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Breaking myths about marketing for older consumers


Active seniors are staying at home and staying fit during the COVID-19 lockdown


Much of what we read about older consumers paints a picture of people who are past their prime and stuck in their own way. The group is often ascribed limited attractiveness to marketers as it is loyal to the brand and limited in technology in many product categories. However, dig a little deeper, the reality is that older consumers are often imprudently stereotyped, resulting in the group being underserved in many product categories. I recently spoke to Jeff Weiss, CEO of Age of Majority, a research and advisory firm specializing in consumers 55 and older, who spoke to me about how marketers underserve older consumers.

Age of Majority conducted a study of marketers and asked them how they think consumer spending is split between Millennials, Gen-Xs, and Boomers. Collectively, marketers estimated that millennials were responsible for 38% of all consumer spending, when in fact they only made up 18% of that spending. This result reflects how much the purchasing power (and market influence) of older active consumers is undervalued.

Jeff Weiss, President and CEO of Age of Majority.

Harbinger Communications Inc.

At the heart of the Age of Majority philosophy is the notion that it is a mistake to group all older consumers together. The company points out that there is a large group of “Active Agers”, defined as: “Adults 55 and over who are mentally, physically, socially and digitally active”. They make up 75% of all people in this age group. ”Weiss notes that while active agers have challenges in one or more of these areas, they want to overcome and / or overcome these challenges in order to get the most out of their lives. Active agers should be very attractive to marketers as they comprise a group of approximately 75 million consumers who control approximately 70% of all wealth and account for over 40% of all consumer spending in the United States.

While the majority of consumers 55 and over are active agers, they are divided into boomers (25% of whom conform to the traditional image of “seniors” in society are somewhat aloof) and active members of the silent generation, and there are important subsegments within this group. As a result, the company has successfully gained insights from its proprietary online panel called Revolution55 (www.revolution55.com), which includes more than 2,500 Active Agers from across the United States

Age of Majority research provides solid data that dispels several myths about older consumers. These include:

Myth # 1: Older consumers are loyal to most brands and have no desire to try new things – and are therefore not attractive for sales.

A survey conducted by Age of Majority’s with the Revolution 55 panel shows that more than half (52%) of the group said they were open to brand changes and new things. In addition, large majorities in some subsegments of active agers report that they switch frequently. Overall, the results show that the categories in which active agers are most susceptible to brand change are home appliances, home electronics, packaged foods, and shoes.

Weiss notes that the myth of the brand change does not stand up to scrutiny. He says, “I laugh at this myth for several reasons. First, younger consumers are more fickle than ever, so the belief that you can keep them young and keep them as consumers is a myth. There are many examples of brands that have tried and failed. Second, just because you’re older doesn’t mean you don’t want to try new things. Take me, for example, who went skydiving for the first time to celebrate my 55th birthday and entry into the world of active agers. And while there are brands that we love and are loyal to, isn’t that the same for most people regardless of their age? “

Contrary to popular belief, active age groups have a high level of technological know-how and use social ones … [+] Media and make lots of purchases online.


Myth # 2: Older consumers are technologically challenged and reluctant to try new technologies.

Obviously, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the use of technology for older adults – both in terms of the number of active agers adopting more technology in their lives and the way they operate. Weiss notes, “Shifts that may have taken years have taken a year and there is no turning back from technology for older consumers of all ages who are passionate about digital practices. Even my own 90-year-old mother, who uses her iPad for FaceTime with me every day, is not going to go back to her old habits, even if we see each other in person more regularly. “

Age of Majority studies show that for active seniors: 92% bank online; 91% own smartphones; 90% research and buy products online; and 84% post regularly on social media. In addition, the majority own and use computers (89%), smartphones (58%) and tablets (54%). In addition, 34% use wearable technology and 25% use smart speakers. Overall, 70% of Active Agers are enthusiastic users of technology every day.

Myth # 3: Older consumers are depressed and inactive.

The myth “old people are depressed” is particularly egregious and simply contradicts research for most older consumers. Even if the stereotype for the 25% of over 55 consumers that Age of Majority classifies as “traditionalists” is somewhat true.

