A very stupid thing we all do

What are the most potent growth areas of 2018? What emerging needs of which groups are the least catered to at the moment? What is pissing people off and what new technologies can make the old things better? Where is the future of business? Well, certainly not in the past, right?

What if I told you that right under our noses, there are tens of millions of people forgotten by marketing? Not only are they long unacommodated, but, by all accounts, they will continue to grow in number and spend per capita over the next thirty years, they have the steadiest income (and spending behaviours) of all the age groups while also having less credit to pay off and children to support?

And still pretty much nobody’s talking to them and even if somebody is, they usually do it wrong? I mean, come on, we can’t be that stupid, right?

Well, data says we are. The forgotten group is called 50+, the trend has been going on for years and we still didn’t even start catching up. And by we, I mean all of us, Poland, UK, USA, Russia, Japan, Canada… no matter the culture of the country and the approach to older generations that we associate with it, we neglect the same. Studies from all these countries lead to very similar results – strong underrepresentation, improper and often depreciating depiction of the 50+ age groups. You’d think it should be at least a little bit different in UK, but even there, over 90% of marketing budget goes to target groups before 50. There are outliers of course, like the super famous Dove campaign that had amazing reception and absurd sales contributions, but still these are just outliers showing the potential of doing justice.

So why is it, that we are so weak if we are so smart?

Because we are too young

90% of all people working advertising in European Union are below 50 (I wouldn’t assume it’s any different outside of it). We don’t understand life after 50, we don’t want to think about it, we don’t have a lot of contact with people after 50. And even when such happens, all our empathy is allocated in our smartphone. So when the briefing comes, we don’t have a lot to work with, flatten the thing, run into stereotypes, instrumentalize, or redo some best practice case from Spain.

Because oldness has no place in marketing land

It’s a problem that either doesn’t exist, because we are all young, beautiful, satisfied consumers that will never die. Or a problem that has to be immediately solved by rejuvenating messages and products supporting our neverending ball of carpe diem, carpe productum. Which is in a way quite understandable, but on the other hand, with each year more and more unbearable… making room for those brands that are not afraid to say something real. Like Edeka stopping the world for one day by bluntly telling all of us that nobody cares about old people.

Because oldness has little place in people land

Because the young rejoice that they are not old and the old envy the young. Because forever young and old BUT gold. Because old age is health issues, risk of losing control and independence. Because a 70-year old running marathons can’t be just a person running marathons, but a hero to us all, reason for our personal delight and reverie. Because a 65-year old DJ is a peculiar image putting a smile on our faces, not just a DJ. Despite the fact that more and more elderly don’t feel obliged to act ‘elderly’, they can never run away from being decoded as elderly acting outside of old age canon.

And that poses a challenge to the marketer. Resulting in one extreme – an excluded painful greybeard from so many painkiller and banking ads, or the other one – brand on a mission to overcome all stereotypical narratives through complete distortion of reality. Like in the Taco Bell commercial with 80-year olds jumping into swimming pools, bringing joy to young audiences around the world. For the older, the takeout may be less joyful – being old is something you should not accept and the only way to live past 60 is as if you have 20 less, as in live like us, the young.

And it can actually piss the 50+ off which they express in research studies, stating that most marketing communication is not for them, lies and discourages. Especially in times when demography has long ceased to define who we are… I mean, look around, the 6-12-year-olds are growing much faster, the 20-30-year-olds keep postponing adulthood, the 50+’s feel far from old, take life by the horns and in many aspects are no different than the younger and the youngest. In some areas they play up to the traditional elderly code, in some areas they break it, but rarely do they employ that monochrome visions from the ad world.

Just check your TGI. Are they more likely to complain about health and less likely to use smartphones? Sure. But when it comes to indexes of health awareness, going vegan, dieting, reading product labels, worrying if they look good or not leaving a house without makeup – the percentages of the 50+ are almost identical to the 18-35 age group (these are taken from Polish TGI). And we’re talking general 50+ population, that can and should be divided into big multi-million populated segments of considerable differences in attitudes and behaviours. By all accounts, this is not a homogenous group and communication budgets have to recognize that.

Otherwise, we’re simply not doing our job right. And we better start getting up to the task. The first person to reach 150 is said to be already here with us.