Sue Allen: Marketers turn their gaze to the older audience

Top model Gigi Hadid (left) and actress Lauren Hutton share the catwalk in Milan last year.

Top model Gigi Hadid (left) and actress Lauren Hutton share the catwalk in Milan last year.

OPINION: The Baby Boomer generation is still exhibiting that boundary-busting approach to life that they had back when some of them were rebels in the 1960s and 1970s, and it looks like the world of marketing is catching on.

In what I call 'the Marigold Hotel syndrome', suddenly being over 60 is trendy and fun. And with their pensions, capital gains on property and savings; these Baby Boomers have got money and marketers are focusing on them in a style we've never seen before.

Last year, Karen Walker used older models in her "Beautiful Mature" marketing campaign, when she used the hands of 93 year-old Phyllis Sues and 78-year-old Roberta Haze to promote her jewellery.

Wellington actress Dame Kate Harcourt is still strutting the stage aged 90.

Wellington actress Dame Kate Harcourt is still strutting the stage aged 90.

Dame Kate Harcourt – the actress who turned 90-years old last week – looked stunning, dripping in dazzling blue tanzanite jewels for a Partridge Jewellers' 150th anniversary ad.

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Overseas, actress Lauren Hutton, 73, is modelling for Calvin Klein and 88-year-old Daphne Selfe, who started modelling in 1949, has reappeared recently in the fashion pages of the UK Guardian and Vogue.

Dame Kate looking fabulous in a Partridge Jewellers ad.

Dame Kate looking fabulous in a Partridge Jewellers ad.

We've been long-used to seeing older people in ads for health and car insurance, retirement homes and funeral cover.

Now we're getting used to seeing older models gracing the front of magazines like Harper's Bazaar and becoming a regular feature at Paris catwalk shows.

Meanwhile, Netflix and Amazon are developing content specifically targeted at the Baby Boomer market.

This group might be older, but they are refusing to melt into a grey and beige world. They have disposable income and a clear view on how they want to spend their money, rather than continuing to salt it away.

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My granny lived to 103 and boy, did she have strong opinions. She also had a bit of money and she liked spending it; some it was spent on us but also on things she enjoyed, including some rather strange gizmos she saw on telly.

Variously referred to as the "salt-and-pepper pound", the "Silver Spenders" and the "Third Age Economy",  the over-50s customers, the Baby Boomers and beyond, now account for 47 per cent of consumer spending in the UK.

The figure is much the same in the US, where over-50s spend around half the country's total spend on consumer packaged goods – things with a short shelf life like drinks, toiletries, over-the-counter drugs and food.

Travel and cars are also areas where these older consumers are happy to spend.

The proportion of New Zealand's population aged 65-plus is projected to increase from 14 per cent in 2013 to 23 per cent in 2043.

That generation is digitally literate, which means they can be targeted online through social media using demographic and psychographic information.

But while this growing market has money, marketers, it seems, are still struggling to hit the right notes in getting through to them.

A survey by marketing agency Influent50, found that 80 per cent of Boomer respondents said marketers were getting either the message or the offer wrong. Maybe slapping a Rolling Stones song on an ad with a grey-haired model doesn't cut the mustard?

That's changing. All over the world, it seems, agencies are popping up that are catering specifically for this age group.They're probably made up of once-young marketers who – like their target audience – have grown older and are now re-packaging and re-marketing themselves at niche experts.

There's even one in Auckland, Senioragency, part of a global chain which describes Baby Boomers as "the most influential generation ever".

One thing's for sure, I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next as marketers and magazines inch away from skinny teenagers with bad posture and sullen expressions into a much more interesting and diverse world.

Sue Allen has worked in journalism, communications, marketing and brand management for 15 years in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

 - Stuff


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