Consumer brands are missing the boat on millions of dollars in potential revenue thanks to ad buyers’ misperceptions about the 55-plus demographic, says the president of a consulting firm that aims to help companies do a better job of reaching affluent boomers.
Jeff Weiss, who is also CEO of the startup called Age of Majority, says the mature cohort is badly misunderstand and often overlooked by usually younger media and advertising account executives who buy into societal myths that have been rebuked by research findings.
“It’s been a mystery to us why,” Weiss said, referring to research the firm conducted in advance of its launch this year that showed marketers under age 35 still accept wisdom that, for example, dismisses older consumers as tightfisted and lacking tech savvy.
This comes against a backdrop of a recent Nelson study that describes the 55-plus cohort as the wealthiest and fastest-growing consumer group in the U.S., controlling in some categories more than half of household spending. Yet, Weiss says, research shows only 10 per cent of ad dollars are targeted at the segment.
“Magnifying the proliferation of ageism in marketing is the fact that younger marketers are more likely than their older colleagues to adhere to age-related biases and stereotypes,” Weiss wrote in a blog post last month.
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Moreover, the firm’s study of 1,200 adult Americans and 250 marketers shows a perception divide between mature consumers and marketers, notably in the tech space. The study, for example, found four of five marketers agree that digital penetration is low among seniors versus a small minority of senior respondents who shared the view.
“We weren’t surprised to find that marketers underestimate the revenue opportunity with mature consumers,” Weiss said. “What surprised us is the magnitude of these missed opportunities and the extent to which marketers’ own biases become barriers to pursuing this market.”
Weiss said the firm’s research demonstrated that marketers underestimate the spending power of consumers 55-plus and over-estimate the spending of millennials. They perceive that older consumers won’t try new things or are too brand loyal and worry that targeting older consumers will alienate younger consumers.
He said the research also shows marketers are inclined to default to a youth-size-fits-all approach, assuming that millennial-oriented marketing will appeal to consumers 55 and older and that younger consumers set the trends for older consumers.
“The reality is older consumers aren’t looking for inspiration from the younger set,” Weiss said adding that millennial-oriented marketing is missing the mark with mature consumers given that 73 per cent of the older demographic feels marketers are not engaging them effectively.
He said research shows five areas where the marketing opportunity for advertisers is greatest: technology, apparel and footwear, entertainment and recreation, food and non-alcoholic beverages, and personal care.
Weiss also noted that some marketers in areas including banking, automotive and health care are increasingly recognizing the value of senior consumers as the population ages, but suggested that many are tone deaf to the cultural nuances and the positive approach needed to effectively connect.
That’s where his firm can help, Weiss says, suggesting, for example, that promoting health aids as more fashionable could be a pending challenge for senior-friendly advertising.
Age of Majority, a sister company to Toronto-based ad agency Harbinger Communications, will focus on consulting and helping brands find opportunities to grow through new products, experiences or services, Weiss added.
He said the firm has had interest from Canadian brands and is also focused on growth in the U.S. Age of Majority has already been working with female oriented brands including Dove, Femarelle and Nexxus and plans to hire staff in the 55-plus demographic as the business expands.