OPINION: Why market to the over-50s? Because that’s where the money is!

Campbell Macpherson

The over-50s own three times as much wealth as everyone else combined. Yet many marketers ignore them or, even worse, patronise them. It is time to unlock this goldmine of opportunity. In this exclusive piece for The FS Forum, strategic change expert and award-winning author, Campbell Macpherson, provides his tips for marketing to the lucrative over-50s – and the pitfalls to avoid.

 

Are you ignoring your most lucrative customers – or merely taking us for granted?

If the over-50s were a sovereign nation, they would be the third largest economy in the world. Not only do we own 3 times as much wealth as all of your other customers combined, we are also responsible for 54% of consumer spending. Yet for some daft reason, we attract just 5% of advertising spend, according to Campaign magazine, and almost 90% of that is patronising.

The moment I turned fifty-five, my in-box was swarming with ads for Viagra, Tena-Men adult nappies and pension companies excitedly informing me that I could now withdraw 25% of my pension pot. I was bombarded by images of grey-haired people sitting wistfully on park benches and leather-clad pot-bellied bikers straddling their shiny new Harleys. It was as though, in the game of life, marketing directors had moved me to a square on the board marked ‘old and irrelevant’. How utterly stupid is that?!

It incensed me to such a degree that I started writing my third book the very next day. ‘You: Part Two – thriving in the second half of your life’ (Hachette 2021), written in partnership with my FS-marketer-turned-yogi wife, Jane, is an antidote to ageism – and a wake-up call to marketers across the globe.

Tips for marketing to the lucrative over-50s

Tip 1. Understand why we are so important to you

Here are three reasons. One: we have the money. Two: we will be inheriting even more of it very soon. The average inheritance age in the UK is 61 and as many of us are going to live into our nineties; the next generation won’t be getting their hands on it for decades! Three: we influence the next generation’s financial decisions – help them on to the property ladder, give them their first credit cards, help them start their first businesses, …

Tip 2. Don’t confuse loyalty with a lucrative relationship

A 60 year old friend of mine declared that he was still with the same bank he joined as a University student. “Mind you,” he went on to say. “I only have a current account with them. My savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages, investment accounts, pensions and SIPP are all with other providers.” Do your over-50 clients have the majority of their money with you? Why not?

Tip 3. Desire to have more than a transactional relationship with us

The problem with transactional relationships is that they are easy to let go. It is so easy for customers to change ‘suppliers’ without hesitation. You don’t want that. You want your lucrative over-50s to like you. To value you. To stay with you. To do more with you.

You want to build a mountain of goodwill with them so that: a) they never leave, and b) they do more and more business with you for the rest of their long and event-filled lives.

Tip 4. Get to know us – understand what makes us tick

Does everyone in your organisation genuinely understand the desires, needs and aspirations of this critical group of customers?

Do your people truly understand:

  • Ageism is the most common form of discrimination of them all. It may be illegal but it is rife at work and across society. Endemic ageism shortens lives and costs our societies untold billions. Your over-50 customers know this as we confront it on an almost daily basis. Do your people add to this ageism or do they work to alleviate it?
  • Age-diverse teams outperform all others. We all know that teams of men and women significantly outperform male-only teams and that adding a mix of ethnicities into teams enhances performance and decision-making even further. But did you know the greatest uplift in decision-making and performance comes from including a mix of ages in that team?
  • Almost half of the 5000 small businesses in the UK are run by over-50s. Our numbers are increasing and we are more successful. So, why do banks focus their marketing on young entrepreneurs when so many will never be able to pay them back?
  • Record numbers of us are ‘unretiring’. 61% of over-65s are not ready to retire. 1 in 3 people over 60 have left their pension pots untouched – because we are still working.
  • Divorce rates among over-50s are climbing and 2/3 of these divorces are initiated by women.
  • 2/3 of women report that the menopause has negatively affected their work. 75% feel it is still a taboo subject.
  • Your over-50 clients are increasingly having to cope with redundancy and feelings of advancing irrelevance at work and at home? That so many are trying to find a purpose for their second half?

So many over-50s don’t know where to turn to for help.

They could be turning to you.

Tip 5. Stop focusing on our age

When marketing to Millennials or Gen Z’s do you focus on their lack of experience? Would you launch a campaign with: “I know none of you have lived long enough to have the foggiest idea of what to do in a recession …” No. Of course not. That would be patronising.

So, when marketing to the over-50s – focus on their needs, not their age. Age is simply an abbreviation for experience, yet far too many companies seem unable to look past ‘date of birth’ – just ask anyone over 50 wanting to re-mortgage!

Companies see the grey hair, the no hair, the laugh lines and the wrinkles. They focus on what the over-50s can’t do rather than what they can. They assume we are winding down. We’re not. We are vital and ambitious. We are going to live another forty years. Some of us are just getting going.

Tip 6. See us in a different light

The over-50s aren’t old. Stop treating us as if we were.

Don’t see an older person; see an ambitious small business owner. Don’t see an older man; see an investor. Don’t see an older woman; see someone who is bravely coping with a myriad of changes all at the same time. A pension is not a savings plan for old people. It is a tax-advantaged investment wrapper – for everyone.

You are not marketing to old people. You are marketing to your wealthiest customers – with needs, wants and aspirations that you could help us fulfil.

Tip 7. Be strategic – It’s about so much more than advertising and promotion

Forging closer relationships with this lucrative segment requires a joined up and holistic approach across your business. It requires customer insight, marketing, product development, sales, customer service, customer experience, compliance, technology and HR teams to work together.

Your opportunity

Your opportunity lies in the fact that so few organisations do this well.

Too few marketing departments and agencies seem to take the time to understand the over-50s demographic. They struggle to see beyond ‘age’. And too few organisations are joined-up internally – with a shared objective of forging closer relationships with their vital and ambitious over-50s customers.

The ones with the money.

 

Campbell Macpherson is principal of consultancy Change & Strategy International. He helps leaders to lead change. He also helps companies to forge close relationships with their lucrative over-50 customers. www.changeandstrategy.com

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