The missed opportunity of older consumers


  • The population is aging, living longer and in many cases healthier lives. The 50-plus population now includes four generations.
  • The 50-plus population contributed $8.3 trillion2 in economic activity to the U.S. economy in 2018 and this will more than triple to $28.2 trillion by 2050.
  • The overall contribution of the 50-plus population’s economic and unpaid activities was worth slightly more than $9 trillion in 2018.
  • Marketers are ignoring this important segment.

“Older adults are an increasingly powerful force as workers, consumers, entrepreneurs and active participants in their communities,” says Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. “But an aging population should not be feared. The rapid growth of the longevity economy offers new opportunities for innovation, employment and economic growth for people of all ages.”

Today, 56 cents of every dollar spent in the U.S. in 2018 was attributable to the 50-plus population, and this share is set to increase to 61 cents by 2050. These contributions provide an opportunity for innovative products and services and have clear implications for how companies’ workforces will evolve. As such, understanding this trend and responding to it proactively should be a key brand imperative.

The biggest mistake that too many brands are making is focusing too much on younger millennials. According to Fast Company “If you took your entire view of the human race from primetime advertising alone, you’d see a society without old people. They don’t work, they don’t drink beer, they don’t drive cars. They don’t exist. According to Havas Group, only about 5% of U.S. advertising is even aimed at people over 50”.

Havas’s 2018 Meaningful Brands study found massive growth in the online presence of over-55 consumers, with 68% of them also buying something online every month.

Aside from healthcare, luxury is the product segment where Havas has seen more brands actively engaging with older consumers. And for good reason, since Euromonitor reported that 70% of all available U.S. income is owned by those over 55, and, globally, people over 60 will account for $15 trillion in spending power by 2020. “A lot of luxury brands are doing things with older models, showcasing an older target group,” says Garrido. “Part of that is affordability. I was having lunch with someone the other day from Chanel who told me that 80% of their fashion is sold to people over the age of 50. Most people don’t have the accumulated wealth to pay $2,000 for a jacket.”

Today 70 could be the new 50. Unlike seniors before today’s seniors are more active and don’t see retirement as sitting in a rocking chair. A great example is cycling where people 50+ represent the fastest-growing segment of buyers.

Remember that Baby Boomers don’t consider themselves senior citizens. Even though Boomers continue to retire in record numbers, the oldest ones are only 73 (the new 43!), and the youngest are just 55. They take offense at words or storytelling that smacks of ageism or resorts to clichés.

They’re Going Online Too

Today (2017), 67% of adults ages 65 and older say they go online. The share of seniors who subscribe to home broadband services has also risen – albeit at a slower rate than internet use. Around half of seniors (51%) now say they have high-speed internet at home. This represents a modest uptick from 2013 when 47% of older adults were broadband adopters.”

An increase in social media use was also seen among seniors aged 75 and over, particularly in 2017. In 2018, 35 percent indicated they had been active on social media, compared to 22 percent in 2016 and as few as 5 percent in 2012. When looking at the youngest age groups, social media are used by virtually everyone.

Should you target only seniors in your marketing? Of course not but you can’t afford to ignore them. A craft brewery recently started a targeted marketing program aimed at seniors and the results were so good they are going to expand the program.

Many people who see seniors working at fast-food restaurants or in retailers like Wal*Mart often feel that they have to work. That’s not true. Many want to work and feel useful as corporate America, for the most part, has shunned older employees.

Brands need to include older consumers in their marketing and for goodness sakes please stop using words like “silver”. Most see that as an insult.

Older Americans have a LOT of money and they have no problem spending that money on a brand that respect them as people, not just another segment.

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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