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Ads geared toward older consumers tend to be condescending

by on May 7, 2019 in Best advertising story, Latest News, Lead Article, News you can use, Nuggets

Ads geared toward older consumers tend to be condescending

Ads geared toward older consumers tend to be condescending at best, offensive at worst.

Here’s why marketers get seniors wrong. Plus, a look at the brands that are getting it right, from Mercedes to Covergirl.

Honest question: When was the last time you saw anyone over 55 in a decent ad? The world of oldsvertising is a hellscape full of reverse mortgages, erectile dysfunction pills, and bathtubs that won’t kill you.

If you took your entire view of the human race from primetime advertising alone, you’d see a society without old people. They don’t work, they don’t drink beer, they don’t drive cars. They don’t exist. According to Havas Group, only about 5% of U.S. advertising is even aimed at people over 50.

And yet by 2020, the world will have more 55-year-olds than 5-year-olds, and older people are expected to generate half of all urban consumption growth between 2015 and 2030. The U.S. Census Bureau has pegged 2035 as the year older adults will outnumber chil­dren for the first time in U.S. history. By 2060 in China, one in three people–or 487 million–will be over 60. As far as brands are concerned, that’s a lot of potential sales.

But forget about balancing between Instagram and I’ve fallen but I can’t get up.” These statistics, along with more recent studies around how consumers want to see different generations depicted and reflected in culture, are starting to shift how some marketers try to lure different age groups.

So why is marketing to older people so bad?

Major brand marketers over the years have demonstrated a distinct obsession with age. People are segmented off into age ranges like 18 to 34, 35 to 50, and over-55, as if our buying patterns, motivation, and lifestyles are homogenous and based primarily on how many years we’ve been alive. Life stage and age have been decoupling over the past generation, with milestones like education, marriage, kids, career, and retirement becoming unmoored from traditional age constraints.

A 2018 study conducted by McCann and The Paley Center for Media asked people of all ages when you’re too old to do things like go back to school, start your own business, or date romantically, and an overwhelming majority of respondents said you’re never too old for any of it, putting into question the focus on age as a reliable indicator of consumer habits.

However, most advertisers still see the next generation as always the most exciting. Are you sick of gen Z headlines yet? They’re new, they’re different, their disposable income habits are not yet fully formed!

When asked about AB InBev’s Super Bowl strategy in 2015, the brewer’s VP of global marketing strategy Jorn Socquet said, “It’s moving towards a different tone of voice. It will be more young, it will be a little more fun-based. So you will definitely see an evolution.”

And last year, Tiffany’s chief artistic officer Reed Krakoff told me the brand has been experimenting and pushing itself to find the right balance between leveraging the enormous brand value in its heritage, “while at the same time not letting it become an albatross around its neck, preventing it from attracting newer, younger people into its doors.”

The brand’s 2018 “Believe in Dreams” campaign featured both Elle Fanning (then 20) and A$AP Ferg (then 30).

There is some logic behind the strategy of targeting younger consumers. According to Forrester research, 55% and 54% of those less than 31 and 31-39, respectively, say they “enjoy trying new brands or products.”

That number drops to 39% for those aged 54-63 and 31% for the 64-74 set. Forrester analyst Dipanjan Chatterjee says it’s possible that marketers see no quick win here among less promiscuous consumers who are unwilling to switch for quick inducements.

“This may also reflect a mind-set among many brands where marketers are rewarded for acquisition after which the customer gets passed on to some other part of the organization,” says Chatterjee.

And so the most creative, high-production campaigns tend to focus on the youngest consumers, while marketing aimed at older groups follows mindless formulas and plays into time-worn stereotypes about older people as needy and helpless.

The real opportunity of marketing to older people

But stats like those cited by Forrester can be misleading. On the flipside, Havas Group’s chief insights officer and SVP brand marketing at …….Read more >>>>>>


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