Consumer brands are failing to benefit from the significant spending power of the over 50s market, which includes Madonna, because TV advertising is failing to connect with the sector.
TV advertising is failing to make an impact with almost two-thirds of over 50s, according to data seen exclusively by Marketing Week, which reveals that 63% of 50 to 64-year-olds claim they don’t relate to the advertising they see on the box. This figure rises to 68% of 65 to 74-year-olds and contrasts with just 49% of 35 to 49-year-olds.
The June 2011 study by research business fast.MAP, in association with mature market specialist consultancy Involve Millennium, finds that marketers across all product sectors are failing to connect with the over 50s age group.
“Marketers are missing the point with their campaigns,” says David Cole, managing director of fast.MAP. “The over 50s are the audience with the money and yet this audience doesn’t relate to the advertising that marketers are producing.”
Kevin Lavery, founder of research partner Involve Millennium, estimates the spending power of the over 50s age group in the UK to be £205bn and says: “The over 50s outspend their under 50s counterparts by 20%. It’s also generally accepted that over 50s control 80% of the UK’s wealth, probably mainly in property.”
Cole at fast.MAP says part of the problem may be the average age of marketers, who tend to be younger than their counterparts in other businesses. He suggests that many of them make advertising for their own age group, rather than focusing on the lucrative older audience.
Pieter van der Schee, head of brand marketing at Princess Cruises, agrees: “One of the things we find when working with agencies is that if people on the account are young, you often get outcomes unsuitable for our target audience.”
This age bias may explain why older people themselves believe that they are not portrayed in a positive way within marketing messages. Half of over 65-year-olds believe that advertising does focus on younger people, and more than two-thirds say they do not relate to the advertising they see on TV. “There is a view that as you get older the negative sides of old age are portrayed in advertising,” says Cole. “Older people are not shown in a positive way.”
The research aims to provide a more accurate picture of how older consumers feel and behave through categorising them into groups.
- Thriving Revolutionaries are aged 50-64, often at their peak-earning potential. They are still active enough to enjoy life as financial and family responsibilities ease.
- Respected Elders are aged 65-74 and striving to keep age at bay, as they seek to make the most of retirement and enjoy life as far as their varying pension provisions will allow.
- Savvy Traditionalists are aged 75-plus, whose traditional values support them as they become less active and more reflective, often coping with illness and deteriorating health.
Cole says that by slicing the data in numerous ways, you can see subtle changes in people’s attitudes and concerns and better understand what they really feel and think about at key life stages. Some of the insights might seem quite obvious but marketers are still failing to take these on board when they are communicating with people.
The research looks at how older people have reacted to the economic downturn. “It appears that the 50-64 group has really suffered,” says Cole. “The others have spent their time saving and investing and are probably reasonably secure but they don’t feel they relate to the advertising they are receiving. These are the people who could be spending.”
Four out of ten 65 to 74-year-olds have made a few cutbacks, while a similar number have felt little or no change as a result of the economic downturn. Three out of ten have experienced a negative effect on their savings and investments and nearly 16% on their pension or retirement funds, yet only around 5% have had to cut back drastically on spending.
Cole argues that none of the most keenly felt concerns for older consumers should surprise marketers. The study reveals that the 50-64 age group is most worried about finances followed by poor health. However, the 65-74 age group and those aged 75-plus worry first about poor health and then about finances.
Fifty-one per cent of the 50-64 age group regard being fit and well as a concern compared with 55% of the 65-74 age group and 65% of the 75-plus group. Concern over accident and illness similarly increases as consumers grow older, rising from 34% for the 50-64 group to 45% for the 65-74 group and 46% for the 75-plus group. Concerns over maintaining independence and being a burden on families also grows steadily as people get older.
“If you start breaking down the sort of things that would be affecting people through different age bands, its really quite logical,” comments Cole. “The difficulty is marketers are not connecting with the changing requirements of each age group.”
The way the various age groups relate to brands is worthy of note. The 75-plus age group is the most loyal to brands. Three out of ten over 75-year-olds always buy the same branded grocery products, while just 21% of 35to 49-year-olds would claim the same. Cole suggests that the older age group comes from a generation where loyalty to brands was more prominent.
Brands, therefore, face a major challenge when trying to break into the older market because these consumers have been buying in a particular way for a long period of time. “Brands need to connect to consumers in a positive way,” says Cole. “The older age groups are actually more open to receiving marketing messages than younger groups their days aren’t so busy and therefore they have more time to absorb them.”
