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Home / Development / As old as you feel, 50-plus marketing

An invisible age group is slowly re-emerging

According to those in the know, people over 50 are invisible to marketers because almost everybody working in marketing is in their 20s or 30s. If this is true, they are going to have a big problem in the near future, because the over 50s are a rapidly growing segment of the population.

Every marketer, salesperson, station manager and recruiter that is currently focusing exclusively on the 20-49 age group, needs to rethink their strategy, fast.

The definition of insanity

Looking at the statistics, it is not a good idea to only pursue the 20 to 49-year-olds, many of whom do not own a tv, stopped reading printed media and never even started listening to the radio. Inexplicably, tv, radio, newspapers and magazines keep trying to ‘win back’ this age group by forced rejuvenation: everything should be presented in a simplified language and brought to you by youthful voices. In the mad scramble for the public’s favour, they are losing sight of the fact their target audience is no longer watching, reading. or listening to them.

Their attitude reminds me of the definition of insanity that is often (but incorrectly) attributed to Albert Einstein: ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. I was born in 1961, so the following thoughts on 50-plus marketing are based on my personal experience.

We are not a homogeneous group

Sometimes it seems marketers equate everyone over 50 with grey hair, beige clothes and white incontinence products. Or with dentures and hair loss. We, however, are not impressed by badly translated shampoo commercials. Having seen TV commercials since their inception (in the Netherlands), just going through the motions is not doing the trick for us. You will really need to step up your game and take an interest in what makes people between 50 and 100 tick.

So, who are we, the over 50s of today? Some of us are grandparents with (nearly) paid off mortgages, others are parents of young children. Some of us are childless bohemians who still maintain a student lifestyle.

Our generation (at least in the First World) has never personally experienced want, hunger or war. We were brought up in the sixties and seventies with strong ideas about social justice and the environment. These ideas were not an obstacle to the unprecedented growth in the consumption of food, drink, entertainment and luxury goods taking place in our lifetime. We were free to develop our own tastes and invented or joined numerous subcultures. What’s more: ours is the first generation in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people could come out without fear of prosecution.

Rockers, punks, yuppies and ravers with a smartphone

In the eighties, we were told there were no jobs, so we might as well go out and have fun. First, we made do with little or no money. Suddenly the economy boomed and we embraced consumerism, dressing in power suits and arming ourselves with Filofaxes and the first mobile phones. We are rockers, punks, yuppies and ravers. Those of our idols that didn’t join the 27 club are still performing, and we like seeing them in venues like Paradiso or De Melkweg. Johnny Rotten is still a rebel at 60 and even DJ Tiësto is spinning towards middle age (he is 47).

We are the people who still watch tv, listen to the radio and read newspapers and magazines. And yet, we have also embraced the digital world. We look for our old favourites, but also the latest product reviews (oops) on YouTube.

We like Facebook because that’s where we find our old classmates. I think we might have scared our children away from there, but that doesn’t make it worthless as a marketing instrument.

Apparently, younger people are deserting Twitter in droves, but we like it. We can directly contact brands and services there. A little naming and shaming, using the correct #, get us great customer service.

Rays of hope

H&M yes, Kwantum yes, Zalando no
H&M yes, Kwantum yes, Zalando no

Are we really being ignored? Well … the first signs of change are emerging. Look at the new commercials for H&M, featuring Lauren Hutton (72). We know her! And look at the diversity in this commercial. Young and old, fat and thin, different ethnic backgrounds … it’s like walking into one of their stores. Dutch furniture retailer Kwantum also features a lady of a certain age (decidedly not dressed in beige). Zalando however, completely misses the point with their commercial showing us only young, white and skinny models. My vote, and my money, go to the first two brands.

Honourable mention: Dutch budget retailer Zeeman, whose latest commercial for pantyhose is exemplary in its diversity.

Wir werden immer mehr

Now, pay attention marketers! Segmenting your audience by age is forced, inefficient and hopelessly old-fashioned. Engage with us based on our taste in music, lifestyle, interests, housing situation, holiday destinations or leisure activities. We, the over 50s, are not some separate entity. We are right here, among our friends, acquaintances and colleagues of all ages. We won’t retire until we are 68. We are not children and we are not elderly. We would like to be treated as adults. You can reach us through traditional and digital channels.

We would like to hear from you if you have a relevant message for us. Familiarise yourselves with us, in all our variety. Because, as this classic from the Neue Deutsche Welle of 1981 already predicted: our number is growing!

Anja Bart, Content Manager CloseContact

Interested in how to identify and engage different audiences? Not by random criteria such as age, but by solid data-analysis and Marketing Automation solutions tailored to your organisation? Contact us.

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