Are brands missing opportunities with the 50+ cohort?

Buyers and media pros discuss what brands get wrong about the demo – and how to change their approach.
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An over-50 dating app launched in Canada this week, targeting what some industry experts see as an untapped demographic online.

Originally launched in the U.K. in 2018, Lumen has more than 1.3 million users worldwide and, according to the company, aims to tap into the 50+ Canadian singles market that numbers more than 2 million. But despite Canadian advertisers  previously using dating apps for creative campaigns, a Lumen spokesperson confirmed to MiC that the platform does not currently have in-app advertising.

Despite social media and mobile technology being seen as synonymous with Millennials, a study by the Pew Research Center last year shows that Gen X and Boomers are well-versed in tech, with 85% of Gen X-ers and 67% of Boomers owning smartphones. What’s more, overall social media use is up 11% from 2012 to 2018,  in part due to 76% of Gen X-ers using Facebook (compared to 82% of millennials).

According to Rob Young, SVP of planning services at PHD Canada, it’s not that the 55+ demographic isn’t reached when it comes to marketing, it’s that they’re “not inside the magic circle” of target value.

When it comes to legacy media like TV viewing, he says a clear line can be drawn at the age of 43.

Put simply, he says: “People over the age of 43 are heavier TV viewers than average, and people under the age of 43 are lighter TV viewers than average.”

It’s a line that is mirrored in other legacy media such as radio, magazines, newspapers, and OOH. However, that statistic gets flipped on its head when it comes to the internet, according to Young.

“As you move over from 43, the propensity to spend time with the internet medium starts getting smaller, and as you get younger than 43, the propensity to use the internet medium gets higher. That 55+ group are the heaviest users of all legacy and the lightest users of the internet medium.”

“Even when you look at advertisers who might gravitate toward legacy media  — advertisers who have broad target groups, who aren’t necessarily using a lot of online media, who might be spending 65% of their media dollars on offline media — they also tend to not include the 55+ age group in their core target,” Young explains.

He doesn’t believe the tendency to avoid the 55+ demo is necessarily driven by the age group’s media habits, but rather a belief marketers have that the age group is too difficult to convert. “That they’re set in their ways, that they’re not in an acquisition mode, that they’re incomes are going to be declining as opposed to growing, that they are on a per capita basis lighter acquirers. I think that’s where that targeting attitude comes from,” he says.

But Alex Panousis, president and CMO at Havas Canada, says the industry forgets that  close to 30% of the population in Canada is 50+, with less debt and more money to spend.

Despite the fact that “targeting someone in their 50′s for the right product is a huge opportunity,” Panousis notes that the industry still leans toward younger demographics.

Zoomer Media VP David Cravit is well aware of the opportunity to consciously deliver to the Gen X and Boomer market — a demographic he says controls 70% of the nation’s wealth and more than 60% of consumer spending but receives just 10% of targeted ad dollars.

“We understand that that they’re interested in a higher quality of life for longer  — and they’re getting it,” he says. “They’re travelling, learning, and exploring. They’re completely digital [and] tend to be active information seekers, looking for information that will help them live better, longer, and do more.”

According to Cravit, marketers are using a consumer behavioural model that is 20 years out of date.

“There’s a disconnect between who [marketers are] portraying as their target customers and who’s actually buying the stuff,” he says, adding that it’s an issue Zoomer Media is battling against.

Mitch Dent, SVP of Blue Ant media sales and Blue Ant Plus, agrees. He says the industry has been so hyper-focused on how difficult it is to reach millennials, “they have sometimes forgotten where the money is.”

The 50+ age group not only has more money to spend, but is also often focused on big life change: new cars, travelling and home investments.

“There’s a real opportunity to talk to these people in a different way,” he says. Blue Ant’s strategy has always been about developing more of a media mix, although it emphasizes traditional.

“If you want to have a media mix that speaks to 18-to-24-year-olds, you want to be on social media or YouTube. But if you’re 50+, it doesn’t mean that you won’t go on Facebook, because you will.”

According to Sarah Thompson, CSO at Mindshare Canada, it’s time for a shift in perspective.

“As marketers, we tend to think… that a 55-year-old is fixed in behaviour. They aren’t,” she says, adding that the biggest challenge in marketing today is the necessary shift from demographic to behavioural. “The internet reaches almost 90% of our population. It is time to think about what interests people rather than what demographic or age they fall into.”