Reasons for Brands to Win Over the Older Generation: Strong Economy, Massive Spending Power, and Positive Information Sharing

Reasons for Brands to Win Over the Older Generation: Strong Economy, Massive Spending Power, and Positive Information Sharing

The advent of new consumer generations like Gen Z and Gen Alpha has opened up numerous opportunities for brands. However, the excessive focus on younger demographics has inadvertently led brands to overlook a significant and potential-rich customer base – the older generation.

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Analysis of over 126,000 global ads by CreativeX reveals a mere 4% featuring individuals aged 60 and above. Out of this 4%, nearly two-thirds appear in family-related contexts, while less than 1% are visible in ads related to professional environments or leadership.

Advertising spending for the older demographic is significantly lower than that for the younger target audience

According to CreativeX, the demographic aged 60 and above constitutes a whopping 25% of global spending power. However, only 3% of the digital media budget is allocated to this customer segment.

Capturing the Older Consumer: A Potentially Overlooked Generation

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global population aging is occurring at a rapid pace. By 2020, the number of people aged 60 and above surpassed the population of children under 5, indicating a significant shift in population structure. It is projected that by 2030, 1 in 6 individuals worldwide will be aged 60 or above. From 2015 to 2050, the proportion of people aged 60 and above in the global population is expected to nearly double, from 12% to 22%.

While population aging has historically been concentrated in developed countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Italy, today, low- and middle-income economies are also experiencing a notable increase in aging demographics. By 2050, two-thirds of the global population living in low- and middle-income countries will be over 60.

The significance of the older consumer demographic goes beyond sheer numbers. According to US News, Baby Boomers command 70% of the disposable income in the United States, dominating the financial landscape. Elipson reports that this generation spends a staggering $548.1 billion annually, surpassing Gen X (those born from 1965-1980) with only $357 billion. Furthermore, the Washington Post highlights that consumers aged 65 and above are the fastest-growing demographic in online shopping, witnessing over a 49% increase in online spending in 2020.

These trends are evident in Vietnam as well. By 2030, the number of people aged 60 and above is expected to rise to 5 million, constituting over 17% of the total population. McKinsey predicts that spending by seniors will triple in the next decade, growing at a rate more than twice that of the overall population during the same period. This not only fuels market growth but also opens up new opportunities for businesses catering to the specific needs of the elderly, such as housing and travel.

The aging population presents both opportunities and challenges for the economy in general and businesses in the advertising industry in particular.

These figures reflect a significant shift in the global population structure, impacting the operation of the global economy and giving rise to an expanding “Silver Economy.” However, despite the potential, older consumers are not the favored target of advertisers. Examining current ads, it seems that the elderly are often “invisible.” Even when present, they are typically portrayed in conventional ways, reinforcing age-related stereotypes.

Why Older Consumer Groups Are Often Overlooked in Advertising

1. Attraction to New Generations

With the emergence of Gen Z and the upcoming Gen Alpha, marketing efforts have shifted predominantly towards younger demographics. Brands are inclined to pursue these younger generations, often neglecting older consumers who might not align with current economic trends or brand preferences.

A bold and expressive Gen Z, showcasing emotions and creative dynamism, has become the pursued target for most brands. Photo: Canifa

Younger demographics are seen as more adaptable to change and open to exploring new brands and products. Studies indicate that those under 39 are more willing to try new brands or products compared to the 54-63 age group and even more so compared to those aged 64-74.

2. Industry Dynamics and Age Imbalance

The advertising industry, known for its emphasis on creativity and dynamic thinking, tends to recruit younger talent. This recruitment bias results in a lack of representation of older individuals in advertising roles.

Advertisers, often comprised of younger professionals, may subconsciously favor models and themes resembling their age group, perpetuating the underrepresentation of older individuals in ads.

The advertising industry often recruits younger personnel, inadvertently reducing opportunities for older candidates to enter the field

3. Prejudice Against Aging

Ageism persists in advertising, reflecting societal preferences for youthfulness. Some advertisers hold stereotypes and negative perceptions towards aging, contributing to the marginalization of older individuals in advertisements.

Despite awareness about the importance of featuring older models, the frequency of their inclusion remains limited, indicating persistent age-related biases.

4. Youthful Beauty Standards

Research suggests that the attractiveness or beauty of models in ads positively impacts consumer interaction, purchase intent, and brand affinity. Consequently, advertisers often opt for younger models who align with conventional standards of attractiveness.

