Way back in August, we wrote a post about reaching millennials. A golden grail for many marketing departments.


Now, millennials are all well and good (they certainly wear clothes well and seem to be able to dance better than me), but they don’t have the spending power, or the sheer weight of numbers that older people do.


The UK, in line with most Western societies is an ageing society: there are more people over 45 than under 45 in the UK. And having been beneficiaries of a compliant housing/job market, at least compared to the average millennial, plus a few years to save a bob or two, they are far more likely to have ready money to spend.


Advertising might sometimes feel as if it is always chasing the next ‘new thing’, but ‘new’ doesn’t have to equate with ‘young’. So for this post let’s raise a glass of something (refined and discretely expensive) to those who have reached an age where they have a little time and money to spare, and take a look at a few factors organisations should consider when trying to reach them.


  • Don’t stereotype, because there is no single group here. Consider the diversity of income, education, attitudes, and experience and you begin to understand the complexity of the market. As such an attempt to segment or reach a homogeneous ‘older’ market is likely to fail. Follow best practice customer profiling the way you would for any audience.


  • Don’t stereotype (again) or bring preconceptions about how you think an older audience might behave. For instance, they use technology in as diverse a range of ways as younger audiences do, and that use is on the rise. According to Ofcom: “There has been growth in take-up and use by older people, across a range of devices.” Best to do your research first and then build your picture of how and where your prospects spend their time.


  • Stereotype (a bit). According to research done at Nottingham Trent University, those over 65+ have vision that is three times slower than younger people, and that they cope poorly with distractions. The research focused on driving, but naturally a busy flickering web page or digital OOH panel might lose the same audience for the same reasons. However it also noted that when dealing with a single object, those over 65 were just as capable as younger people when it came to processing information. It’s important to take information like this into consideration when thinking about content, format and placement of an ad. Dick Stroud (author of Marketing to the Aging Consumer), covers this point well when he writes that “physiological ageing (is) the only thing that all older consumers have in common.”


  • Take advantage of your audience being such increasingly heavy consumers of media. For instance, unlike every other age group, the over 50’s are watching more traditional TV now than they did five years ago. While Ofcom found that there was a nine percentage point increase (the biggest increase of any age group) between 2012 and 2014 in those aged 65+ ever going online.


The biggest take away from this should be that, aside from the facts of physiological ageing, there is no single group of people with shared characteristics here and that advertising that places those over fifty into a single group sets itself up to fail. Brands and their media agencies need to use demographic and psychographic techniques that take into consideration that diversity (of geography, income, gender, lifestyle etc) before creating ads with appropriate content and placing them accordingly.


By Oliver Brown