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No its not me, but its an easy mistake to make

I’ve just read a great article in The Marketer about the make up of Britain’s population, and the demographic breakdown, especially as it applies to age. Did you know:

There are more people aged 65+ in the UK than aged under 16?

Those aged 65+ hold 80% of the national wealth?

Amazing. And even more amazing is the fact that marketers are largely ignoring this enormous, affluent market place in favour of time poor and resource poor younger people. It makes sense doesnt it. People in their twenties are paying off University loans or can’t get an appropriate job, or even worse, can’t get a job at all. People in their 30’s are getting themselves sorted with families and schools and homes and everything else. Whereas those older citizens have nothing to do other than spend all that lovely index linked pension money and cash in on the property they’ve paid the mortgage off on! (OK generalisation, but you get the picture!)

Here’s a quote directly from the article ‘In the UK, a significant shift is occurring whereby the living standards of many people aged 70 now exceeds that of many people in their 20s. UK pensioners benefit from a number of non-means tested and inflation-linked benefits, while younger people face increased university tuition fees, cuts in working tax credits and rising property prices’

The reason for this ignorance at least as far as The Marketer is concerned, is that marketing departments are made up predominantly of younger people, and the fact our population is getting older is a problem, a little like global warming, that some one else will have to deal with!

I suspect the first reason is a very powerful one. It is really difficult to imagine anyone other than yourself and your immediate peer group. In the same way that an older man may have no idea of what ‘floats the boat’ of young women these days – the reverse is also true. If you are young free and single how can you relate to the lifestyle and choices someone 50+ who has been married for years, whose kids have left university and who’s main worry is that the ache in the knees getting worse than the one in the back!

The other issue is that we still have a massively inaccurate idea of what it is to age. And therefore what older people ‘look like’. Not everyone ends up in slippers smoking a pipe. Check out those 50+ movie superstars Brad Pitt and George Clooney for a start.

The article also bemoans the typical marketers unsophisticated approach when it comes to targeting the older demo, and suggests three tactics that should be considered.

1. Simplicity: The article argues that many brands over complicate things, especially to the older end of the older end of the market. Why have 20 options when 5 would do? And why is packaging information made so small as to be impossible to read without a magnifying glass?

2. Niche ageing: Instead of lazy stereotyping and easy segmenting Marketers need to take a lead from an article in Time magazine which reported people heading to retirement homes based on their interests rather than their ages

3. Added value: Young people tend to consume products and older people services. Marketers need to consider therefore, how to wrap services around products to offer a new slant for an older target.

I think it’s a great article, and well worth a read. How many times have you been guilty of assuming everyone in the world is the same as you? Has the same interests and tastes and are  broadly even the same sort of age, with everyone outside your current range either too young to matter or too old to count?

Check it out on The Marketer website and let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or tweet me here on @radiojaja