Marketers Missing Many Boats On Older Urbanites


It's probably not so surprising that consumers around the world are more urban, greener, and a bit more worried than they were a year ago. But the big news, according to a sweeping new report just out from the Boston Consulting Group, is how clueless many marketers are about these changes, especially the ones here in the U.S.

Marketing Daily caught up with Michael J. Silverstein, senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group and a co-author of "Consumer Sentiment 2011: Navigating the New Consumer Realities," to find out more about what marketers are missing.

Q: Overall, you found that consumers are more apprehensive about the future than they were before the downturn. And in the U.S., 57% of respondents say they have been personally affected by the downturn -- up 8 percentage points from last year. Yet there are pockets of immunity. Why?



A: Age is part of it. Older consumers are more confident. Only 38% of those over the age of 55 say they are anxious about the future, compared with 52% overall. But there's also a very strong segmentation between the haves and the have-nots in the 50-plus market. There is a relatively small group of affluents who have figured it all out. They own their homes, are invested in safe, highly liquid investments, and live within a very balanced budget. They are careful with their money and practice trading down as much as they are trading up. So they're looking at the next 30 or 40 years with optimism. We found that between 20 and 25% have this high level of confidence.

But there is also a large group in the middle that is fearful. They have seen what has happened in the stock, real estate and job markets, and they feel pulverized.

And while all three groups have specific needs, very few companies are really speaking to them. That's astonishing, when you think that people over 50 spend just as much on groceries as those under 50.

Q: What about this shift toward an urban base?

A: Again, this is more pronounced in the U.S. among older consumers, as more people choose to stay put rather than choosing a retirement community. And these consumers are different; they don't go to bars or movies much, but they do cook dinner at home. They know a lot about wine. They have increasingly large amounts of time to learn about things, and are passionate about hobbies. They have much more exposure to the world and have highly specified global tastes. They're more discerning, and much more likely to experiment. For marketers, this urban opportunity is happening right before their eyes.

Q:You found marketers are most off base when it comes to women. How so?

A: Well, women dominate the consumer landscape. What remains shocking, though, is that in financial services, healthcare and consumer durables, women of every range fundamentally reject the current suppliers. They say, 'They don't listen to me, they don't understand my needs, they hand me a bunch of gobbledy-gook.' In these three categories, especially, there is a lot of untapped opportunity.

And it's especially so for women over 55, who are still going to outlive their husbands. They used to say the meek inherit the earth, but it's really females [who will].

(The BCG study is based on responses from 24,000 people in 21 countries around the world.)

1 comment about "Marketers Missing Many Boats On Older Urbanites ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Marti Barletta from The TrendSight Group, June 24, 2011 at 12:46 p.m.

    Thank heavens the big dogs like BCG and even Nielsen have finally "discovered" both women and Boomers!

    Marketers have been leaving a tragic amount of cash on the table by:
    ----Defining target audiences on gut vs on data: "because men talk more about traditionally male categories, they must buy more" (men matter a lot in some categories, but are still buy less than half of new cars, computers or consumer electronics)
    ----Allowing articles focused on small factors to shift their focus away from big opportunities: "Today's man is more likely than his father to ... grocery shop" (true, but women are still (conservatively) 65% of grocery shoppers, and spend on average 28% more per trip); ...use grooming products" (true but the men's market accounts for $250MM globally, vs the women's $2.5B) ...or be a stay-at-home dad" (true, but there are 140K sahd's in the US, vs 5.3MM stay-at-home moms).
    --- Obstinately hanging on to outdated beliefs like: "The only good consumer is a young consumer" (allegedly because when you get them to buy your product once, they are yours for life - How dumb is that assumption!?)

    In fact, mature consumers (or PrimeTime Women, as I call them, since in this lifestage, as in every other, women are the primary buyers of almost everything) are the largest AND the fastest growing AND the highest spending segment in the market. (Granted, older HH are smaller HH, but there are an awful lot of them and HH headed by 55-64 spend 2.5x as much per capita as HH 35-49).

    Moreover, contrary to popular opinion, PrimeTime Women are LESS likely than younger buyers to be brand loyal... explained by the easy "insight" that post-family, women finally get to choose based on their own passions, priorities and preferences, instead of deferring to what's best for the family as a whole. (Seriously, anyone who thinks mom is going to get another mini-van once her kids have their own wheels is delusional!)

    So thank you Michael Silverstein, and your co-author, Kate Sayres, for your terrific book, What Women Want; and thank you, Nielsen, for finally starting to track and report spending, brand and media behavior for people over the age of 54. Since that's where all the money is, marketers have some catching up to do in re-tooling their thinking, strategies and creative approaches to appeal to the people who purchase the most today, and for the foreseeable future - say, the next two decades.

    Marti Barletta, author PrimeTime Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds and Business of Boomer Big Spenders

Next story loading loading..