On a recent drive I caught a brief look at a perplexing
billboard. I can’t recall what it was advertising –apologies for focussing on
the road – but I did notice the largest font words asking “Over 55?”
It seems there is no real difference between being 55 years old,
90 years old or beyond. It is assumed that once the magical age of 55 is reached
all consumers share the same values, lifestyle, outlook and consumption
patterns. At least that’s the conclusion once can draw from this billboard and,
surprisingly, most other advertising and marketing campaigns.
Most companies are very skilful at segmenting the audience
in order to most efficiently reach, cater and communicate with them. These
manifest according to age, lifestage, attitudes, product usage and a myriad of
other categories. Some companies devote significant resources to getting this
right in order to guide their areas of concentration. Many of these segmentations will include one
column which is in line with the billboard I mentioned above – “over 55 years”.
Why are all consumers over and well over the age of 55 years
lumped in together as one homogenous group? Why is there no refinement between
the semi-retired or recently retired in their 60s and their parents’
For their part, Australians in their 60s are perplexed by this
phenomenon. But even more so, they cannot understand why so few brands and
advertisers bother to speak to them at all. In many cases they regard
themselves as an ideal audience. They are cashed up, have time on their hands, are
willing and able to spend, are spritely in their outlook, and yet are largely
This issue was raised consistently in our latest study Grey Boom Leisure & Communication
looking at the lifestyle and attitudes of recent and pre-retirees and the media
which appeals to them.
“We’ve got more spending power than any other generation, X, Y, Z or
whatever,” said one participant. “It’s like ‘Knock, knock! Hello! We’re here!’
And still they’ll be more interested in the younger demographic.” They notice
that advertising features and targets kids, teens, young people, younger mums
and dads – anyone but them.
There were some notably stereotypical exceptions which were discussed
with much ridicule and laughter. “There are some ads that do target us,” summed
up one, “like the pay-in-advance funerals.”
It is difficult to find a rational explanation for the
disregard of older Australians as consumers. It may just be ageism. The
majority of marketing and advertising executives tend to be young, and when you
are 30 anyone over 50 is old – their parent’s generation. And who wants to market to their parents?
It may also be misguided pre-conceptions. One such example
is that older consumers tend not to experiment with different brands – their
loyalty is assured because their consumption patterns of the last couple of
decades will continue unabated. In fact, in most cases, the opposite is true.
Now that they are free of work and child rearing responsibilities they have the
time and money to explore and experiment.
Chances are that older consumers are also perceived to be
much older than they actually feel. In some ways they can understand this. Each
time they look in the mirror they realise how deceiving their bodies are
relative to their spritely minds and attitudes. There is much they wish to
experience and their “bucket list” is long. They are all about enjoying these
years and making the most out of life while they are still able to.
While other segments of the population often feel over
whelmed by the seemingly relentless pursuit of advertising and marketing
campaigns for their spending dollars, the Boomers are not. Their message is
quite the opposite. “Speak to me” is what they are saying.