The facts about our ageing population are undeniable

As the population continues to age, an increasingly large number of older consumers wield exceptional economic power. There are now more people aged over 50 than ever before, accounting for 35% of the population, 47% of consumer expenditure and 80% of personal wealth.  The over-65s are the fastest-growing age group and will double in size over the next 20 years. In Western Europe, consumption growth is now driven by the over-60s.

This group of active consumers is too large to be ignored, too complex to be stereotyped and too diverse to be second-guessed. Yet that's exactly what many businesses do, so it’s no surprise that for many years now, research has told us that many older consumers feel that marketing either ignores or misunderstands them.

The solution to this is often seen in terms of new and better targeting of older consumers. Stop chasing younger consumers and follow the money, it is argued. That’s fine, as far it goes. However, consumer attitudes, behaviours and buying processes are more complex than that. We believe that a smarter, more nuanced, approach is needed.

So, what is age-inclusive marketing?

As our population continues to age, we face two choices: inter-generational division or inter-generational collaboration. We believe that a collaborative, inclusive, approach will be better for society and better for business.

The purpose of age-inclusive marketing is to help businesses and brands to plan, create and execute more effective marketing strategies and communications for the UK's ageing population, in a way which seeks to avoid age or generational assumptions and stereotypes, remove barriers to inclusivity and improve marketing efficiency.

Age-inclusive marketing aims to remove unnecessary age focus – whether to the young or old. This is likely to broaden appeal and effectiveness, by increasing inclusivity and reducing division and exclusion.

The overt targeting of older consumers on the basis of age or generation is likely to be inappropriate and ineffective. This is for a number of reasons:

  • Age is unlikely to be an important purchase motivation. Products and services are intended to meet needs, which vary across and within age groups. Many other segmentation variables are likely to be more significant. People of all ages purchase most product categories.
  • Age and generation alone are an ineffective basis for segmentation, targeting or positioning. People over 50 are increasingly diverse: their lifestyles, attitudes and behaviours cannot be defined by their age or generation.
  • Inter-generational roles. The buying process for many products intended for older people is likely to include other influencer groups, including adult children. Conversely, older people are often involved in purchasing for their children and grandchildren.
  • People – of all ages - do not define themselves by age and do not like being targeted on that basis.
  • Many people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond are active consumers who behave much as they always have done. They are the new mainstream, not a niche.

The many barriers to older consumers erected by mainstream marketing include:

  • The youth of many working in marketing departments and agencies, most of whom are aged under 40. Despite their professionalism and enthusiasm, unconscious age bias is inevitable.
  • Business and marketing culture. The dynamic nature of modern business and its increased dependence upon technological innovation mitigates against an interest in older people.
  • Segmentation, targeting and positioning strategies based upon incorrect assumptions. The first of these is that age or generation have any value as primary targeting factors. This leads to ineffective targeting and positioning strategies.
  • Marketing mix. Many aspects exclude older people and could be improved to the benefit of all. These include elements of product, service and packaging design, the customer experience, physical environment, people, processes and pricing and payment models.
  • Marketing communications. Older people are either excluded, patronised or
    stereotyped. Exclusion tactics may include the use of imagery, music or language that are deliberately culturally oriented to young people. This is based upon the belief that youth is a desirable default option for all. Targeted communications tend to be based upon a stereotypical view of older people which is either unrealistic, patronising or demeaning. We believe that ‘mirror’ tactics are avoidable – a focus on needs and benefits, for example, sidesteps the whole issue and gets to the heart of a brand proposition.

Factors for successful age-inclusive marketing:

  • Training for people in marketing departments and agencies, to overcome the inevitable and unconscious age bias that is a barrier to age-inclusive marketing.
  • Marketing and communications planning is based upon insight and knowledge, not assumptions.
  • All aspects of the business and marketing mix are optimised to remove barriers to age inclusivity.

Ultimately, age-inclusive marketing is simply good marketing. Contact us to discuss how we could help.