If it’s December, it must be Advent

It’s the first of December. What does that mean? An inbox full of seasonal offers, promotions, competitions and giveaways of course.

I love these more than any other marketing hook across the year. And I’m particularly delighted this year that so far only one company has tried to suggest that the 12 Days of Christmas start on December 1st. They don’t. This is Advent. The 12 Days of Christmas come after the big event.

Does this matter really?

Yes, I think it does for the ‘mature’ marketplace. Those of us born in the 1960s or earlier will almost certainly have learned about festive traditions in school. That means most of us know without having to check that all those partridges and leaping lords turned up after Christmas, not before.

Marketers getting it wrong is detrimental to their credibility. I know I’m probably at the far end of the grumpy scale, but if I can’t trust a company to get the facts right on something that is public knowledge, how can I know that anything else they say is reliable?

I don’t buy from businesses that haven’t done the research. Nor do I buy from businesses who can’t get to grips with the use of the apostrophe. People who grew up in my era know about these things, and many do care.

It makes sense not to waste opportunities in the mature market through carelessness and silly mistakes. It’s always important to understand the audience to get the best results.

And now I’m off to enter today’s competitions, click on today’s baubles, and obviously, eat my calendar chocolate.

Diabetics like to eat out too

Now it’s safe-ish to go out again, we’ve been meeting up with family to eat outside at cafes and restaurants.

One thing we’ve discovered is that the pandemic has given menu planners the chance to get to grips with the trend to veganism.

Before lockdown, we struggled to find meals suitable for our vegan offspring. Yet we’ve eaten out several times in the past few weeks, and we’ve found an amazing choice of plant-based offerings.

That’s great.

So now, restauranteurs and café owners, you next challenge is low-carb choices.

This are the options that would suit people with diabetes. And there’s a growing market out there of people who have been told to reduce their intake of bread, potatoes, pasta and even fruit.

This whole area was something I didn’t know about until I got the warning that I was heading off into Diabetes Type 2 land. If I couldn’t get to grips with my diet and exercise I could find myself on another forever medication, with all its potential side-effects.

So I’ve edited my diet at home quite substantially, but eating out has become a challenge. I’m not a burger and fries person generally, because we stick to what we have been told is healthy eating. And I don’t have much sugar.

So far we’ve found very little choice that’s been designed to be diabetes-friendly. The best you can do is say you’ll have a dish without the fries or indeed any form of potato, or the brioche bun, or the breadsticks …. If it’s a helpful eatery they might offer to replace those with extra veg or salad, or you might just lose out.

But in the end it will be the cafes, bars, restaurants and takeaways that suffer the loss. Because those living with diabetes may choose to stay away.

Is that a problem? Well, two years ago one in ten people over 40 who have been diagnosed as living with Type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes UK. That’s heading for 5 million people

And the number’s likely to be much higher in reality because many people don’t know yet that they have the condition, or are about to become diabetic. It’s also going to be bolstered by the fact that our population is ageing, and Type 2 diabetes is something that appears with age.

If you’re catering for a broad audience, and especially if you know that the over 40s make up a significant proportion of your customer base, you could be looking more closely at diabetic-friendly meals. And if you’re planning for the future to steal a march on your competitors, this may be a diet choice that you can’t ignore.

Photo by Timothy Barlin on Unsplash

A word about kettles and the older consumer

Monitoring daily electricity use of the elderly

I am a bit obsessed with kettles. Looking back on my posts I’m quite surprised I haven’t written about them before.

Today I’m prompted by a story in the New Scientist. It’s about an energy-monitoring system developed in the UK that could be used to track the use of electricity by an older person and potentially alert family if the kettle’s not been switched on at the usual time. The Howz system monitors how electrical appliances are being used during the course of the day and learns the owner’s daily routines. If it detects something out of the ordinary – like an oven being left on for hours or the kettle not being used all day, it sends a message to a nominated person. It can also detect more subtle changes to a daily routine that might indicate something else is going on with that person.

That’s great.

But at the other end of the kettle story, are manufacturers and shops taking into consideration the everyday needs of older consumers in their designs?

I ask this purely on anecdotal evidence from my household.

We have just thrown away a kettle that lasted less than two years. It was naff – indeed dangerous – from the start. You had to wait until the boiling had died down before pouring or water would cascade everywhere. It was hugely easy to knock the switch and turn the kettle on by mistake – and no obvious sign that it was now switched on, especially if your hearing isn’t what it was. Then it started to rust and and finally it began to leak through the bottom onto the base below.

So we replaced it with a similar looking model from another manufacturer. Much more robust, but at the same time incredibly heavy for older wrists which tend to be weaker with or without the added bonus of arthritis.

This kettle too has no visible light that it is on. At least, that’s what I thought. Turns out that both kettles are designed for right-handers, and as long as you conform you can see the blue “on” light on the side. Turn the kettle round and it’s nowhere in sight.

So here we have out of a sample of two, kettles that don’t take the needs of the older person or the left-handed user into account.

It would be a great advance if we could see more thought put into the everyday use of appliances for older consumers in general who are starting to feel the effects of lower mobility and strength, as well as the pioneering work on helping the elderly.

Supermarkets are beginning to embrace their older customers

There are great moves afoot to address the needs of older consumers in retail.

It’s a rapidly growing market and according to new research from AgeUK, going to the supermarket gives nearly 2.5 million older people a reason to get out of the house.

Over a million over 60s visit a supermarket every day, says the report, and a further 5.3 million go at least 2-3 times per week.

Age UK is calling on retailers to train staff to recognise older people who may be lonely and chat to them.

That’s something that’s built in to the ethos of some supermarkets already. Our local Waitrose has always been a place to find conversation at the till if you want it and no hint of being hurried. On the other hand, Aldi staff are pleasant but goods fly through their hands as they speed process their customers.

Just last week we heard about slow tills at Tesco. It’s an experiment in conjunction with Alzheimer’s Scotland to help shoppers with dementia, but could be of value to all customers who enjoy a slower shop with conversation and help.

Not every disability is visible

That’s not the only positive news from Tesco. It’s one of several supermarkets that are changing the way disabled toilets are labelled to highlight the fact that not every disability is visible. The aim is increase awareness of the many reasons why shoppers might need to use facilities that are more accessible.

AgeUK has more on the agenda for local retailers and businesses. The charity would like to see greater awareness promoted amongst staff of local services that can help, and store policies which help front line staff to become volunteer befrienders, making regular visits and telephone calls.


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