Why Businesses Struggle With Marketing To The Over 50s

Why businesses struggle with marketing to the over 50s

The so-called ‘over 50s’ market is huge with immense spending power.  It’s surprising therefore, that many businesses still don’t get how to connect with them.

In recent years marketing to an older audience has been debated, discussed and written about. That said, a study published in October 2018) by Gransnet, found some revealing facts.  A whopping 78% of those aged 50 or over feel under-represented or misrepresented by advertising!

Most businesses today know there’s a good reason to target this group. For instance, over 50s make up a third of the population in the UK and in the USA they number well over 100 million.

In addition, they have more disposable income than any other group. It makes sense to try and engage with them. So, where are businesses going wrong?

Shaking off the ‘old’ image of over 50s

You only need to look back a couple of decades to find an answer. In the 1950s through to the 1970s, hitting 40 was a milestone akin to being middle-aged. 

The average life-span back then was shorter than it is today. It was quite acceptable, expected even, to slow right down as you grew older.

Women cut their long hair short, wore skirts on or below the knee and changed their shoes from high heels to low sturdy ones.

Of course, not all women stuck to these rules, but the ones who didn’t were at risk of being labelled ‘mutton dressed as lamb.’

Men stopped wearing jeans and t-shirts, bought sensible cars and watched football instead of playing it.

Photographs of 40 and 50-year-old people of that era show how much older they look than their present-day counterparts.

Marketing to the over 50s used to be easy

It made marketing to the over 50s much easier than it is today. Television programmes such as ‘how to look ten years younger’ had yet to hit the screens.

If you were aged 50 or over and announced you were going to run a marathon, people would think you’d lost it.

So, marketers had an easier time because the over 50s were much more standardised. A 55-year-old woman was only five years away from retirement but many had stopped working long before then. Women didn’t have midlife crises as they do these days.

They had much more in common with a 60 or 70-year-old than the same aged woman might, today.

The over 50s are a complex group

The over 50s may be a complex group but that doesn’t mean businesses shouldn’t try to engage with them.

Part of the problem is the label ‘over 50’ which gives the impression a 55-year-old will relate to similar things as an 80-year-old. This may have been true forty years ago, but not today.

Businesses looking to target the over 50s market should stop thinking of them as one big indistinguishable group.

The sad fact is that nearly two-thirds of over 50s in the Mumsnet/Gransnet study, said they feel ignored because advertisers are too young to understand the 50+ demographic.

So, if your business employs young content writers, ask them if they’d be happy to be targeted in the same way as their parents.

This is no different from putting over 50s into one group. An over 50 could be 51 or 81, or to put it another way, mother and daughter or father and son.

Ask them if they consider 50 and over as ‘old’ and if so, to define ‘old’ because whatever their definition is, they’ll be staring it in the face much sooner than they realise.

What should you do to start engaging with the over 50s?

One solution would be to hire or employ a content writer in the age range you’re trying to target. They’ll be able to draw on their own experience when writing content aimed at an audience of a similar age.

In addition to this, look at brands who’ve already succeeded in reaching the over 50s. Companies such as SunLife or Dove and L’Oreal who both used older models in their advertising campaigns.

Also, you could try listening to your older audience about what resonates with them. Asking questions will also increase your chances of hitting the mark with your marketing.

Next steps to reaching the over 50 market

Whatever you do, don’t ignore this sector. The over 50s market already accounts for a third of the population and that figure is set to grow.

They have more disposable income than any other demographic and they’re not afraid to spend it.

If you’re ready to start now, go ahead and book your 20-minute consult.

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