The age of prime timers, by Bryan Urbick, CEO of Consumer Knowledge Centre.
Geoff and Charlie are both 68 and recently retired. Statistically, they are included in a market segment that is the fastest growing, most educated, affluent (especially when considering disposable income) and socially involved. As prime timers Geoff and Charlie are also very active and have the longest life expectancies of any other generation before them.
By the year 2025, approximately 40% of the ‘Western World’ will be either under 15 years or over 65 years of age. Yet, remarkably, this growing market of consumers over the age of 65 is, for the most part, ignored.
With many - in the US market - having started second careers after retirement, they have the financial flexibility so as not to have to worry about how much they are paid (if at all) and are now more able to choose exactly how they want to spend it. They also perceive that they have more time although this perception is not to say that many have a great deal of time to spare.
These consumers do not consider themselves as old, and from the perspective of previous generations, they don’t act old either.
This age group does, however, have certain needs based on their age, which are just beginning to be addressed in today’s marketplace. It is probable that the 65+ age group will begin to have physical conditions that could restrict their ability to continue living their lives at the level that they are accustomed, such as arthritis and declining vision.
Anything that a product can do to mitigate any loss of ability will most certainly be appreciated by this independent generation.
The difficult thing about targeting this consumer segment is that it cannot be done on age alone. Geoff and Charlie may be the same age but, like many in this sector, they are likely to be very different.
Their lifestyles are so dissimilar that if you talk to one as if he acts like the other, the message will not be perceived as being sincere, nor motivating. However, there are most certainly underlying needs that they share.
Maybe they both have some degree of degenerative disease (arthritis), or they both feel as if they are still 45. For marketers who are targeting prime timers it is most important to understand the lifestyles and life drivers, and not target them as one homogenous group.
But trying to develop products that are really relevant to the 65+ market is as difficult as developing products relevant to kids. Whilst a great deal of our research work revolves around children, we are also involved in numerous research projects with those in the 65+ market - the prime timers. What we have found particularly striking about the work with people of 65 and older are the similarities to working with kids. They embrace the activities, and indeed often the whole project, with much the same enthusiasm as 9 or 10 year olds.
They approach objectives of what we need to accomplish with positive energy, they are not judgmental, and they seem to want to do everything they can to make the project a success by teaching us the things that are important to them, and why.
In our work we have found that the major drivers of kids are control, aspiration, and the stated desire to create excitement and stretch boundaries. Except for ‘stretching boundaries’, the same drivers were evident for mature adults as well.
There seems to be a fear as we age, of losing control – “someone else” is more involved in the important life decisions, income is often fixed, and we have less and less control of our health.
‘Control’, then, becomes a driver of choice and products that give back control seem to have appeal. Logically, instead of aspiring to be older, as kids do, 65+ adults often aspire to be treated as if they are younger. Or perhaps, aspire to do the things they did when younger, but still maintain the wisdom and experiences they have acquired. Stretching boundaries does not seem to be a driver with older adults, but we observed that this is replaced with a desire to recall, and some ways re-live, positive memories.
The issue of positive memories and previous associations is very relevant. There seems to be a potential strength in documenting and understanding strong collective memories of kids – particularly those shared with various consumer products – and later using these in the development of products for the ‘mature adults’ segment. We have found this to be particularly so in the food and beverage sector.
These collective sensory/memory experiences are highly likely to be valuable through all life stages, and we can better grow with our consumers, meeting their emotional needs as they mature and age. Enduring, successful products have achieved this, though probably by accident more than design. Imagine the potential if this was done intentionally!
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