Nine out of 10 Brits feel there is too much age and generational stereotyping in the media, according to a new study from The Age of No Retirement, Flamingo and Tapestry Research [supported by The Big Lottery Fund].
Having gathered 2,000 respondents aged 18 to 70-plus, it reveals 86% of people across all ages believe inter-generational design principles are important, yet only 16% believe brands are currently applying them well.
It is common to hear terminology such as millenials, the grey pound and Gen X routinely used by senior marketers. However, this compartmentalised way of thinking will do “more damage than good”, according to Georgina Lee, co-founder of The Age of No Retirement.
“The study shows people are bored of being catergorised by their age and brands that do this will only miss out on huge business opportunities by patronising their audience,” she claims.
“As part of the research, we looked at 28 industries from transport to banking, tech and automotives, and all them are failing miserably. Brands such as Barclays, which aims to appeal to five generations of customers with every campaign, feel like a rarity these days.
“It’s obvious that avoiding age stereotypes will give brands a wider appeal, yet so many marketers are stuck in the past.”
Georgina Lee, co-founder, The Age of No Retirement.
Similarities between the young and old
In particular, the study narrows down on the similarities between older and younger consumers. It shows 89% of young people and 84% of their older equivalents share the feeling that the internet is currently a huge part of their lives.
Meanwhile, 77% of people across all generations believe life is too fast and 83% feel like they are not like everyone else in their age group.
There is also an appetite to break away from age-based social circles, with 83% of respondents saying they want to mix with people from different ages and generations.
How brands are responding
Wendy Darling, strategy director of AXA PPP healthcare, admits her sector needs to change. Responding to the research, she explains: “Marketing around telecare [remote care] traditionally targets the 75 plus age group, with pictures of smiling grey haired ladies and gentlemen wearing personal alarm pendants.
“Going forward, the marketing around such a device should be more about supporting a lifestyle choice – looking at those that want to live independently for as long as possible – rather than purely based on age.”
And, according to Marie Cesbron, director of innovation at Boots-owner Walgreens Boots Alliance and a board member of The Age of No Retirement, its customers are tired of being put into boxes.
She told Marketing Week: “Our mass-consumption society has led brands to put customers in boxes. However, we are now entering an era of post-consumerism, where people value being treated in a more personal and empathic way and can’t stand friction or an offer or
communications which feel irrelevant to them.”
Cesbron says marketers can learn a lot from the likes of Apple, Ford and Philips, with each of the above brands “finding clever ways to be age neutral and inclusive.”
She concludes: “It’s not just older people who feel alienated, but younger ones too,” she adds. Eventually, [age neutrality] will have to become the new normal as brands who don’t do it will struggle.”