Scott Wilkinson, planning partner, Bordello
Scott Wilkinson, planning partner, Bordello
A view from Scott Wilkinson

Think BR: People get older - the forgotten mantra of age demographics

Brands need to be braver and more provocative when marketing to the over-50s, writes Scott Wilkinson, planning partner, Bordello.

There’s a real sense of agelessness among the over-50s nowadays and marketing to them is certainly not straightforward. So how can we reach out to a complex set of consumers that should by no means be regarded as a homogenous group?

To anyone looking in, it would seem marketers think that those in their 50s and 60s are past it. Which partly explains why these people don't want to focus on their age at all. It is common knowledge in adland that this audience often feels patronised by the way they are marketed to. So why do we still do it?

One of the few sectors that understands the age demographic is insurance. Rias, for example, has taken the time to get under the skin of its the audience and go head-to-head with Saga. There's more than enough revenue to sustain them both. So why have other markets not followed this lead?

There is an endless supply of wasted opportunities, attributable to an outdated method of customer profiling devised when the ‘grey’ market grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s. And that’s on top of the fact that the marketing and advertising community is transfixed by the under-50s, despite over-50s holding 80% of the nation’s wealth and having a higher disposable income than the under-50s, as well as being on course to be half of the population by 2030.

Growing older is getting cooler. Older people live for today and they certainly don’t want to be reminded that they’re getting older. They are more individualistic, and less ‘tribally’ driven than younger consumers, but they’re also increasingly tech-savvy. 

According to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech more than half of all handsets bought by the over-50s in the past three months were smartphones. The over-50s market is thriving in social media too with more than 40% active here.

Marketers should be thinking about how their products and services can serve a chunk of society that has a total disposable income of £288m a year.

As they no longer have to support their children, it’s an opportunity for brands to map out what people would like to do with a sudden influx of cash. A focus on their values rather than their age will engage their innate sense of agelessness.

Brands need to be braver in throwing down a more provocative approach to reach them, but it’s a struggle to find evidence of this forward thinking. 

Nowhere is this seen more clearly than with car brands. Despite this market buying up to 60% of new cars, car ads avoid representing these people. You never see a car brand use models that look over-50 in their ads. Is this discrimination? No. They simply want to appeal to younger people, so miss the point altogether and to be honest, are not effectively targeting them.

Let’s start treating this portion of society as the individuals they are and challenge them, not tell them what they don’t want to hear.

Scott Wilkinson, planning partner, Bordello