Monday 17 December 2018

John McGee: 'Millennial-focused brands ignoring the cash-rich grey market at their peril'

For many reasons and, for many years, the so-called over-50s market has been a virtual no-go area for most brands. Stock Image
For many reasons and, for many years, the so-called over-50s market has been a virtual no-go area for most brands. Stock Image

John McGee

A friend of mine - let's call him Joe - recently completed his third Dublin City Marathon in a respectable time of 3hrs 32mins. While Joe likes to maintain an active lifestyle, including the occasional round of golf and some hill-walking, he also enjoys rugby weekends and is likely to be found in the vicinity of any number of well-known hostelries in the Baggot Street area after a rugby match in the Aviva.

Like many of his pals, Joe likes gadgets and considers himself as an occasional geek. He recently splashed out on an iPhone X and in his teens, he also liked to play computer games, a fact his kids struggle to get their heads around.

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Joe's media consumption habits vary but he still likes to read newspapers and magazines, listen to the radio and of course watch TV. Since he got his new iPhone, he finds himself accessing his media choices more and more online. He also thinks Netflix is a godsend and he has been known to watch the occasional copyright-protected movie via Kodi on the Android box he bought last Christmas. Yes, Joe can be a naughty boy!

Joe's wife Tina also likes to keep active and she swims in the local pool three times a week. She is also a pretty keen gardener, likes to travel (her sister owns an apartment in Portugal) and next year she intends to do a creative writing course.

I've no idea what Joe and Tina earn. Joe has a mid-ranking job in an insurance firm and Tina works as a dental nurse. But they only have 15 months left on their mortgage.

When the mortgage is finally paid off, they are planning a month-long trip to California to visit their eldest daughter who works as a paralegal in a Silicon Valley law firm. By then, their other child will have finished up his degree in Maynooth and the many financial sacrifices they have made along the way will have all have been worth it.

Joe, however, is still only 56 while Tina is 54 and they are just two of the 1.4 million adults - or 48pc of the adult population - in the Republic of Ireland who happen to be over the age of 50.

Joe and Tina know absolutely nothing about the intricacies of advertising and marketing industry and they seem content to keep it that way. But when Joe sees 20-something bearded hipster types quaffing beer in one of the many TV ads that are beamed into his sitting room on a nightly basis, he wants to reach into the telly and choke the living daylights of them.

When he reads magazine supplements or online advertorials aimed at that catch-all cohort called 'over 50s' with ads from insurance companies promising to pay his funeral expenses or offering him a free hearing-aid, he loses the plot.

And he is probably right to feel that way.

For many reasons and, for many years, the so-called over-50s market has been a virtual no-go area for most brands, many of which prefer to cling valiantly to their millennial-fixated mindset.

For an industry that boasts about its ability to segment and target clearly defined audiences to within an inch of their lives, it has struggled to make any major inroads into this much-maligned and over-looked part of the consumer market.

Yes, it is a complex part of the market - particularly once these consumers hit 70 and their individual needs start to change - but it is a valid and possibly lucrative market for brands. Ireland has an ageing population and over the next five years the number of people over the age of 50 will increase by 15pc. But we are by no means unique and it is estimated that by 2025 around 1.2 billion people around the world will be over the age of 60.

With average life expectancies in Ireland at 81 and rising and with more people working beyond the official retirement age, it is clear that this cohort of greying and balding consumers still has a lot of life to live. For many, funeral expenses or a new hearing-aid are the last thing on their minds.

We already know that millennials don't have much spending power and are often brand-agnostic. So why the sycophantic obsession with them? Figures from Kantar Media's TGI study, on the other hand, show that those over 50 are more likely to be empty nesters, have an income in excess of €65,000 while 66pc are mortgage-free. While 34pc of them are retired (yes, it's a big catch-all cohort), 23pc are working full-time while 16pc work part-time, according to the TGI research.

But nowhere in that research - or any other research - does it say that Joe, Tina and anybody else over 50 are going to pop their clogs any time soon. Apart from living longer, they are also enjoying life more than ever, are busier than ever, have more money than ever before and, yes, they care less about what other people think.

While they may not care too much about the marketing and advertising industry, the marketing and advertising industry is missing a big trick by not caring about them. And therein lies both the challenge and opportunity for many brands.

Sunday Indo Business

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