Marketing often focuses on younger people, both in the images that it presents and the people that it is targeting.

Many businesses are keen to learn how to market to Millennials, but this isn’t the only generation that it is worth targeting. Older customers are a growing market that is still being missed by most marketing campaigns.

The Value of Marketing to Older Customers

Older consumers are a large and growing market in the UK. By the year 2030, the over 65s are expected to account for 25% of the consumer market in the UK. The older generations are a growing and under-tapped market that hold great potential for many reasons including:

  • The UK has an ageing population so older customers are a market that will continue to grow and increase in importance over the coming decades. The over 65s are the fastest growing segment of the population, not just in the UK but worldwide.
  • People are living longer and healthier lives so the needs of older people are changing dramatically. Businesses in the leisure, health and wellbeing sectors are particularly likely to benefit.
  • Older customers are more likely to spend on certain types of products and services so they can be the main market for many businesses. Approximately 40% of consumer demand now comes from the older generations who are spending more than £200 billion a year.
  • Disposable income is rising in older people, especially for those who already own their own homes, so older consumers often have more to spend on luxuries or their interests. The over 55s now hold most of the personal wealth in the UK.
  • Older customers are a missed market as most businesses are failing to target them, which means that there is much less competition when you are trying to attract them.

What Are Businesses Getting Wrong When Advertising to Older Customers?

One of the most common mistakes that businesses make is failing to advertise to older customers at all.

Most marketing campaigns are designed and delivered with younger people in mind, especially when it comes to digital marketing. If older people do appear in these adverts they are often presented in an unfavourable light.

Even when businesses do try to appeal to the older generations, they often get it wrong. Adverts targeted at older people may play into stereotypes that these consumers find insulting or it may treat everyone over 50 as a single group.

Good Examples of Marketing to Older Customers

Advertising to older customers can be tricky but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to get in right. Here are some examples of best practice.

L’Oréal and Vogue put together “The Non-Issue” in April 2019, a special sponsored edition of the magazine that was geared towards the over 50s.

  • Creating valuable content can be a particularly effective tactic for reaching older people who often want to take their time consuming media. The magazine was targeted at women over 50 who are interested in fashion and beauty, who form an important market for both partners. The issue of ageism was addressed directly and then subverted.

Nike’s “Unlimited” campaign from 2016 was a perfect example of cross-generational inclusiveness as it featured active people of different ages and backgrounds, including an 86-year-old Ironman athlete.

  • The tone was positive, subverted the stereotypes, and included older people alongside younger ones instead of treating them as a separate group.

Mercedes “Be a Good Parent” advert was part of a series appealing to different age groups.

  • It featured a father supporting his adult son and embracing retirement, which created a strong emotional storyline and appealed to both sides of the generational divide. Marketing to older consumers was a particularly good match for the brand as older drivers are more likely to purchase luxury vehicles.

Best Practice for Advertising to Older Customers

What should your business do if you want to reach these valuable older consumers? Here are the key points that you should remember when planning your marketing campaign.

  1. Don’t treat older customers as a single group
    • Target your message to people by more than just age. Consider whether your customers are Gen X, Baby Boomers, men, women, or people with particular needs or interests.
  2. Be positive and avoid stereotypes
    • Older consumers don’t want to see themselves represented as fragile, out of date grandparents.
  3. Consider accessibility
    • There’s no need to patronise older consumers, but you should be aware of potential issues such as font size.
  4. Include older people in market research
    • One of the main issues with marketing to older people is that there’s a lack of research into what they want. Make sure they’re represented when you do market research.
  5. Relationships and loyalty matter
    • Older consumers often favour personal connections so they will want to have the option of talking to a real person by phone, email or on social media. Building these personal connections can generate a lot of loyalty towards your business.