Effective marketers must have the ability to understand and speak to the diverse experiences of older consumers, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of fundraising and marketing Philip Almond has said.
Marketing is a disproportionately young profession, with almost three quarters (74.6%) of the 3000 marketers who took part in the Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey this year being between the ages of 26 and 45.
Speaking at a panel event about ageism in the industry hosted by MullenLowe, Almond said since entering the charity sector and joining Cancer Research, he has been surrounded by more marketers over-50 than ever before in his career.
A lot of the support the charity receives comes from over-50s, and so it is “very useful” to have older marketers in the team who represent this viewpoint, the former BBC CMO said. However, marketers shouldn’t have to be from the same generation to accurately represent the group, he told Marketing Week.
“If you’re a good marketer, it shouldn’t be a requirement that you’re in the same group as your target audience. Your job is to understand different people and have empathy and understanding,” he said.
“So it’s not a requirement to be the same age as your target audience, but you do need diversity in your marketing department.”
Understanding that older people are an important part of most businesses’ markets should be a key component of almost any brand’s marketing strategy, he explained, particularly because wealth lies disproportionately in the hands of people over-50.
Research from MullenLowe finds this group controls almost 70% of UK household wealth and accounts for well over half of household expenditure. This figure is forecast to rise to 63% by 2040.
“Ignore us at your peril,” advised fellow panellist Tricia Cusden, founder of beauty brand Look Fabulous Forever, which sells makeup particularly formulated for older women. She created the brand after finding the only beauty products marketed at her age group were anti-ageing products.
It’s essential to have older people working in brands who get that people aged over-50 are far from a homogenous group, she said.
Almond believes flexibility in the workplace is crucial to keeping marketers in the business as they get older, and to make the industry more representative of the UK population.
He points out young people today will, in all likelihood, work for longer, and so it is in everyone’s interests to ensure the workplace is set up to be welcoming to older people.
Age is not an identity
MullenLowe’s ‘Invisible Powerhouse’ report emphasises that “age is not an identity”. It segments older people into seven distinct and diverse groups, all with different interests, motivations and habits.
Older people are disproportionately underrepresented in advertising, states the report, but when they are featured, it tends to be in a “polarised way”.
The report quotes online community Gransnet on the issue: “We’re either unrealistically happy, rich and glamorous (and on a cruise!) or worried old crones peering nervously into an empty purse.”
In his role at Cancer Research, representing the individuality of cancer patients’ experiences with the disease is crucial, Almond said. The nature of the disease means each person’s journey is incredibly personal and the charity is extremely mindful of this.
“If you get it wrong it is incredibly upsetting,” he said.
The charity ensures the people it features in its advertising are real cancer patients in order to ensure its campaigns are authentic.
When it comes to representing older people in marketing, Almond advised brands to take a similar approach and ensure they are staying close to the audience and accurately portraying them.