Brands should be thinking about how they can engage with Empty Nesters

“Growing old is getting cooler” says Scott Wilkinson, planning partner at creative agency, Bordello. He challenges brands to be braver and stop focusing on the age of the so-called empty nesters but think about their values.

Jo Roberts

Parents whose children have left home suddenly find themselves with much higher levels of disposable income – there are about a million people in their 50s and 60s who have around 10% of their income available to spend on treating themselves, according to research seen by Marketing Week.

Marketers should be thinking about how their products and services could serve a section of society, dubbed Empty Nesters, that has a total disposable income of £288m a year. Let’s face it, most people aren’t exactly feeling flush these days. Families where their children are still living at home have less than half the amount of cash to spend on having fun (£102m) but Bordello rightly warns marketers not to think of those in their 50s and 60s as over the hill. Instead, try to think about what people would like to do with a sudden influx of cash.

Robert Ferguson, managing director of holiday company Real Africa explains that businesses shouldn’t be explicitly targeting this group at all. While a holiday company might put together packages for honeymooners or families with children, Real Africa is certainly not going to be putting together holidays for the over-50s. That’s because people don’t want to focus on their age. Instead, marketers need to be more subtle and try to work out what empty nesters might want from a product or service.

While Volkswagen has decided not to refer to empty nesters in its advertising for its new car model, Up, the car company is most definitely interested in appealing to this group.

So, instead, Silke Anderson, VW’s communications manager, says the business has research what empty nesters like to watch and is planning advertising activity accordingly.

Marketing to empty nesters is clearly not straightforward at all. You can’t treat those in their 50s and 60s as one homogeneous group. Neither can you steam roller in with what you consider to be age-appropriate products and services. People don’t want to be defined by their age. And people certainly don’t want to be reminded that they’re getting older.

Those who suddenly find themselves with more money and no longer have to support their children are clearly attractive to businesses but marketers will have to be clever if they are to take a bit of the £288m that they have to spend.

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