Marketing to over 55s: Turning silver into gold with a meaningful approach to older consumers

Over 55s

Brand marketing’s obsession with millennials over the past few years looks likely to transfer onto generation Z or centennials (as they’re otherwise known) in the year ahead.

However, while strategies around engaging youth continue to dominate, another age demographic with an average online spend of €7bn a year, according to GlobalWebIndex, is being increasingly marginalised by advertising.

The over-55s, the grey market, or the silver surfers as they’re often referred, hold around 80% of the wealth in the UK and 70% in the U.S. And boy do they like to spend it.

Their spend has grown by an average of 4.5% annually for the last 10 years, compared with only 1.2% for their younger compatriots. The global management consulting firm, AT Kearney, projects that globally, the spending power of the over-60s will reach $15tn by 2020.

The numbers are important because global consumption proliferation is no longer being driven by rising populations.

A 2016 McKinsey Global Institute report states that by 2030, slowing population growth will generate only 25% of worldwide consumption growth. The remaining 75% will come from how much each and every individual on the planet spends.

With the rise in the over-55s more rapid than any other segment (+41% between now and 2030 according to Euromonitor), they’ll generate over half of all urban consumption growth in developed markets as their numbers swell to 222 million over the next 12 years. In other words, the world’s biggest spenders will be the elderly.

We’re currently in the middle of profound demographic and social change, and this age group is increasingly embracing both digital and traditional media.

They go online (67% vs 14% in 2000), they own a smartphone (42% vs 18% in 2013) and they use social media (34% vs 27% in 2013). And yet, they only appear in around 6% of all advertising.

A recent study by SunLife of 50,000 baby boomers found that 89% believed brands weren’t interested in them, 74% thought they were never represented in mainstream advertising and 72% believed that the representation of people over 50 was an outdated stereotype.

Clearly, this is a huge opportunity for marketers, which must start with a better understanding of the audience and what they actually want from brands.

As part of Havas Group Media’s Meaningful Brands study, we’ve been analysing the relationship between 79,000 silver surfers and 1500 brands, across 33 markets and 15 industries for the past eight years.

In 2017, 76% of this audience told us that companies and brands should play a more important role in improving their quality of life and wellbeing, while 60% think that brands should play the role of life coach, by offering better solutions to everyday problems with key emotional benefits.

Currently, neither is happening. More than half (57%) of all content provided by brands is not meaningful to the over-55s.

For content to resinate it needs to help, inform and educate. For content to be more relevant, it needs to focus on important lifestyle elements such as staying healthy, staying connected, love and relationships, travel and experiences.

Some 41% of silver surfers tell us that being at their best physically is one of their top three life priorities, while 58% have a genuine interest in wristband fitness technology.

77% tell us: ‘it’s important to stay in touch with what is going on in the world, while 46% say, ‘having people in my life who really care about me’ is one of their top three life priorities.

These baby boomers are enjoying life more than ever as they have more time and more disposable income to spend on adventurous travel, fitness, dating and leisure.

When they have a positive experience with a product or service, 68% say they share it with their social networks, while 90% look to brands to provide relevant content in the form of experiences, solutions, entertainment and advice.

In these respects, silver surfers are not so different from the youth audiences that dominate marketing thinking. The key contrast however is that the over-55s are the first truly multimedia generation and can therefore be communicated with via a mix of old and new media.

This New Year therefore, instead of out with the old and in with the new, try a more meaningful and inclusive approach.

Maria Garrido is the chief insights & analytics officer, CEO Havas X, Havas Group

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