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OPINION15 November 2017

Communicating with the over 60s – simpler than we thought?

Opinion Trends UK

Despite an aging demographic and skew in wealth distribution, brands’ attitudes to the over 60s is depressingly stereotypical. Research from 2CV throws light on this misrepresented demographic. By Jack Harkness.

Agnes Brown from Mrs Browns Boys and Jay Pritchett from The Modern Family, what’s the difference?

Well while both are TV comedies, they both represent over 60s in a very different way: one is the usual crazy, cardigan-wearing fogey and the other is a trailblazing 60+ who still works, has a new lover and is up to date with technology.  

The latter, while still finding a way to be funny, is refreshingly reflective of the modern-day over 60 – our research shows, in the past week:

  • 1 in 5 over 60s posted on social media
  • As many went out drinking as the under 35s
  • And more had sex than knitted.

If TV comedies are demonstrating a move away from the stereotypes – can we say the same of ourselves in the marketing and advertising world?

Our recent research would suggest not so much, as 74% of our 521 over 60s said they regularly feel patronised by advertising. And only one in 10 ever feel inspired by adverts.

Chances are, if we aren’t re-enforcing these dodgy stereotypes then we end up completely ignoring this demographic. (Even the research sector is guilty, how many times do we write ‘CLOSE’ next to 65+ on a questionnaire).

However, times are changing, and brands are beginning to realise that this audience represents a huge opportunity. They have at least £100 a month more disposable income and are just as likely to shop online as younger consumers.

It’s not just in monetary terms where they compare favourably, they also rate themselves as having better confidence, friendship and hobbies. We spoke to people in their 60s, 70s and 80s who like Jay Pritchett, are starting new business ventures, getting married and planning remote adventures.  It’s not about endings – it’s as much about beginnings.

For them, age really is just a number. On average, someone over 60 feels 15 years younger than their actual age.


So how do we get it right? Is it taking a more age-neutral or age-positive approach?

A poignant example of the former is Apple’s recent iPhone ad featuring a range of people (old, young, black, white) receiving fun new haircuts. It makes the point Apple can transform everyone’s life (whether you believe that’s true is irrelevant). It’s inclusive without directly talking to over 60s.

Conversely, Zara has taken an age-positive approach with its latest Timeless range. It features a range of safer to more daring styles, showcased by carefully chosen older models who feel relatable, yet aspirational.

 What Zara has done is no different to what it, or another fashion retailer, might offer a younger consumer; a range of practical to more aspirational styles aimed to make the wearer feel good…

…and in much the same vein, when given a list of values and needs in our survey, the under 35s and over 60s selected the exact same top five that are important in their lives; a balance of stability, security, comfort as well as enjoyment and freedom.

Consequently, perhaps those of us in research, marketing and advertising can be too quick to assume it’s all about playing it safe for the over 60s and leaning too heavily on needs such as comfort and stability – forgetting they need excitement too.

Ultimately, both an age-neutral and age-positive approach work, the key lesson is when a brand, product or communication plays to the values of enjoyment and freedom as well as comfort, security and stability it better connects with this demographic – rather than trying to define them by age or life-stage.

1 Comment

4 weeks ago  |  1 like

The age of the models doesn't matter. We don't see ourselves as old (even in mirrors), so why would we identify with pictures of older people? It's generally the language and propositions we'd appreciate that boomers don't get. Younger people with less life experience don't understand how to motivate us.

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