Do you need over 50s marketers to reach an over 50s audience?

This is a question that’s turned up in an excellent article in Marketing Week about marketing to the over 50s.

The piece covers much of the ground that I’ve discussed before.

  1. The over 50s is a massively broad general category that encompasses many tastes and often two generations in a single family
  2. Even if you narrow the age group, the interests of that group are still wide and various, and not tied to their age
  3. When people hit 50, some may be interested in ads for funeral plans and stair lifts, but most don’t see any relevance to their lives.

The extra question that Marketing Week poses is whether you need people with experience of being over 50 to understand the audience sufficiently to market successfully to them.

This is a really good question, but are we just going down the same path as those who lump all “older people” into one category?

The respondents in the article took the view that interests and experience are more important than age in marketing.

I think that’s true of marketers too. What we, the aforesaid over 50s need, is people with understanding and a positive attitude.

Let’s take understanding, and break down the market. If you take a group of people who, say, have no dependents, but are still gainfully employed, can a marketer predict what their spending priorities will be? Saving for retirement and care home fees? Conspicuous expenditure on quality living? And can you do that for multiple groups of people over 50? Surveys help, and some businesses have been at pains to research the market effectively.

Then there’s attitude, and this is where I think marketing can come undone. I remember, in my first major freelance copywriting gig, being asked to recruit a video expert, and my client expressing absolute horror that I had found someone with white hair. It’s a very unsubtle example of something that is pervasive in many organisations. Young is good, intelligent, adaptable etc etc. Older is dull, uninspiring, inflexible, unadmired. It’s not obvious everywhere, but it’s there enough for it to spill into marketing campaigns addressing those so uncool older people.

My view, then, is that you don’t need to be over 50 to market to the over 50s, any more than you need to be a small child to market to small children. But an open mind and a desire to understand without prejudice are vital.

Photo by ieva swanson on Unsplash

The grannies are grumbling – and who can blame them?

paper bags near wall

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Gransnet has just produced a report citing what people over 50 know – but many marketers are still failing to grasp. “Mature” consumers are not one step from the grave and only thinking about recliner chairs, funeral plans and who’s going to get the money when they’re gone.

We over 50s don’t come as an homogenous lump. In reality we’re probably more varied as a generation as any other. We’re interested in what’s on offer, but we don’t blindly follow fashion trends to fit in. Many of us have more disposable income than at any other time in our lives.

And for many of us, we have dropped the responsibilities of caring first for children and then older relatives, and we are free to spend our time and our money where we want to.

All that begs the question, why do we feel so dismissed? According to some of the respondents of the Gransnet survey, it’s because the younger marketers simply don’t understand this market.

Why do some retirement villages have hidden fees?

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How to spoil a good thing through complexity

A UK Law Commission report just out has made recommendations that should bring clarity to the cost of moving to a retirement village. That sounds good, but it does bear looking at more closely.

First, why do we need greater clarity? It seems that when customers buy into these schemes, they’re always fully aware of the costs involved. The homes within retirement villages are offered on a leasehold basis, but not necessarily under the same rules that we’re used to elsewhere in leasehold living.

Many retirement village owners charge “exit fees” when the property is sold or there’s a change of occupancy. And it’s this charge that is not always made clear and can come as a surprise to residents. The Law Commission would like to limit when and how these fees are applied and to ensure that potential customers are made aware of the charges early in the process.

However, the Law Commission’s recommendations are not see as stringent enough by some. Back at the end of 2016, when the draft report was published, organisations such as AgeUK and Carlex argued that the report didn’t go far enough. For one thing, the Law Commission didn’t appear to be interested in looking at historic cases, but only at new entrants to the market.

We took a look at the role of retirement villages as part of the retirement and assisted living mix a while ago, and our conclusion, as with many choices, is that it can be the right way to go for some seniors.

Retirement villages do not receive bad publicity on the whole, so it’s puzzling why some providers are almost bringing a poor reputation upon themselves by appearing to confuse, if not deceive, their residents.

As in many markets, reputation matters in retirement living. People moving into villages, apartment or other voluntary living will talk about their experiences with friends. Most of the target audience – late 50s into their 60s – are happily technology-enabled, and have all the tools to share their views with a wider world. And bad news always travels faster than good, so providers who are less than upfront about their fees are likely to feel a growing backlash.

Regardless of the Law Commission’s report, honesty and transparency are better long-term marketing tools than hoping to confuse customers for short-term gain. Whether or not the Commission’s guidance is taken up by the government, all providers would be well advised to think hard about their business models and how they affect their reputations and future sales.

Why retailers are mad to ignore the older consumer

 

Consumers shopping for clothesThere’s a very interesting article in Property Week* underlining my argument that retailers and providers of goods of services in general really need to start taking the growing older population more seriously.

The magazine teamed up with retail real estate loyalty and marketing specialist Coniq to take a hard look at whether retailers are focusing enough on the growing spending power of older consumers, and found plenty of room for improvement.

The report points out that the “grey pound” accounts for more than £320bn of all UK consumer spending and that the over-50s hold more than 75% of the nation’s wealth. Over a three-year period the over 50s spent 42% more on retail goods than other age groups and, very surprisingly, 66% more than millennials.

And yet it’s these millennials that are at the heart of marketing for shopping centre landlords and their retail tenants.

Some 80% of the almost untapped market of over 50s don’t relate to current marketing, feeling ignored or even patronised, according to BNP Paribas Real Estate research.

When retailers do look at the older generation, it’s often with very dated perspectives. People are living longer and there are easily two generations in what was once a general “old people” category. There are the “old old” who have lived through austerity and the younger baby boomers “young old” who have enjoyed times of plenty – and their respective needs, desires and behaviours are quite different.

