Commentary

Overcoming Biases Key To Successfully Engaging The Aging Consumer Market

What would you do if you discovered that your brand may be leaving millions of dollars of revenue on the table by ignoring the age 55+ market? 

This question motivated the launch of our new consultancy and defining research study (which has been summarized in a whitepaper) weighing the assumptions and practices of 202 marketing professionals against the attitudes and behavior of more than 1,200 American adults.

Truth is, we weren’t surprised to find that marketers underestimate the revenue opportunity with mature consumers. What surprised us is the magnitude of these missed opportunities and the extent to which marketers' own societal biases become barriers to pursuing this market. 

Magnifying the proliferation of ageism in marketing is the fact that younger marketers are more likely than their older colleagues to adhere to age-related biases and stereotypes. This fact should not be dismissed, as young marketers have significant decision-making power over ad dollars. Our study found marketers under age 35 (28%) were twice as likely as those 55+ (14%) to report having North America-wide sales and marketing decision authority.

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Here are four key barriers that hold marketers back from effectively engaging the age 55+ market, and the truth behind related ageist myths stereotypes:  

  1. Marketers underestimate the spending power of consumers 55+ and over-estimate the spending of millennials. Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) marketers overestimate how much consumers under the age of 35 spend and nearly three quarters (72%) underestimate how much consumers 55 and older spend. Nielsen data tells us that, despite representing more than 40% of all consumer spending, consumers 50+ are the target of only 10% of U.S. ad spending.
  1. Marketers perceive that older consumers won’t try new things or are too brand loyal. Nine in 10 (92%) marketers believe consumers 50+ are less likely to switch brands, yet on average, more than half (52%) of consumers 55+ vs. 61% of consumers under 55 are open to switching brands the next time they shop.
  1. Marketers fret that targeting older consumers will alienate younger consumers. We found 50% of marketers believe consumers under 35 will feel alienated if their brand targets older consumers, yet two-thirds (65%) of consumers say that seeing someone much older in an ad would not change their likelihood to purchase.
  1. Marketers default to a youth-size-fits-all approach, assuming that millennial-oriented marketing will appeal to consumers 55+ and that younger consumers set the trends for older consumers. The reality is older consumers aren’t looking for inspiration from the younger set. Fewer than half of Americans (48%) agree that people over 50 aspire to be younger or to stay young. There’s a good chance millennial-oriented marketing is missing the mark with mature consumers, given 73% of consumers 55+ feel marketers are not engaging them effectively.

Despite the extent to which marketers don’t understand older consumers this is not to say they are oblivious to the value of the aging consumer market. Four out of five marketers (84%) report wanting to target consumers 50+ more effectively than they do today. The issue is that marketers continue to operate under false assumptions and to under-invest in this fast-growing segment.

The bottom line? Mature consumers are spending and waiting for a reason to choose your brand. Given the potential return for brands who can identify and capitalize on products, services and experiences to better serve the active ager, making the effort to better understand the mature consumer is an investment with nothing but upside.

6 comments about "Overcoming Biases Key To Successfully Engaging The Aging Consumer Market".
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  1. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, November 22, 2017 at 4:20 p.m.

    Beautiful. Some one is now making sense about where the money is. Congrats to Jeff. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 22, 2017 at 8:28 p.m.

    So you are saying with all the info and data densely flying all around, these so called marketers do not have any of this info or do not know how to use what is at their fingertips. Hear there are some fast food jobs openings available. 

  3. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center replied, November 22, 2017 at 8:53 p.m.

    If I understand you correctly, I am saying that many, if not most, of the loudest marketing execs and consultants do not seem to be aware of this data. 

  4. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center replied, November 22, 2017 at 8:56 p.m.

    Sorry Paula. I was trying to respond to you. 

  5. Jeff Weiss from Age of Majority, November 28, 2017 at 11:31 a.m.

    Ron, thanks for your note and comment.  The numbers definitely support the opportunity to target this older and active consumer.  Much of the hesitancy comes from younger marketers (meaning those under 40) who have dated perceptions of what odler consumers are like, how they behave and how they want to be marketed to.  

  6. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center replied, November 28, 2017 at 12:13 p.m.

    I agree Jeff. Seems many of today's marketing decisions are being made by milennials who do not understand other consumer segments and make their decisions based on superficial data and inaccurate assumptions. 

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