All posts tagged: marketing
They used to say that life begins at 40, but now it would seem being 50 is particularly cool – certainly the 50-plus age group is the one in most demand for marketers.
Why? Official statistics would suggest that, in an economic downturn, they are a demographic worthy of consideration. The over 50s not only hold 80% of the country’s wealth, but also have a 30% higher disposable income than those under 50. The over 50s also make up over one-third of the population and the 55-to-64s have the highest disposable income of any age group.
From a customer insight viewpoint, this has us questioning some of the standard client sample requests for 18-49s or 18-64s, but it also underlines what we have been saying for a long time about the validity of online research for a wide range of demographics. If the social media stats are true and the over 50s are making Facebook and Twitter their natural home, then targeting them online is a great way for brands to tap into their accumulated years of experience.
And there may be a plausible reason why brands will be targeting this demographic through social media. Whilst many brands are keen to target their share of this grey pound, they are wary of being seen to overtly target older consumers by younger people. Brands are trying to ride two horses at once and social media provides a more discreet way of targeting the older consumer now that they are making the medium their natural home.
But I’m not sure it’s a straightforward as this. The master of marketing to the over 50s is, of course, Saga, which has been selling cruises, insurance and other products for decades. I can think of any number of brands that would love to get their hands on Saga’s database and the information that it contains, but marketing to the over 50s is about tapping into a mindset not just an age.
In addition to minding the sensitivities of the younger consumer, brands also need to be aware that some people just don’t want to be reminded that they are getting older in what is increasingly a youth-obsessed world. Only in recent years have brands like Dove broken the mould and used older people in their advertising.
The key, I think, is not to focus on age but to focus on older people’s desire to stay younger. If brands can tap into that, then they may well be able to profit from a new kind of grey market.
London is, without question, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world; more than 300 languages are spoken and there are more than 50 non-indigenous communities. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, as of 2006, London’s foreign-born population accounted for 31% of the total, and it has no doubt risen again since then.
This cultural melting pot, for all its strengths and benefits, poses a challenge to marketers. How do you target your product effectively to a population this diverse? And does this make London a special case in the marketing mix compared with your approaches to populations elsewhere in the country with less multi-cultural demographics?
In one sense I’m asking: is there any such thing as typical Londoner, any more so than a typical New Yorker? And for brands, is there a disparity between this and how they might market their product to a typical Huddersfield or Grimsby resident, for example?
In the aftermath of a royal wedding that placed the capital as the focus of world attention and with next year’s Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee still to come, is there – or could there be – such a thing as Brand London?
I’m not sure. I believe that the sheer size and complexity of the London population makes it impossible to have a single London strategy. Experience would suggest that brands look closest of all at the buying habits and tastes in the capital, and research can play a role in determining opinions and attitudes of consumers in the capital compared with other parts of the country, but this appears not to be on the basis of diversity or ethnicity.
There are marketing communications agencies in London that specialise in targeting diverse communities – catering to brands looking to align themselves culturally with a particular group. There are a few brands that are so all-encompassing that they transcend national or cultural boundaries, but for others niche targeting can be a way to introduce your product to a group previously resistant, and research delivering customer insights is critical in preparing the path for this.
We have seen instances of products being launched in cities or towns perceived as “cool” or “diverse”. Beyond that, though, there seems little evidence at present of London-centric planning. Brands may focus on needing or wanting to be seen in a cool context to give them the kudos they need, whether that is in London or anywhere else. For grocery products, the emphasis is different. Their sales volumes do not come from being in cool places but from being bought regularly by people in regular places: familiarity and availability are key wherever in the country you happen to be.
The flip side of this is an over-interest in London at the expense of other areas. Brands that are based in London, managed and marketed by people who live (and may always have lived) in London can often act as if what’s right for London is right for everywhere else. In a city with restaurants of every origin, the concept of exotic food, for example, is not the same as it would be in a small, provincial town and getting that messaging and positioning correct for both audiences can be something of a balancing act.
Simon Carter, marketing director of Fujitsu’s government arm, was quoted in Marketing Week as saying that marketers are becoming lazy by over-using social media and ignoring the skills and disciplines traditionally learned by marketers.
And we think he may have got it right. The Internet explosion and the seemingly exponential growth in social media provides enormous opportunities for brands to connect and engage with consumers. But at the end of the day it is just another channel to market – a powerful one – but just another one. Getting the most effective use out of social media requires the fundamentals of marketing strategy to have been conducted first.
This means identifying achievable commercial objectives and appropriate demographic groups, arrived at through effective customer insights, which are then used to inform strategic marketing planning. Only once the strategic building blocks have been put in place can you look at the tactical roll out and which channels or communications tools are going to be used to bring your proposition to market. Leaping right in with your social media – or indeed your PR, your direct marketing or your advertising – is like building something on shifting sands. It’s not secure and you can never be absolutely sure it’ll be there in the morning.
Some brands are so eager to leap on to the social media bandwagon that not enough consideration is given either to the synergy with the brand or product or whether the form of social media being used builds a bridge with the consumer.
We think that it’s important that social media is used as a natural part of an integrated marketing programme. Marketing this week reports on how Comparethemarket.com has almost defined the way to use social media with its ‘Meerkat’ campaign. Although the social media campaign was successful, this was only because it formed part of a well thought-through and well conceived marketing campaign brought to life by iconic television advertising.
Craig Inglis, director of marketing at John Lewis, is quoted in the same article as saying: “You should not let the channel dictate the communication. Start with the big idea then the media channel comes second.” He’s spot on!
Carter believes that social media has made some marketers less concerned than they should be about accuracy and targeting. Some marketers, he says, no longer worry about even getting email addresses right. “If something goes wrong it’s like ‘so what, we’ll send another batch of 10,000”.
True marketing, though, is all about targeting and messaging – it’s not always a case of reaching the highest numbers full stop. If you get the fundamentals in place, you’ll reach the numbers you need and your message will be more relevant and accurate for doing so. And that’s the key route to achieving brand cut-through – social media or no social media.