The newly retired have more disposable income right now, and they’re spending it in areas such as travel, well-being, healthcare and home maintenance.

This latest generation of older consumers are looking for more authenticity, transparency and environmental responsibility from their providers, and are looking more for services than products. When they do shop for fashion, for example, they still want style but to fit their changing shapes.

According to the article retailers in other countries around the world are making more effort to provide services that appeal to the oldest consumer. That includes putting on events in shopping malls such as health tests, hobby workshops, financial services advice and even dating evenings. Some shops are meeting the needs with wider aisles and non-slip floors as well as targeted offers. Subliminal actions like turning off the piped music, slowing the escalators and turning the lighting up at quiet times are helping to attract and maintain loyalty.

What could be done in the UK? Experts suggest subtle zoning of shopping malls to make them more accessible to older shoppers who are starting to experience less mobility.

But what should be borne in mind is that there is plenty of difference between the newly retired consumer in their 60s and those who are 20 or 30 years older and they should not be consigned to a single category.

Equally, retailers and service providers ignore older people at their peril. As Ben Chesser of Coniq points out “If I told our clients we’d identified a group that accounted for 30% of retail spend they’d be jumping through hoops to engage with them.”

  • Article requires (not easy) registration.

Does the healthy living trend include the older population?

Fitness after retirement

 

A recent report from Hitwise has discovered that healthy living in the UK is no longer based on fads or New Year resolutions. Analysis of searches shows that consumers are looking for long-term health gains in diet and exercise. The rise of popularity of fitwear and the rapid evolution of new ways to exercise underline the trend.

But is this just a youth thing or is it reflected in the older population?

Many of the growth activities highlighted by Hitwise are most popular with younger people. Crossfit, marathons and “tough mudder” need the speed, agility and knees of youth. But there is a marked growth amongst the older population for interest in gentler activities such as yoga.

Alongside greater interest in exercise is a change throughout the population in approaches to diet. People are looking for healthy eating that’s also easy – hence the rise of the ingredients box.

Where retailers may be missing a trick is in the exercise wear business. Lines from specialists and the big retailers are doing really well but continue to be focused on the young and slimline. Yet wearing comfortable, fun gear is a positive mood enhancer at any age or size.

Is there a need? Well, coupled with the noted rise in interest across the population for a healthier lifestyle is the continuing progression of advice that older people should keep active. Many of these stories emerge on websites such as the BBC as well as media providers such as the Guardian and the Mail – all popular places to find information. Just last week the BBC carried a story about the importance of moving to maintain the longevity of body cells.

Couple that with the rising average age of the population and wise retailers could open up new markets by focusing more on the older consumer.

Writing about needs and desires of an older population – my top articles for 2016

Writing for older consumers

From retirement to end of life, our needs and desires continue to change.  And for marketing it’s really important to understand what drives older people as a group and as individuals, just as with any sector of the population.

As a student, a commissioning editor, a writer and a participant in supporting older people, I’ve learned a great deal about what’s considered valuable at this time of life.

My top articles on quality of life for an ageing population

Maintaining a great quality of life is paramount, regardless of whether we’re 60 or 99. I’ve written with that in mind and here are my top picks from 2016.

Choosing gifts for older people

  • Gift ideas. Whether it’s Christmas or another special day, choosing presents for older parents and grandparents can be difficult. I’ve always believed that we should choose something that’s luxurious, unusual or fun. Not something that emphasises a person’s age like a walking stick or a pill box might. So I searched out products that I thought would fit the bill and here’s the result. Last year I also looked at tasty food and drink ideas and some lovely presents for Mother’s Day.

Where to live as people age

  • Are retirement apartments the next step? We see them popping up everywhere but for whose benefit? Are they the dream scheme for developers or a really good idea for new retirees? I visited one London scheme to find out more.
  • Choosing a care home. There is plenty of advice on choosing care homes available. What I wanted to do with this article was examine how to get under the skin of a home to understand the commitment to care. These questions are all about things I didn’t know and rather wish I had.

Retailers and older people

What makes life fun in retirement?

Reviewing products and services

  • Tea for two and a night of luxury. In January I was invited to visit the Hilton on Park Lane for afternoon tea and a stay in one of their high-rise rooms. Was it an experience I would recommend for older people looking for an enjoyable weekend? Here’s my review.
  • The emergency smart card. A review of the EIO smartcard that lets you upload all the information that would be useful in an emergency to a secure site that’s accessible to emergency helpers with a smartphone such as contacts, health conditions and medicines. My review has helped EIO improve their service to make it really valuable to anyone who might need help one day.

Real life stories

  • Arranging dad’s funeral. When my dad died in September I suddenly found myself with a huge number of decisions to make just to arrange his funeral. I wrote this blog partly to let him know what we did and why – and also to help others know what they will have to think about.

Need marketing or writing help?

If you’d like to talk to me about communicating successfully with the rapidly growing sector of older people, just drop me a line at kathy@wrightwell.com.

Are you looking at your products from the perspective of older consumers?

 

I recently had a great conversation with someone from a major retailer that really cares about its staff and its customers. Because of that the company has set up all sorts of committees of like-minded people to assess and discuss the products that the company sells.

But it seems they’re missing a trick. Because the groups are formed from employees, there doesn’t seem to be an option for those over retirement age to give their views.

Yet with an ageing population it’s really important that manufacturers and retailers start looking at what they sell from the point of view of older consumers. Does the product work physically for people with less mobility, poorer eyesight or hearing or weaker wrists – all likely to happen with age? Does it appeal to their sense of taste or style? Is it technologically unnecessarily challenging?

Looking at products and services from the perspective of different user groups is a fantastic thing. We just need to ensure that older people are included too. With an ageing population it’s too important a consumer group to ignore.

Image from GraphicStock