It simply remains for companies to take advantage of older consumers feeling open to marketing messages but disappointed by those they actually receive. Cole says that asking this group for more involvement in any brand research into their habits is popular.
“These sets of people are some of the easiest to research,” he argues. “They have time on their hands, they respond to things and they like sharing their views.”
The untapped opportunities for marketers trying to reach older consumers are many and exist in almost every sector. This group’s financial clout is still powerful at a time when consumers are generally cutting back their spending. It would be a mistake for brands to ignore a segment asking for more consultation, involvement and targeted advertising.
We ask marketers on the frontline whether our ’trends’ research matches their experience
Neil Costello, Customer development manager, Aviva
This research looks at a very significant age group for the Aviva brand, especially with the pensions and savings arena as it is. With particular reference to financial services, I believe the older audience should be treated as a group who are informed and can recognise that you are in touch with their needs even more so in the current economic climate.
Age should just be one way of looking at the potential behaviour of your target market. Understandably for Aviva, wealth stage also plays a part in understanding our customer segmentation as do life events such as having a baby, saving for a house move and retirement. When you add these insights alongside purchasing behaviour and the regulatory and competitive environment in our market, you can get a stronger understanding of who are the valuable consumers to target. These insights match what we already know and we wouldn’t change our direction as a result.
In last year’s At Retirement campaign, we encouraged people approaching this key life stage to shop around for the best income in retirement. This was positioned to have a positive link with the audience’s aspirations, referencing the “place in the sun” with [comedian and Aviva brand ambassador] Paul Whitehouse.
Pieter van der Schee, Head of brand marketing, Princess Cruises
A number of things stand out from the research. This survey looks at the financial considerations and all the concerns of the different age groups. But we see in the cruise market that people also still want to go on holiday, see the world and have a good time. The Respected Elders and Savvy Traditionalists categories identified by the research, for example, still have a stable financial situation with solid pensions.
The growth in the cruise market in recent years confirms that these older generations, who are our target market, believe cruises offer them the best value for money.
I think the research is useful for our brand and in many ways it reflects and supports the findings of our own data. The average age for cruise passengers in the UK is 56 years old, so this research very much reflects the concerns of our target audience.
The main thing to consider when marketing to the older age group is to get inside their heads. The fact that they are irritated by some of the advertising they see which might be for brands that are not aimed at them is not a big distraction.
When marketing to the over 50s age group you need to understand what drives them, which media they consume and how they consume it.
Kevin Peake, Marketing director, Npower
It is surprising that many of people surveyed in this study said they hadn’t cut back their spending I thought everybody would be spending less.
We have certainly noticed behavioural shifts in terms of spending less on gas and electricity. In our industry, we have the social dimension where we have the elderly who might be classed as vulnerable.
But one of the things we have tried to do as a brand is not be age specific. We use the Aardman characters Wallace and Gromit in our advertising because they have affection across all age groups. The brand ratings around these campaigns have been very high.
We have to be very mindful of connecting with customers at different life stages. The research is useful in terms of thinking how people shift between priorities. For example, the change between people thinking about not having enough money and then thinking more about health.
Maybe we as a utility company need to think more about the impact on people’s health as well as how much money they spend on their bills. Beginning with our recent Health Through Warmth campaign, we want to innovate more in this area.
Arnaud de Saint Exupery, General manager, Andaz Liverpool Street
When we created the Andaz brand a few years ago, we found the barriers between the generations were not as strong as they had been before.
In particular, the older generation is not as “old” as it has previously been. It takes a different attitude to life and has better financial health. We try to mix the sophistication of a five-star hotel with informality in terms of service. We believe age is no longer a criterion when it comes to defining our target audience it is more about an attitude to life.
Our guests could easily be in the Thriving Revolutionaries category that the research refers to because they fit more with a concept of taking a young attitude to life. People have more energy, more money and more facility to travel; they live life to the full now.
I don’t actually believe in the method used in this research of segmenting between age groups like this. I don’t think age is the primary criterion; my dad, who is significantly older, can be much more dynamic than me.
With a lifestyle brand like Andaz, we avoid the strict definitions of age. If you don’t want to target a very specific age audience, you try to be more “global” and focus on the relationships between people and attitudes.