There’s no denying it: we’re getting older as a society. Figures released last week by the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of people in the UK working beyond the state pension age has almost doubled since 1993, to stand at 1.41 million in 2011.
Of course, this growing and ageing population not only puts pressure on more people to work longer, it will put pressure on brands to give greater consideration to how they address and exploit this fast growing demographic. After all, not only are older people likely to be the ones with most readily disposable income, they can be key influencers on both the choices made by their grown-up children and grandchildren.
Key to brands could be our changing aspirations and expectations as we get older, as well as our income. Those of us who will work some way into our previously planned retirement because our pensions or our savings had turned out to be inadequate may become miserable and reactive against spending money for fear of running out. This group could end up being of little value to anyone outside of the alcoholic drinks sector.
But there will also be those – and hopefully more of them – who do have enough money for themselves, but who will either have to or choose to stay at work because of their children. We know that children are living at home for longer and more children are staying in education, so a lot of parents are having to support them long after they should have flown the nest. It is interesting to note, though, that while the concept of an extended family all in one home is seen as a negative here, in some cultures, like Italy, for example it is more of a norm. Arguably this leads to less stigmatisation of those in old age. These developments have placed an added burden on people as they reach their 50s and beyond while some may also be having to support even older parents of their own. What makes this group interesting to brands is the enormous breadth of categories they either spend on or act as gatekeepers for.
The economic situation is behind much of these newer developments. The Daily Mail recently reported on the rise of “helicopter parents”, who having paid of the education of their children and now making a greater financial contribution to their further education, feel they have a right as well as a responsibility to “hover” in their kids’ lives and be part of their decision making processes.
Many of these “pensioners” will still be “young”, or at least younger than they used to be in terms of health and outlook. Their need to continue in work may well turn out to be a good thing as it minimises the risk of becoming lost in retirement, which in turn will maintain their desire and ability to exercise their purchasing power. This could be good news for travel, lifestyle, automotive and food and drinks brands for a start. The key, though, may be for brands to recognise these developments more overtly than they have to date and be less focused on the young and beautiful demographic. The figures suggest it could be time for brands to focus their messaging more clearly on the over 50s and not restrict it so obviously to age-related products, like healthcare, insurance or – dare i say it – funeral plans. Where’s the fun in that?