Stop Patronising Over 50s And Get Advertising To Them Through Social And YouTube

People over 50 are soon going to represent a third of the country's workforce and half of the adult population. Surprised? Well, consider this. They're feeling shunned by brands who are endlessly focussing on getting down with the kids in social media with campaigns that don't speak to -- or even attempt to reach out to -- anyone over 50. 

That's certainly the feedback High50 is getting.

I'd add a point, though. The over 50 demographic is not particularly helpful.

Demographic are useful, but they can also be really distracting -- particularly when the group you hone in on has far more diversity than you'd imagine. Just think about how many times you see a report that talks about over 50s. Now think about the last 50th birthday celebration you went to. It was probably pretty similar to the last 40th (although probably quite a bit different from the last 30th you were invited to).

Now think of the last 70th or 80th birthday celebration you were invited to. I'll bet a billion chunky Kit Kats that while the 50th was pretty much like the 40th, it was vastly different from the 70th and 80th. 

So with the starting point of the demographic being so different from the end point, why do we still lazily write off anyone over 50 as belonging to the same homogeneous group?

That's why I was very excited to work on some research recently with the Dentsu Aegis-owned digital agency iProspect. It split the over 50 category into three groups. The Adventurous Adopters, age 50-59; Confident Adopters, 60-69, and Comfort Adopters, 70+. Just splitting the market into three groups highlighted massive differences, and hence, provided very useful advertising and branding insights.

There were many individual findings but the big takeout was for brands not to rely on lazy, ill-informed opinions that the over-50 age group is a single entity living in a digital abyss. Far from it -- the age groups were confident adopters of smartphones (less so with the over 70s) and tablets -- who particularly in the 50- to-60-year-old age group, access the net with comparable frequency to younger age groups.

In particular, the 50-60 and 60-70 age groups represent a hugely important market of people at the height of their career who are likely to have been released of some of the expense of raising children.

So, to prove the point that this is not a single grouping, the research offered pointers on the differentiation between the three groupings.

Adventurous Adopters (50-59) are heavily into social media and smartphone use, making them easy to reach. The big opportunity here is they are leaders in all age groups of reverse showrooming. Although they extensively research online, they are more likely than any other age group to then turn online research in to purchases made in physical stores. 

Confident Adopters (60-69) are the leaders in ecommerce. In fact, they are more likely to both research and buy online than any other age grouping of consumers aged 30 or over. Plus, you may be surprised to hear, they are the biggest consumers of video content in the over 50 categories, particularly on YouTube. So, just in case you were assuming only kids watching pop promos use the site -- think again.

Comfort Adopters are, as you imagine for people age 70 and over, a little less active  -- and online and smartphone penetration is low. However, half of the consumers in this age group regularly research products online. They mainly stick with brands and sites they know but are showing an encouraging willingness to stream video through pre-installed apps on their Smart TV.

So, that's a quick snap shot but if there is one thing that struck me while going through the results it was that writing off the over 50s as technically illiterate is deeply patronising and wholly wrong. Also, talking about over 50s is pretty meaningless when there is so much diversity between the three age groups we identified. 

If you started off reading this post thinking Facebook could not reach 50 somethings arranging a party not YouTube could appeal to 60-somethings planning a holiday, I hope it has given you food for thought.

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