The influence of BTS has helped the music group become a sought-after name by brands

5. Nurturing the “Silver Economy”

The rapid growth of the “Silver Economy” has prompted brands to develop products tailored for older consumers. By selecting authentic representatives that resonate with this demographic, advertising can not only enhance commercial outcomes but also influence societal perceptions, attitudes, values, and behaviors unrelated to brand preferences. Encouragingly, this approach may yield positive responses from consumers and contribute to breaking age-related stereotypes in advertising.

Overcoming Stereotypes about Older Adults in Media and Advertising

1. Myth: Older Customers Are Not Internet Users

Contrary to the belief that Baby Boomers are not active online, statistics from Statista reveal that 67% and 78% of this generation actively engage on platforms like YouTube and Facebook. While traditional media remains relevant, older adults are also embracing digital platforms, making them a viable target for digital marketing strategies.

Older adults are increasingly actively participating in social media platforms

2. Myth: Older Customers Are Tech-Averse and Resistant to Change

Despite not growing up in the internet age, Baby Boomers are tech-savvy. AARP reports that 94% use text messaging, 88% use email, 74% are active on social media, and 67% participate in video chats. This challenges the stereotype that older individuals are resistant to technology, highlighting their adaptability and openness to new digital experiences.

3. Myth: Older Customers Lack Interest in Technology and Are Unlikely to Change

Data from Statista and AARP contradicts the notion that older consumers are uninterested in technology. Nearly nine out of ten Baby Boomers plan to use platforms like Amazon for online shopping during holidays in 2022. The increasing trend of online shopping among older adults is not exclusive to the United States, as evidenced by rising numbers in Vietnam.

Older adults no longer find it challenging to access technology and are gradually getting accustomed to the trend of online shopping.

4. Reality: Older Customers Tend to Spend Prudently

Older consumers exhibit a logical approach to spending, being attracted to discounts and loyalty programs. Although they are generally more brand loyal than younger counterparts, it doesn’t guarantee unwavering loyalty. Older consumers have specific standards, and if a brand fails to meet them, they are not hesitant to explore alternatives.

5. Reality: Older Customers Are Internet Shoppers

In Vietnam, the older demographic is gradually adapting to online shopping. DataReportal’s 2021 statistics indicate that a significant percentage of users aged 45-54 and 55-64 have made online purchases. This counters the assumption that older adults are not inclined to shop online.

6. Reality: Older Customers Are Selective Spenders

While older consumers may be loyal to brands, their loyalty is not unconditional. If a brand fails to meet their expectations, they are willing to explore alternatives. This challenges the stereotype that older customers stick with their favorite brands at any cost.

7. Reality: Older Customers Are Savvy Internet Users

Despite misconceptions, older customers are actively using the internet and engaging with digital content. They appreciate valuable online content, especially video, and are willing to share useful posts publicly.

By dispelling these stereotypes and recognizing the evolving behaviors of older consumers, businesses can better tailor their marketing strategies to effectively reach and resonate with this valuable demographic.

Strategic Keys to Capture the Older Consumer Market

1. Focus on Specific Needs Instead of Age

Age is always a sensitive issue, regardless of the stage of life. Marketers should shift their focus from using age-related descriptors and concentrate on addressing specific needs that their products or services can fulfill. Transforming a product into a “timeless lifestyle” appeals to a broad range of users. Concentrating on practical needs rather than the age of the consumer expands brand accessibility, attracting a diverse audience.

Example: Nike’s advertisement featuring the remarkable 93-year-old “Iron Nun” Madonna Buder, who conquered 45 IRONMAN Triathlon events, challenges narrow perceptions of aging and demonstrates that age is not a barrier.

2. Use Easily Understandable Language

Simplifying language is crucial when communicating with older customers. They need to quickly understand the benefits a product provides and how it enhances their lives, preferring concise and valuable explanations over lengthy and ornate introductions. A brief, easy-to-understand message adds value and is more appreciated by this demographic.

TV remains one of the most effective communication channels for reaching older target audiences.

3. Select Appropriate Communication Channels

According to The Kite Factory report, individuals over 65 do not seem particularly fond of advertising. This generation is less swayed by marketing and often has an aversion to advertisements. Only 18% of those over 65 agree that advertising helps them decide what to buy. Consequently, the older demographic is less affected by external factors (such as advertising) and perceives minimal differences between competing products. This contrasts with the trends observed in younger consumers.

Channel Considerations: While older consumers use social media regularly, only 5% trust these platforms. They prefer traditional information sources like TV, radio, and printed materials. Therefore, brands should choose communication channels wisely, focusing on effectiveness rather than just reach.

By embracing these strategic approaches, brands can break free from age-related stereotypes, effectively connect with older consumers, and build lasting relationships based on meeting their specific needs and preferences.


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