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Jo Rigby: Understanding the over 50's consumer

Jo Rigby: Understanding the over 50's consumer

This is part one of a series of articles on the over 50's demographic.

The over 50’s are the fastest growing demographic in the UK, and are projected to make up over 50% of the adult population by 2030.  This section of society now own 80% of the nation’s wealth, a rise of 10% in the past decade.

They are also responsible for over 60% of the UK’s disposable income, yet as an audience they are often overlooked by marketers.  OMD set out to explore the industry’s relationship with this audience, and we found a number of reasons why people in their 50’s aren’t an attractive marketing proposition.

However, the main one seemed to be a lack of insight into these people and an often outdated view of how they behaved as consumers.

OMD set out to ‘rebrand’ the 50+ consumer, to reveal the 21st century picture of who they were and how they behaved in this sophisticated world of branding.  Our research project, U.F.O. (Understanding Fifties and Over) began in 2003, so far we’ve undertaken two large-scale quantitative studies along with numerous pieces of qualitative work.

We were joined on our voyage of discovery by OMD clients who were also curious about what the 50+ consumer offered to their brands.  U.F.O. won three industry research awards in 2004, including Marketing, Media Week and Campaign.  We have also rolled out U.F.O. in many OMD markets with some fascinating similarities and differences emerging.

Over the next few weeks we’ll share some of the key insights from U.F.O., and we’d be really interested to hear your views and experiences of marketing to this audience. 

Our first priority in the research was to find a way to segment the 20 million people who fall into the 50+ category.  It seemed futile to treat this group homogeneously, equally just chopping them up by age seemed a rather blunt approach.

 Some initial qualitative work revealed that regardless of age, there seemed to be a way to group these people based on their attitude to life.  This qualitative work enabled us to create a battery of lifestyle statements which we believed more appropriate to segmenting these people than some of the existing industry tools. 

We created over 200 statements to help us segment the 1,700 sample, here are some of the statements:

 1. I want a car that’s not an ‘old persons’ car 
 2. I like to keep up with the times when it comes to technology
 3. I like to keep up with the latest celebrity news
 4. I like to change things around the house, redecorate my home
 5. I’m really worried about having to live on a pension
 6. I’m determined to fulfil my dreams when I retire
 7. I still feel very much part of society




Using these lifestyle statements we created a cluster analysis which drew like-minded people together based on axes of Regressive – Progressive, and Negative and Positive.

The diagram below reveals the resulting clusters.


OMD UFO clusters

Next week we’ll introduce each of the clusters and show how they both confirm and challenge many of the stereotypes which exist in the marketing community about these consumers.

Comment or feedback? Please contact


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