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Power to the older people! November 2, 2007

Posted by BCME UK in Social media.

I’ve got to admit that I’ve fallen into the trap that a large percentage of our population would probably hate me for. When people mention ‘older people’, ‘silver surfers’, ‘baby boomers’ and the ‘grey market’, I think of my grandparents, retirement, cautiousness, whiteness and all that is, well, dare I say it, slow. But what we all sometimes fail to recognize is that this booming market is in fact representative of our parents’ generation (if you’re like me and in your 20s) and actually has a lot more influence and consumer power than we perhaps give them credit for.

In business, I think we’re all guilty of stereotyping and dismissing the ‘over 50s’ at times. Marketers and PR’s often immediately think of younger generations when initially planning campaigns. The ‘older folk’ are past caring what brands they use and buy, right? Wrong! Well, according to the Office for National Statistics (www.statistics.gov.uk), the grey market accounts for 20 million UK consumers (34% of total population) and spends over £267 billion a year. Yet, according to the same statistics, less than 10% of marketing campaigns are directed at this mature market. We seem to be missing something here…

We have to train ourselves as a population as well as PR’s and marketers to see this generation as what they often are – technologically clever, independent, adventurous, confident and with a wide range of interests. The majority actually want to embrace change and are unafraid to spend their ‘grey pound’. A Future Lab (www.futurelab.org.uk) report out this year claims that 80% see growing older as an opportunity to ‘start again and try new experiences’.

And they’re not in any hurry to fade out into retirement mode either. Last week, the Financial Times (www.ft.com) confirmed that pensioners are outnumbering children in the UK for the first time ever this year. And they’re getting pretty internet savvy too. By the end of 2007, silver surfers – according to Hitwise (www.hitwise.com) – are going to become the dominant group on the net. Did you know that the over 50s account for 30% of the total time spent online and that a quarter of internet users are in this age group? Not surprisingly, Saga (www.saga.co.uk) has capitalized on this growing phenomenon and has just launched a social networking site, Saga Zone (www.saga.co.uk/sagazone), for the mature market. Who needs Facebook (www.facebook.com) and MySpace (www.myspace.com) when you have Saga Zone to attend online parties and swap gardening tips (for want of another preconceived stereotypical ‘grey’ pursuit)?

So, next time you start planning a campaign, don’t forget these ‘older folk’. Because, ultimately, the majority of decisions are made based on attitude and lifestyle – and it seems like they have both on their side. And don’t just think ‘grey’ when you’ve got certain stereotypical brands to push. According to Hitwise, search engines, shopping and porn are the three most popular things viewed online by this generation. What does this prove? Well, lots of things but most importantly that they’re just like the rest of us.



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