in shaping our future. If advertising reflects society it needs to improve its game in 2024 to better represent all ages. Data-backed insights reveal the shift towards digital engagement, intergenerational marketing, , cultural sensitivity and trust-based relationships for older demographics.

To harness the growing market of senior consumers, marketers must recognize the diversity within this demographic and develop strategies that foster empathy and trust. The businesses that adapt to these trends will be well-positioned to navigate the Silver Surf and meet the needs of all their potential customers.

This article was first published in WARC

 

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