How brands can successfully engage with the over 50s

Posted on: Wednesday 04 January 2017 | Anne Benoist

Anne Benoist, Group Director at Kantar Media’s Insight Solutions, writes about the over 50s and how they can be successfully targeted.

Demographics have traditionally been one of the cornerstones of targeting in the advertising industry, but relying too heavily on them has sometimes led to groups being lumped together in a way that has led to stereotyping. 

The over 50s are a prime example here – accounting for over a third of the UK population and with a high proportion of the country’s disposable income in their pockets, they are a lucrative consumer group for companies across multiple sectors. However, brands have often struggled to target them effectively and according to a recent survey from Age UK as many as two-thirds of over 50s believe advertising portrays them negatively. 

In light of this, we at Kantar Media have analysed the behaviour and attitudes of the ‘baby boomer’ generation – those aged between 51 and 69 – to see how brands should really be approaching this growing group of consumers.  

Fast-growing digital adoption

There’s a conventional wisdom which deems the over 50s – as non-digital natives – are closely tied to traditional forms of media. Whilst this is true to an extent, and the over 50s are likely to be heavy users of traditional media, they are increasingly digitally agile. In fact, the ‘baby boomers’ are the fastest growing adopters of digital media with 64% accessing the internet more than once a day, 63% owning a smartphone and 53% a tablet.  

By pigeonholing groups such as the over 50s by strict demographic stereotypes and only engaging via traditional media outlets, brands could be missing out on a whole host of opportunities. By looking beyond factors such as age and taking a holistic approach to cross-platform engagement, marketers can ensure they’re engaging with and attracting spend from one of the most lucrative audiences. 

The “young at heart”

Kantar Media data shows that within the baby boomer demographic, there is a sub-segment of “young at heart” consumers who exhibit markedly different attributes to the average person in their generation. Most notably, these individuals are much more engaged with digital platforms, highlighting the need for brands to have a clear understanding of how their audiences are consuming content across devices, and appropriate measurement in place.

We also discovered the “young at heart” group are much more likely than the average consumer of their age to spend disposable income on technology, cultural experiences and overseas travel. This sub-segment of consumers is 45% more likely to place high importance on their clothing budget, 68% more likely to frequently visit restaurants and 28% more likely to have used air travel in the last 12 months than their generational counterparts. 

For brands, this group of consumers could be highly valuable – not only are they much more digitally engaged and active, but they also care deeply about feeling and looking young, enjoy taking risks and living a more challenging lifestyle and are therefore, by default, more likely to spend their disposable income. Marketers need to ensure they are identifying these consumers and tailoring their advertising accordingly, aligning them much more with younger demographic groups, to ensure they’re appealing to their specific needs and interests rather than risk alienating them by grouping them into a demographic determined purely by age. 

Engaging with audiences in the right place, at the right time

For brands, communicating with the right audiences in the right place at the right time is key all year round, but in the coming weeks as people turn their attention from buying Christmas gifts to start treating themselves in the January sales, there’s an opportunity for smart brands to re-engage with consumers, such as the “young at heart”, in a way that feels really relevant to them. As our insights show, it’s no longer enough to rely on demographics and outdated stereotypes, instead brands need to gain a thorough understanding of how different audiences behave and interact with them accordingly. 

When it comes to the over 50s, they have for a long time been seen as a single group of “older” individuals, but as our data shows the attitudes and behaviours of many over 50s clearly defies the stereotypes often associated with their age group. Brands now need to think about the individual interests of their consumers and ensure they are engaging across a variety of media and digital platforms to offer them the exciting, aspirational messages which reflect the diverse ways in which this group really think and act. 

As marketers look to the coming year, investing in developing their understanding of how all audiences – not only the over 50s – behave and engage with content should be front of mind. By prioritising holistic measurement and combining their own data with third party insights, brands will ensure they can build a true picture of how and where their audiences are engaging, allowing the most accurate targeting and measurement. 

Written by

Anne Benoist


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