It’s time to wise up to the aging world_

Millennials, Gen Z, the people of the future - they seem to be the focus of every brand’s attention. But what about everybody else? A significant demographic shift is being overlooked and it’s one that’s set to be worth a whopping £11.5 billion in spending by next year.

The over 50s may not traditionally have the exciting, glamorous appeal of their younger counterparts, but as it stands their value is being seriously underestimated. Older people are even expected to generate half of all urban consumption growth between 2015 and 2030. And they’re not shy of venturing beyond the high street – Havas’s Meaningful Brands study found that 68% of over 55s buy something online every month.

Yes, you read that right! Thanks to medical progress we are all living longer and in many cases we can expect to live for several decades following our 50s – a female in the UK now has the average life expectancy of 83 years.

The time has never been better to reach this demographic and reap the rewards of both revenue and boosted brand perceptions. But it requires radical thinking. While brands fight for the attention of those with lower disposable incomes and little brand loyalty, others that do try to engage this more mature audience continue to miss the mark.

By 2020, the world will have more 55-year-olds than 5-year-olds.

When was the last time you saw an ad for older generations that wasn’t steeped in tired stereotypes? Vulnerable, stubborn and/or riddled with health issues, many cast a blanketed view of what life’s like “over the hill” and alienate the bulk of their potential audience base. Even beyond the cliché stairlifts, dentures and pain relief products, there’s a distinct age segregation in advertising. As sectors like the beauty industry become more inclusive by representing minority groups such as transgender people, they’re still being held back by their very limited representation of older consumers.

68% of over 55s will share positive brand experiences with others by word of mouth.

But that’s not to say brands have always got it wrong. Back in 2011 MAC collaborated on a product range with Iris Apfel (an iconic American businesswoman in her 90s) in a move that rapidly repositioned stereotypes of the silver-haired generations. However these bold and inspiring representations still remain few and far between close to a decade later!

How can brands truly connect with this currently marginalised audience? Firstly, they need to recognise that age groups don’t correlate to a universal experience or set of values. Many people in their 30s and even 20s have less vigour than others in their 50s and 60s and many Millennials share similarities with Boomers. We’re all individuals and despite convenience’s sake, people can’t be pigeon-holed into a set of need-states. To resonate with any consumer we need to listen to what they want first-hand and evolve with them. Brands should create insightful and informed strategies based on real people, instead of being lead by presumptions about their audience.

Beyond representing older consumers in ads, companies can create and retain the brand loyalty of older generations by making crucial changes to their product design. For example, even the fittest and strongest amongst us can’t deny the struggle of a stubborn jar. Now think about that struggle with the added hurdle of arthritis. Older generations value feeling young as well as looking young, so as we remove the obstacles to this feeling we can unlock their purchasing power.

As the more mature consumer group widens, so do brands’ opportunities to empower these people. Thoughtful brands, products and services with considered marketing will thrive in the aging world and those who continue to ignore them will shut themselves off from their potential value. It’s time we took a fresh approach to targeting the over 55s at every point in the consumer journey.