Capturing the millennial zeitgeist has been the PR industry’s mantra in recent years. Yet by 2020 more than half the population will be over 50 years-old and this age group already controls 89% of all disposable wealth in the UK.
The smartest brands are recognising that a greater business opportunity lies in communicating with this often ignored market, begging the question: Are we being blindsided by emojis and Instagrammers when true gold lies in better engagement with those in their golden years?
Perhaps part of the problem lies in this form of stereotyping by marketers, defining audiences by their digits rather than their state of mind.
According to research from High50, a website for the over 50s, 71% of 50 to 59 year-olds feel positive about their age, rising to 78% for 60-64 year-olds. And figures released by the Office for National Statistics on in March confirmed that we are living longer, healthier lives.
While the government’s recent review of the state pension age will see most work for longer than expected, there is an emerging culture of agelessness across the UK and the developed world.
Lifestyles of the over 50s have changed
Lifestyle factors such as fewer family ties and commitments, fortunate money-making property investments and reduced work demands, all set against a rebellious coming of age cultural imprint that would cause today’s responsible millennials to tremble (think ‘60s hippies to ‘70s punks) mean that those over 50 are of a very different make-up to their own parents at 50.
The marketing community is missing a trick in realising this social make-up of the 50-plus generation is making them feel, at best, ignored and, at worst, patronised in communication supposedly directed towards them.
Psychologist Miriam Akhtar says: "We have about 30 years of extra life now. That’s a second adult lifetime – it’s up to us to decide what this means and how we live it." Indeed, this ‘me’ generation is rediscovering aspects of their lives interrupted by the obligations of years prior, and embracing the concept of a ‘second adulthood’ in spades.
In April Post Office Travel Insurance released research showing more than a quarter of those over 55 say they are more adventurous in their travel plans than when they were younger: taking part in action sports like canoeing and snowboarding. While more than a third plan to embark on activities like jungle trekking, scuba diving, horse riding, mountain biking, off-road safaris, water-skiing and cycling for their next holiday.
Open to technology
Hardly the rocking chair and slippers image of their parents’ generation at the same age. Despite misconceptions about being resistant to change, this generation is tech savvy, luxury loving, optimistic and entrepreneurial.
High50’s research showed that only 2% of the over-50s hate using technology and 78% actively enjoy using it, a figure that stays constant from age 50 to the mid-60s. While there are reports that millennials are moving away from Facebook, it is the social site of choice for the over 50s.
Fortunately the tide is beginning to turn as switched on brands respond to this cultural shift. This February saw the notoriously youth-focused world of fashion have an age-positive makeover with the launch of the first 50+ Fashion Week.
Cosmetic firms have been following suit, signing less conventionally youthful ambassadors, like Helen Mirren and Mariella Frostrup, recognising that women aged over 45 account for £1.9 billion worth of the total £2.2bn premium beauty market.
The beauty industry in particular needs to recognise that while confidence is often presumed to be an advantage of youth, studies show that the more years we have notched up, the more we start to feel truly comfortable with ourselves.
Brands that celebrate the wealth of culture, wisdom and skills that the over 50s have and respond by offering enriching and rewarding products and experiences that truly resonate with their audience are likely to profit from this untapped market.
The 50-plus generation is our most economically powerful. It’s time to acknowledge that, for many, becoming 50 is the start of the better half of their lives. The smartest brands are tapping into this market, and will reap the rewards of the ‘flat aged society’s’ increased discretionary spending on products and services that help them build rewarding, meaningful and enjoyable experiences.
The Quaker Oats example
Devries Slam recently ran a campaign for Quaker Oats, which sought to encourage 30-65 year-olds to make the brand part of their breakfast routine.
Quaker discovered that their greatest business opportunity in the UK was to re-engage with light or lapsed female users of the brand, who are over 55 years old, without alienating their broader core audiences of women aged 30 to 65 years old.
As across all markets within the WESA region, Quaker wanted to own and shape the conversation around porridge as a fashionable and healthy breakfast option. Delivering functional messages around the goodness of oats was a requisite, but challenging given the regulatory back-drop preventing the brand from making out-right health claims.
To do this we needed a mouth-piece who would appeal to our mainstream older audiences whilst being synonymous with the optimistic, inspiring and empowering messages of vitality and balance that we wanted to deliver.
We identified and recruited former prima ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing judge, Darcey Bussell (aged 46) to front the Quaker #SuperStart campaign in January 2016.
We set up the rationale behind the Quaker #SuperStart campaign via consumer research identifying the need for Brits to get a better start to their mornings. Harking back to our audience’s youth, we produced engaging viral video content featuring Bussell’s morning routine, set to a re-record of a ‘70s disco classic, entitled ‘Do the Bussell’. This was seeded across owned social channels in different formats, including a blooper reel, released a week later to keep the campaign top of mind.
The video content was launched at an engaging morning media event hosted by Bussell at the exclusive Me Hotel, including a sunrise-backed morning workout, a chef-led porridge workshop and speakers. These included psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos on morning typologies and a nutritionist demonstrating that Quaker products are pure wholegrain and high in fibre and because they contain beta glucan, they are a great way to help lower cholesterol.
‘Do The Bussell’ drove 4.3M paid video views and 376k paid engagements across Facebook and Twitter, with a total reach of 7M across social platforms. The programme achieved 195 pieces of coverage, 88 appearing in the first two weeks across national print press, online and social media reaching, reaching 54,604,287 consumers in the UK and over 1.7bn globally.
Our target audience engaged with the brand via content seeded on social as well as media coverage and reassessed Quaker as their daily breakfast partner, adding £3.4m to the Quaker brand value.
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