Why brands should be paying more attention to retirees

Blog posted

30th June 2014

With my sales and marketing hat on I found the latest information on marketing trends among the older generation quite fascinating and wanted to share it with you.

As we market to this sector of the population I think we would probably endorse most of what these findings show. What I find amazing is that many brands still don’t take this age group seriously and, when they do, the result is often condescending or patronising messaging and marketing.

This is slightly shortsighted given the potential wealth among this age group, a pool of people that is getting larger by the day. As the figures show, more than 30% of the UK population is now above the age of 50 and they control 80% of the nation’s wealth!

This is a generation that deserves to be taken more seriously for practical as well as moral and ethical reasons. Someone’s age should not mean we prejudice them and automatically place them in the stereotypical old ‘pipe and slippers’ brigade.

On the contrary, this age group is more ‘with it’ then many folk half their age. And we have evidence every day in our villages to prove so. Retirees are tech-savvy, they are getting to grips with everything the digital world is throwing at them because they have the time and desire to learn. They are also more in tune with the younger generation because in some cases they are carers for their grandchildren; or they speak to them much more regularly thanks to the likes of Skype and Facebook.

I find it staggering that so little time is given to the age group through the media and in marketing generally. Current examples are not the greatest portrayals for the age group. There’s the controversial campaign by money-lending company Wonga that tries to align itself with goodness by using the wise words of its ‘older’ clay model characters. The company and its practices have been continually shrouded in criticism – to be honest, the spoof clay characters who deliver the fun advertising messages are the highlight – see Wonga’s current video campaign below:

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My personal favourite at the moment is Buxton Water’s ‘Naturally Pumped’ campaign with the bowling competition. I can imagine this happening in one of our villages, perhaps! Here it is if you haven’t seen it:

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Some audiences might feel uncomfortable watching the ITV sketch show ‘Off their Rockers’ but if nothing else, it definitely demonstrates this age group does not take itself too seriously and knows just how to have a good laugh at its own expense. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but at least it illustrates a side of the older generation which is a stark contrast from the traditional perceptions and that’s no bad thing in my book. The programme is certainly popular with many as its Facebook page had over 5,000 likes the last time I checked.

I’m hoping we start to see more viewing and listening time incorporating the older sector. Instead of retiring the newscasters as they go grey we should be embracing them. The media has to reflect our society, surely?

And marketing should be the same. I’ve lost count of how many adverts promoting products and services for the older age group still insist on using 40-year-old models! Not only is it misleading, it’s an insult to the retiree market, suggesting they are not up to the job.

It’s not until you work within the older sector that you really start to understand it. My advice to the UK’s army of young marketers looking to represent a product aimed at this age group, is to do your homework, study the sector, immerse yourself in it, and don’t pretend to understand it until you really do. 

Sarah Burgess
Sales and Marketing Director