Brand Purpose Brand Strategy Consumer Trends

As we head into a recession, does the 60-something customer hold even more power?

By Hannah Johnson, Global Executive Director

October 25, 2022 | 6 min read

Financial uncertainty raises myriad questions for brands and marketers. Which groups of shoppers should they turn to? Enter 60-plus-year-old consumers, who are often more financially stable than their younger counterparts. Blue State’s Hannah Johnson reveals how brands and marketers can adjust their strategies to best reach these active consumers.

group of shoppers

Brands and marketers should set their sights on boomers and older gen Xers amid the recession, says Johnson / Credit: Adobe Stock

As we enter a financially nebulous 2023, brands and marketers will struggle to identify which audiences will help them grow. This is starkly different than the pre-pandemic era, which saw marketers seeking to engage younger audiences and lower the average age of the customer.

While everyone has been impacted by the last few years, younger audiences take the biggest hit. Their starting salaries are struggling to match rising prices, lowering their chances of having disposable income – if they had any to start with. And, with such a decline, brands need to be considering whether they should continue to pursue the younger customers with the cache, or instead approach older customers with the cash.

Unfortunately, we’re not being cynical. The recent shift in circumstances is likely to have an almost opposite impact on boomers and elder gen Xers. Many have paid off their mortgages and perhaps benefit from a rise in house prices, seeing their savings increase where banks are opting to pass on the interest rate increase and, with a cap helping contain some of the energy expenditure, likely have as much wealth, if not even more, than before.

We see this backed up by Global Web Index data taken between May and July of this year, with over half of those aged 55-64 (52%) still describing themselves as financially secure and 13% as very financially secure. This is echoed in their buying habits, as they are less likely to buy cheaper alternatives across almost all consumer categories, including entertainment, personal care and utilities.

Meanwhile, just 8% of 25-34-year-olds describe themselves as very financially secure. Other consumers within this bracket are cutting back on expenditure where they can, particularly in the entertainment and personal care categories.

So, what does this mean for brands and marketing in the months and years to come? Are we going to see a pivot to older audience strategies, since they can afford to exhibit more customer loyalty? If so, here are three tips to keep in mind for targeting older customers.

1. They know who they are and what they want

This is a group that has been living independently for over four decades and has developed its sense of self and style.

2. Education might play a role

About 19% of 55-64-year-olds with a college degree report feeling very financially secure. Alongside their education, they have prioritized current affairs and news. This enables marketers to consider concepts that resonate with a group “in the know” and, by offering these customers the chance to prove their knowledge, give themselves a sense of achievement for being part of a group that “gets it” versus speaking en masse.

3. Gender also appears to be a factor

Women in this bracket are more likely to report as financially secure and are often holders of the household budget, presenting the most buying power.

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Will this perhaps come at the sacrifice of progressive messaging angles for more dated strategies? As we head into the winter months and a potential flux in leadership after the midterm elections, we must keep alert of how audiences are feeling – particularly when we’re not yet sure how long this situation may last.

Hannah Johnson is the global executive director at Blue State, an adtech company that specializes in online fundraising and campaign consultancy.

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