Ignore The Over 50s At Your Peril

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, February 21, 2017

Barely a day goes by without an article in the press related to the huge untapped spending power of the over-50s. Many of us are aware that they are the fastest-growing age group in the UK and that they contribute GBP300 billion to the UK economy. Yet their social influence is all too often overlooked and media spend is wasted on approaches that don’t connect with them.

Spending habits

The over-50s market has a very different attitude to spending and saving money than the generations both before and after them.

Their prudence has served them well, as they are now able to buy what they want without regret. The new pension freedoms also mean that the new UK modern mass-market "Modal" over 50 audience, who hold every GBP1 in GBP3 of the UK pension pot, are now financially able to indulge in leisure pursuits, holidays and home improvements. They’re spending more than ever before and are easily taking over as Britain’s highest spenders.

Research into the over 50s has also identified retirement as a key differentiator in attitudes toward spending and a rejuvenation of spirit. While retired women are happy to indulge themselves, perhaps for the first time in their lives, men are focusing on the well being of others and are often spending time with their families.

Trust in the media

However, making a case for targeting the older consumer is only half the problem -- the issue of how and where to communicate with them still prevails.

For this age group, print media has retained its credibility and relevance. A Mouthpiece Retirement Survey found that two-thirds agree that their newspaper is a trustworthy source of information.  And half of those that visit regional Web sites are more likely to agree that they trust the advertising they see on them. They are more likely to trust their paper than their financial advisor when it comes to personal finance and accurate reporting on important financial issues.

Making advertising attractive

Focus groups with these consumers threw up some great signposts for successful advertising. Men over 50 respond well to factual ads, while awards and hallmarks help convince them to purchase from cheaper or newer brands. They also enjoy humour, and children and pets that appeal to their newfound sensitivity are found to be very popular. Celebrities and ads that could be perceived as boastful and deter men over 50.

By contrast, women over 50 respond well to celebrities such as Helen Mirren and Twiggy. Well-presented men also work well at appealing to women -- step forward, David Gandy and George Clooney. Ads that promote positivity, were evocative or took a nostalgic approach hit all the right buttons. Interestingly, humour was deemed less important for women, but still appreciated, while unnecessarily contrived ads were unpopular.

The over-50 audience evidently makes the ideal target audience for so many brands that currently seem to be missing the mark on their audience profiling. It is time for marketers to shift their perception about the value of older generations, and instead tap into this financially lucrative group that makes up 76% of the UK's wealth. 

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