Brands are failing to engage with consumers outside the standard 16- to 30-year-old target audience, despite their growing prevalence in society
Flick on the telly and without having to wait too long, you’re sure to see a scantily clad woman, dressed in very little, selling the latest fragrance with a smile and the promise of a who knows what.
She’ll be followed by the extreme sports lunatic throwing himself off a cliff in order to tempt you to purchase some fast food. And need a new car? Then this 20-something couple, flushed from a night’s clubbing have just the most up-to-the-minute nimble vehicle for you.
And this marketing works. It connects with the chosen demographic of brands everywhere; 16- to 30 year-olds. These few, these precious few are a brand’s advocates and they’re the purchasers of the future. Or are they?
Ever since I’ve been in this industry, everyone has always said that this group of purchasers is a brand’s future. And 20-something years ago, I too was in this group. But brands have failed to re-focus on me today – they’re still concentrating on the youth.
According to a 2012 report from The Office for National Statistics, 15- to 34-year-olds only account for 38.2% of the UK population. The majority of the population, 44.2%, is aged 35 to 70, with 13.9% falling in the 35 to 45 bracket.
So why are the major brands ignoring Generation X?
They are affluent. They are informed. They are open to conversations and they too want to stay abreast of changes in the market. And unlike their parents, they’re still open to switching brand affiliations.
The reason, I suggest, is down to lazy planners and lazy clients. They’ve always looked to 18- to 30-year- olds as brand champions. As an age group they are, in all likelihood, closest to the age of said planners and brand managers, and therefore these people understand them.
They also offer the best creative potential for producing visually stunning work. But does it deliver the best results for the client? Are they getting real value for their money?
As Nielsen’s Joe Stagaman presented at Consumer 360: "The misconception is that spending drops for people in this age group, and that they’re set in their ways, but those in the 55-plus age group are just as likely to switch brands as those aged 25 to 54, and the two groups’ buying rates almost match."
This point is then backed by the 2013 report from KPMG, which stated that over the next ten years, two-thirds of all retail spending growth will come from those aged 55 and over.
Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, goes on to say that the main challenge facing retailers will be to adapt to the UK’s ageing population and get to grips with their specific tastes and demands.
She says their influence will be significant: "By 2030, the number aged 65 or older is projected to reach 15.5 million, growing 43% on its level in 2012, compared to an expansion of only 13% in the population as a whole. While this group currently accounts for less than £1 in every £5 of total spending, this share might rise to £1 in every £4 within two decades."
For me, this isn’t just big news, it’s huge. As marketers, it means we’re failing in our jobs. And rather than focusing attention on Generations Y and Z, the savvy marketer should be, if not concentrating then certainly shifting, their marketing towards those in their late thirties and above.
But are agencies and their creative teams ready for this transference?
I suspect, in the main, they too will be caught on the hop, as too many agencies have in the past focused their recruitment on trendy young things who simply won’t know how to connect with those of us who are the wrong side of 30 and rather than looking for glitz and glamour, are looking for marketing with substance.
But there will be those who seize this opportunity and will capitalise on the fact that they are a solitary voice speaking out to an ignored group and they will reap the benefits, not just now, but in years to come.
Mark Blaylock is creative director at Monk