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Grey consumers shake off ‘older people’ tag

Grey consumers shake off ‘older people’ tag

The over 50s want and expect brands to be attentive to them, but they hate the idea of being targeted as older people, say new findings from rdsi.

The over 50s, especially the 50-60 yr old baby boomers, value their individuality: age doesn’t define them, for many it isn’t even one of the most important things about them.

The over 50s have an aspiration to be busy and to be portrayed as busy, reflecting their ambitions and health: a quarter are driven by a desire to try new things as they get older.

The question of how the over 50s are faring in the recession divides opinion: are they the best placed to weather the storm, or will they be the biggest casualties. In fact both are right, according to rdsi because the over 50s are not a homogenous group!

Through a programme of self-funded research, designed to help brands target and connect with the over 50s, rdsi has identified four over 50s typologies – some of which will fare better in the credit crunch than others.

1. Traditionalists

Accounting for (49%) they are the typology we might think of as being stereotypical senior citizens, 62% are 60+ and over half are C1C2. They’re retired with lives centred around the home and community, and they love spending time with family.

They demonstrate the greatest brand loyalty (25%) and are high TV and tabloid media consumers. They’re more comfortable with ageing than other typologies, but can feel dislocated from society and don’t feel catered for by the marketing community.

Continuity, habit and tradition are key values so brands need to look beyond newness as a motivator and work hard to communicate the benefits of innovation without challenging long-held values and beliefs. Traditionalists are the least wealthy segment, concerned about their future, but have the experience to know how to be savvy so actively look for brands to help them make savings.

2. The Celebrators

These (24%) are mostly under 65 with the highest proportion of ABs. They are not chasing being young again, but their age isn’t holding them back. They’re affluent and may have dependent kids at home but generally have few commitments.

Self-actualisation and experience are key drivers and present brands with an opportunity to encourage trade up. They’re interested in the world around them, have computers at home and read broadsheets (42% regularly).

They want brands to offer experience and sophistication – more than the basics. While Celebrators were the most financially confident, pension falls mean this once cash-rich typology may have the most to lose in the current climate.

2. Refuseniks

This group (13%) are younger and they’re fighting the ageing process much harder than other segments. They’re 50-60 yrs, working, and the typology most likely to be divorced (24%). They refuse to get older or conform to the stereotype of an older person. In fact they can be in denial of their age, with high use of cosmetics, pharmaceutical products and cosmetic surgery.

They take up pursuits like backpacking or waterskiing that allow them to still feel like a player in a youth-focussed world. Concerned about their finances, they have the most personal debt and are often revolving on credit cards.

They have been forced to make significant compromises and changes to their behaviours to weather the storm. They have made cutbacks on household cleaning and laundry products and everyday food items in order to ensure the disposable income is available for the latest technologies, stylish cars, fashion and socialising. 

3. Treadmillers

This final group (14%) are the youngest segment, 55% are ABC1 and 71% are still working. They are active players in the economic life of society, still on the treadmill of earning and not yet free of responsibilities. A third still have dependent kids at home, and can also be caring for elderly parents.

They are focussed on the here and now and making the best of their everyday lives. They were the first generation to grow up in an age of sophisticated marketing and advertising messages, and have a more consumerist attitude and outlook than other cohorts.

Ethical purchasing decisions are important to Treadmillers, they want to make a difference through their choices (31% feel guilty about what their generation has done to the planet and 35% buy fairtrade wherever possible). The recession represents the threat of compromise for Treadmillers, with the prospect of working longer and having to make unwanted compromises on their ethical and luxury consumption.

That said, attitudinally the over 50s can respond well to the recession adopting a ‘We’ve dealt with this before and we’ll do it again’ mindset. They feel calmer about the crisis than other lifestages and are more confident they will find ways to cut back if needs be.

Some of the themes to emerge include that more planning and thought is going into decision making across categories, greater use of the internet to research products and brands

Over 50s are switched on to deals and offers with more than half (53%) making sure they always have their eye out for a bargain. But they interrogate offers more than ever, are cynical when one feels too good to be true and avoid offers that seem wasteful.

They also take longer to search for durable goods and negotiate harder at POS, more tough negotiator than meek and mild older shopper.

“Brands need to explore and understand how over 50s consumers are redefining value in the face of the economic crisis: the meaning of value is changing across typologies,” said a spokesperson.

“Our sense is that brands that create a positive narrative around this lifestage and who demonstrate they understand the new value dynamic will be rewarded in the upturn.”

They added, “And perhaps we should rethink the idea of over 50s as loyal consumers who are difficult to shift from engrained habit – only one in five stick to brands they know and trust.”

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