Marketers Are Neglecting the Most Valuable Generation in History—People Over 50
NEW YORK, NY — Marketers need to examine their beliefs about age, we’re spending far too much time talking to young people at the expense of older, wealthier adults, according to Bob Hoffman, author of Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey: Digital Advertising and Other Delusions.
“I have come to believe that most marketers target young people because they see everyone else doing it,” said Mr. Hoffman at Advertising Week in New York held in September 2015. “I’ve always assumed there are good facts to back this approach up, but I just have not come across any.”
People over 50 are the most valuable generation in the history of marketing, according to Nielsen. They have a net worth that’s almost three times that of other generations. They control about 70% of the wealth in the United States with more than $2.4 trillion in annual income, which accounts for 42% of all after tax income.
In fact, people over 50 outspend the average consumer across nearly every category, including food, personal care items, household furnishings, entertainment, travel, and automotive. More than 60% of all new car purchases are made by people over the age of 50. They account for nearly 55% of all consumer package good sales, and they outspend other adults online nearly two to one on a per capita basis.
People over 50 are now the fastest growing demographic; by 2030 adults over 50 will grow at about three times the rate of adults under 30. One might think that marketers would be falling all over themselves to reach this valuable demographic, yet people over the age of 50 are the target of less than 10% of marketing budgets.
“If they were their own country they would be the third largest economy in the world, bigger than India, Japan, and Germany,” said Hoffman. “Let me ask you a question: do you really think it’s a good idea to ignore these people?”
Narcissism Disguised As Strategy
The science of marketing is based on finding the most relevant message and delivering it to the most probable buyer, but according to Hoffman all the rules are suspended when it comes to people over 50.
“The ad industry has invented all kinds of excuses for ignoring people over 50, but the real reason is that the industry simply hates old people. “We can’t build ourselves a hot advertising career by talking to old farts. We like the excitement of youth—not the boredom of middle age and the frailties of old age. Consequently, we’ve invented all kinds of convenient baloney to justify our malpractice,” said Hoffman.
“We say by advertising younger we automatically reach and influence people over 50. Really? Can you think of any other ethnic, demographic or social group that anyone would claim is best influenced by advertising to someone else?” asked Hoffman.
Too many marketers are operating under the belief that older people want to be like younger people, but that’s simply not the case. Marketers are confusing the desire to be youthful with wanting to be like young people.
“People over 50 want to be youthful, but their idea of youthful is not Miley Cyrus. They want to be youthful, but they do not want to be like young people. This is a distinction that is completely lost on our industry. Our neglect of older consumers and our pandering to the young is nothing but narcissism disguised as strategy. It’s marketing by selfie stick. Forbes magazine summed it up best—people over 50 are the most ignored, wealthy people in the history of marketing,” said Hoffman.
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