The Grey Pound – are Businesses Missing a Trick.

Business Insights

Our aging demographic is widely publicised, we are all living longer, healthier and more active lives.

It is not unusual to find folk deferring their retirement until well into their seventies, and statistics show a growing number of older people successfully starting up their own businesses in their sixties.

This generation is more affluent and has greater spending power and influence than ever before, having benefitted from generous employee pensions and rising property prices.

Over 50s account for a third of the population and half of all consumer expenditure. They hold 80% of all personal wealth and control 70% of all disposable income. Yet a mere 5% of all ad spend is directed at the over 50’s.

Marketers persist in targeting this group with advertising for stair-lifts, funeral expenses, insurance, personal alarms, mobility scooters, and slippers. The hackneyed cliché of the older person struggling with a Zimmer or getting into a bath with a door on the side is completely outdated.

It is time for a shift in perception, rather than only targeting marketing at millennials, as part of their overall marketing strategy, businesses should look more closely at what today’s mature consumer wants, and how best to communicate with them, because (in the alleged words of bank robber Willie Sutton) that’s where the money is.

The rationale is compelling. There are more people with more disposable income and more social influence over fifty than in any other demographic. They understand marketing, they’re loyal, they have the cash and they want to spend it.

So how do businesses reach this burgeoning sector of the market?

The Internet and social media will play a significant part in any communications plan – it is too much a part of our daily lives to be neglected or avoided. However, even on this contemporary frontier, there are ways and means of discussing trends and influencing decisions. The over 50s are very discerning and are used to not just taking things on trust, also they are sufficiently tech savvy to do their research, so when targeting this group, make sure any claims for your product stack up.

Don’t neglect print advertising which, is seeing a welcome return, it is no coincidence that many major consumer businesses take space in magazines to raise their brand awareness, this is after all, a generation used to reading, and print can feel more accessible than a screen, they also watch broadcast TV and listen to radio.

This generation actually likes advertising, Baby boomers were brought up on advertising – possibly the first generation to be marketing savvy. They appreciate the power of the message. They like and appreciate well-written long copy. They understand that they’re being sold to and have no objections to that process.

The over 50’s have time to shop, they appreciate quality and are prepared to pay for it while expecting value for money. They look at finish and fit, and enjoy the whole tactile experience of visiting quirky small shops, farmers’ markets and high-end retail brands. They appreciate good food and fine wines.

A quick fact check:

· Over 50s account for 23.6million people in the UK. That’s 35% of the population – more populous than under 18’s (Nielsen predict that that will rise to 50% in five years’ time)

· Over 50’s account for 47% of consumer expenditure

· Over 50’s hold 80% of personal wealth

· Over 50’s buy 60% of new cars

· Over 50’s control 70% of all disposable income

· 5% of all ad spend is directed at the over 50’s.

· Two thirds of over 50’s drink wine most days of the week

· More than a quarter of new British companies are set up by people aged 50 to 65

· More cars are bought by the 55-64 age group than any other

· There are more people over 60 in the UK than there are under 18.

Where are the over 50s to be found?

Sitting at home by the fire with a shawl over their knees, in their sheds oiling their woodworking tools?

Highly unlikely even if they have retired! You’re far more likely to see older people in the gym, or dance studio, jogging the streets, taking a class in a foreign language, playing sport, or perhaps in the kind of classic sporty car they lusted after when younger, on an exotic holiday or simply socialising. Many even go “grey back packing “ to see the world or learn a new skill.

The whole point here, is that the over 50’s cannot be stereotyped, the swinging sixties are alive, very well, and enjoying life. They are still lively and enquiring, ready to take on new things and, very importantly, have the disposable income to indulge their fancies.