The people who buy the most stuff—and are also the most ignored

It’s raining 50s...

It’s raining 50s…

Once all the tinsel and lights settle over the next week or so, we’ll know to the tenth of a percent how well holiday spending went. Industry organizations—such as the National Retail Federation—are hoping for a 3.9% growth over last year, and it looks like we’ll hit that, or better.

But, given the still lackluster unemployment numbers, you just have to wonder… who’s spending the money?

The HUGE market too many of us ignore. The US Census reports that people ages 50 and older are the fastest growing market today—and will continue to be for decades.

Every seven seconds or so, someone in America turns 60. That means that by 2025—if my Generation X measly math serves me—there will be more than 70 million so-called seniors. Contrast that to consumers ages 18 to 59, which will only grow a paltry 7%.

And yet, only 5% of advertising is geared toward the 50+ set, according to Second Wind, an advertising agency organization that represents small to midsized agencies.

Are we marketers remiss in our duties here?

What’s more, this particular audience—which includes the mammoth Baby Boomer generation—is redefining what it means to be a “senior”:

They’re not the cane-toting, retirement-home types of yesteryear. The definition of “old” is changing as quickly as everything else in our times. Many are sprinting past the age of 50 as active people who love to travel, decorate, dress nicely and continue to educate themselves.

They’ve got bank! Seventy percent of disposable income in the US comes from the 50+ set… that’s over a trillion bucks spent on themselves, their kids and grandkids. To top that yummy stat with the proverbial cherry, a good percentage will also inherit money from their parents—the “Greatest Generation” who managed to make nice livings for themselves in the fiscally vigorous times of the 50s and 60s.

They are more media agnostic than their younger generation counterparts. Seniors still love TV and radio, but are also among the fastest growing segments on social media—quickly replacing the teenage set on such sites as Facebook. The over-50 crowd spends a whopping $7 billion a year online, and that will only grow.

Are you a little surprised by all this? I was. But then, when you consider that many young people are still among the most unemployed, it makes you smack your forehead and say, “Yeah, of course.”

The lesson here: Don’t forget about this market. Here are five tips to reach them more effectively…

Their experience makes them informed and smart. Respect that in your messaging, and understand that 50+ consumers actively research purchases online. They tend to be more patient and in-depth than the more instant-gratification Millennials. Given this, content marketing (blogs, white papers, reports, comparison charts, etc.) will give you an edge. The older the consumer, by the way, the more likely they will read web copy than watch a video.

Think attitude, not age. More than ever, 50+ people are sensitive to being treated as “old.” They consider themselves active and involved, with many choosing to continue working or volunteering well beyond age 65. Research shows that many seniors consider themselves “young for their age”—mentally subtracting about 10 years from their actual years. In other words, “older,” but not “old.”

Consider older eyes. Yes, they see themselves as younger—but the biggest complaint from 50+ consumers is that type is difficult to read. Avoid the tiny text that graphic designers so love when marketing to this group.

Don’t assume anything. Many marketers think of seniors as resistant to technology, averse to trying new products and brands, or being stuck in their ways. None of that has been substantiated by research—in fact, the opposite has proven true.

Segment! This is an enormous market—think of someone who is 50, and someone who is 90, and all the millions of people in between them! Duke University research revealed that Boomers are the most diverse of all the generations… a hearty soup of incomes, races, attitudes and education. As always, know your audience.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group.

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