The Ten Rules of Mature Marketing were distilled by RHC ADVANTAGE from our own 'Mature Market Report' research report and also our experience as a specialist 'mature marketing' consultancy. They are not intended to be taken too seriously and neither are they a substitute for reading the report or working with us! They aim to draw attention to some of the important issues encountered when planning and managing marketing for older people.
1. There are no ‘rules’! This is an extremely large, diverse and complex group of people. This means that there are obvious limits as to just how many ‘one size fits all’ prescriptive guidelines on ‘how to market to the over-50s’ there can be. Our best advice: make sure your marketing is based upon proprietary consumer insight, not received wisdom, intelligent assumptions by thirty-something agency gurus (especially bearded ones) or personal anecdotes (especially ones involving someone’s parents or grandparents. And definitely not your own).
2. Think of individuals, not groups. Mass marketing is an outmoded concept: so why think of ‘older people’ or ‘the over-50s’ as a single homogenous group?
3. It’s about ageing, not age. This isn’t just about ‘old people’, it is about population ageing. This has implications for every business, as your customer profile ages.
4. Do not overtly target ‘older people’. We know how old we are, you don’t need to remind us. And we know what you’re trying to do. If you were more subtle and convinced us that you meet our needs, we might just be interested. Targeting by age alone is rarely effective.
5. Think differently. Traditional assumptions no longer apply. Example 1: while household income declines quite steeply after the age of 50, wealth and expenditure are at their peak for the 50-64 age group. So don't use income alone or targeting. Example 2: Most people do not regard themselves as part of a traditional family unit – think beyond traditional clichés of happy nuclear familes and smirking Grandparents. Example 3: Surprise! Many people you think of as 'old' are in fact active, experienced and discerning consumers.
6. Be more inclusive and less ageist. Many guidelines on marketing for older people assume that physical or mental decline are inevitable. In fact, these are issues which apply to people of all ages and should be addressed by an inclusive approach to all aspects of the marketing mix. Furthermore, many older people are mentally and physically active into their 90s and beyond.
7. Age is relative. Our own age dictates not just when we think ‘youth ends’ and ‘old age begins’ but also our perceptions of the attributes associated with old age. Make sure that your marketing is consumer-driven and not at the mercy of youthful marketers and agency staff, however professional and well-intentioned. Avoid anyone who uses anecdotes about their own parents and grandparents to provide insight.
8. Don’t target by generation. Treat ‘generational marketing’ definitions with caution. In the UK, terms such as ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Generation Y’ provide little useful consumer insight and members of such groups share little other than the period in which they were born.
9. Think across age groups, not just within them. There is almost always more than one age group involved in any purchasing and consumption process. Inter-generational marketing is often crucial. An obvious example is the involvement of adult children in the purchase of retirement housing and care homes. Also, the audience for many brands is likely to span different generations, as consumer attitudes, need and interests are seldom shaped by age alone.
10. Walk the talk. Why are all your staff hip young gunslingers? If you care about older people so much, why not employ some? Unemployment is high amongst people over 50 - yet many have experience, energy and much more to offer. And please, think about all aspects of the customer experience and marketing mix, not just marketing communications.
These ‘rules’ run the inevitable risk of seeming facile and self-contradictory. We welcome your views and would love to discuss any aspect of this subject with you.
Contact us here to set up an informal discussion or learn more about our Mature Market Report or consultancy services
- Mark Beasley
Mark Beasley, of rhc advantage, mature marketing consultants