Age of Majority data shows that 95% of active aged people exercise at least once a week outside the home or at home, with 29% exercising daily and 45% exercising several times a week. These numbers can even compare favorably with those for younger consumers.

Weiss points out that academic and industrial studies just don’t support the myth. “It is believed that people get depressed as they get older because there isn’t much to live with,” he claims to live life to the fullest. Academics have found increasing evidence that happiness in adulthood is U-shaped – life satisfaction drops in our 20s and 30s, then peaks in our late 40s before rising into our 80s. “

Weiss believes these results make intuitive sense: “This makes sense when you think about all the stresses people are usually exposed to at 40 – family, career, marriage, housing, etc. As people get older, they have them less stress and less. ”regrets and they don’t care as much about what other people think. Their expectations also change, and they find it easier to enjoy simpler moments and pursuits such as hobbies, volunteering, and spending time with grandchildren. For marketers, this means they need to change the way they portray and market older consumers. “

Myth # 4: Targeting older consumers alienates younger consumers.

Scientific research on the representation of older people in advertising has largely been forgotten over the past decade. However, we know from previous research that depictions of older consumers are relatively rare in relation to their proportion of the population. Weiss believes the myth of alienating younger consumers stems from the fact that there are so few good examples of brands that have done a good job in marketing efforts that appeal to active agers without deterring younger consumers. Compared to other industries, advertising agencies are usually staffed by relatively young employees, which can be a factor.

The Age of Majority study found that 55% of people under the age of 55 (including 61% of 35 to 54 year olds and nearly half (48%) of 18 to 34 year olds) said older people were in Marketing did not affect their purchase decisions at all, and 8% of those under 55 said this would increase their likelihood of buying a product / brand.

Weiss sees a great opportunity for markets that are rooted in social change, so that looking younger is not a central goal in life for many older people, which made it acceptable for marketers to address older consumers with young, attractive models. “Today we are in the midst of a change that I call reverse pursuit,” he says are struggling. They are now making conscious efforts to live long and healthy lives and they are being inspired by people and brands who can help them along the way. “

As an example, Age of Majority was researching a new nutritious drink designed to combat sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass that accelerates after the age of 40). The product was tested for attractiveness and while it was rated high in people 55 and over, it was even higher in women in their mid-40s. This created a much bigger opportunity for the brand, which initially thought it was going to compete with adult nutritional supplement brands, Boost and Remember.

Myth # 5: Younger consumers feel better about their looks than older ones.

In recent years, older consumers have increasingly accepted aspects of the aging process and no longer yearn to be young again, but rather to strive to be the best version of themselves at a certain age. Weiss believes this allows older consumers to feel better about how they look:

“While there are still older adults desperately trying to look as young as possible by various means, including plastic surgery, (and we know procedures don’t always work as well), today’s older consumers are much less focused on that to look younger compared to previous generations. That doesn’t mean Active Agers don’t care what they look like; Instead, regardless of their age, they want to look and feel the best they can. In short, they don’t strive for youth, they strive for the best version of themselves. In contrast, and based largely on social media and the need to be liked, today’s younger consumers (in general) are much more focused on how they look to others, which often causes significant stress in the course of a normal day.

The result of the self-image of older and younger consumers is that active agers are more comfortable with their appearance compared to 18-34 year olds. This was confirmed in our launch study three years ago. We often see marketers using younger models for their campaigns, and based on other research we’ve done, active agers relate better to people who are more like them. “


As the Age of Majority findings show, older consumers should not be grouped together or viewed in terms of outdated stereotypes. The Active Agers group is big, has tremendous purchasing power overall, and offers tremendous opportunities for marketers. It should be emphasized that like any other age group, it is not homogeneous and needs to be segmented. I have always found it remarkable that in a marketing era where it is important to successfully target different segments with products and services that meet consumer wants and needs, there is a tendency to group large age groups together. Age of Majority research underscores the fallacy of such efforts.


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