The older audience has changed – has your marketing strategy evolved accordingly?

The mature market represents a large and growing group of older people that is more diverse than we think and extremely complex in nature. To stereotype is to miss an opportunity, yet that is exactly what many businesses are doing – even those that claim to be targeting the grey consumer.Drawing on more than 300 data and research sources, Mark Beasley, a marketing consultant and chairman of the Mature Marketing Association, has written The Mature Market Report. This 200-page document provides a comprehensive overview of the situation for businesses that have yet to address the situation.

The report highlights that in most markets, there is still a cultural aversion to issues related to age, so ageing and older people tend to be ignored, misunderstood or stereotyped. It seems farcical when the fastest-growing age group of all is that of people aged over 85 years and people aged 50–64 years are the highest spending age group.

“Traditional concepts of age and ageing are becoming outmoded and therefore ineffective as a basis for marketing because older people refuse to conform to stereotype,” says Mark. “Businesses need to stop thinking of older people as a single segment and instead target specific groups using different forms of media.”

Social & expenditure

Old age is culturally unattractive in the UK (and in fact most of Europe) but this is beginning to slowly change, as it is recognised that it is possible to be socially and economically active into the 80s and beyond.

Still heavy users of traditional media, particularly print, older consumers are more readily embracing technology and the gap in the digital divide is closing. However, the majority of people aged over 65 years are not online – and are unlikely to change their behaviour.

The 50+ market accounts for a high and in fact disproportionate amount of consumer expenditure. People aged 50–64 years don’t just spend more on assumed product categories (such as health) but in fact rate highly across almost all industries, including leisure, travel and entertainment. The growth of most mainstream categories over the next 20 years will be driven by people aged over 60 years, says the report.

Psychical & psychological ageing

Physical ageing is inevitable but it does not happen at the same rate or in the same way for each individual. It is good practice to ensure that all aspects of the marketing mix and customer experience are planned with physical ageing in mind, argues the report.

Older people are choosing to act and behave younger than their age suggests. People want to think of themselves as youthful and not old. They like to ignore all implications of age and so to be faced with advertising purely defined by age is becoming less effective.

Demographics & the economy

In developed countries the increase in life expectancy and decline in birth rates means that within 10 years, 50% of the adult population will be over 50 years old. Already there are more people aged over 65 years than there are under 16 years.

Plan your marketing strategy accordingly

The population is changing in size, age and attitude. Marketing must therefore move with it and reflect this change in its planning and execution. Older consumers are as brand loyal as any, but more sceptical and resistant to advertising, if only because of their extensive experience of it, and when images of older people used in advertising are negative caricatures or stereotypes.

Segmentation by age alone is unlikely to be effective, argues the report. There are other variables more likely to be relevant. Being inclusive, so ensuring that communication is accessible by all target audiences, is a valuable approach, particularly effective as it removes youth-orientated barriers.

It is time to dismiss our former attitudes and adopt a new approach to marketing that addresses change, recognises the importance and diversity of this group and evolves continually. The mature audience is more youthful than ever, increasingly tech savvy and crucially, is the majority!

The Mature Marketing Report is written by Mark Beasley of consultancy rhc advantage. Click here for access to the full report.