Seniors convert to consumerism

Increasingly, European marketers are looking to the over-50s market as offering significant opportunities for growth.

While it is no secret that this group has accumulated great wealth, persuading them to part with it has proved less than straightforward.

But a recent study in Germany has found that attitudes among the over-50s are changing. The post-war generation, previously known for its thrift and self-denial, finally wants something for itself. A similar pattern is emerging in the UK and France.

Advertisers now face the question of how best to communicate effectively with this group. The most compelling answers to have emerged so far have come from Jean-Paul Trèguer, founder of Senioragency, Europe’s leading agency specialising in advertising to the over-50s.

Talking to France’s communications industry magazine, CB News, Trèguer, who has been involved in senior marketing for nine years, gave an insight into the thinking which has enabled Senior-agency to help its clients build a productive dialogue with older consumers. At the heart of his method lies a distinction between “generational” and “senior” marketing.

“Generational marketing towards seniors comes from the States, where it is practised by thousands of companies across all categories,” he says.

“Senior marketing is based on the common-sense premise that, to satisfy ‘senior’consumers you have to get inside their thoughts. That is, take on board their specific needs and values. By doing so, we will be able to create products and services designed for them and to use the words and ideas which will encourage them to buy those products and services.”

It is clear that much work needs to be done if agencies in Europe are to help their clients understand and develop this market to its full potential. In meeting its complexities, they may move towards adopting a broader consultancy role, encompassing a range of services and disciplines which go beyond what agencies traditionally offer. In add-ition to communications and strategic advice, agencies will need to offer extensive research and development on new products and services. They will also be called upon to develop new thinking in direct marketing methods and may even become involved in training marketing teams and sales forces.

Historically, advertising to the over-50s in Europe has failed because it has addressed its target in the context of age. Not surprisingly, consumers invariably regard this type of advertising as being at best irrelevant and at worst patronising.

To avoid these shortcomings, marketers will need to build relationships with Europe’s seniors through communications programmes which reflect not age, but attitude.

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