Whether you market products, services, or a nonprofit mission, chances are you have customers in the 50+ age range. With their current U.S. population of 108.7 million, do you realize how powerful this demographic is now and how much it’s growing?
“By 2017, Nielsen predicts this age group will make up half of the U.S. population and control 70% of disposable income.” (Campaign US)
This spells unbelievable opportunities for your business or organization! You can’t afford to ignore the 50+ market.
But, first, let’s get one thing straight. As a member of this demographic, I can attest to the fact that we are NOT aging gracefully. No rocking chairs, incessant TV watching, and fading into the sunset!
According to recently released research from Ketchum, the 50+ market has “an awakened sense of possibility, fueled by curiosity and optimism,” making it the age of wonder.
According to Ketchum’s partner and chief strategy and creativity officer, Karen Strauss, “We seek self-improvement, spiritual connections, service to community and new experiences, all with an energized sense of purpose. We call it ‘WonderLust’ – a powerful hunger for a meaningful life.”
But, do you know what the 50+ market values and how you can gain its attention?
Think “big picture” when you read the Ketchum statistics below. You don’t have to market travel, the arts, or spirituality to benefit from this market. I’ll explain further down.
- Most (73%) learn about things because they’re personally interested, not out of obligation or duty.
- The majority want to travel to places they’ve never visited (60%) to either learn about new cultures (61%) or try things they have never done before (59%).
- Women like each other’s company, traveling together and enjoying museums, galleries and spas, while men prefer to spend leisure time with their spouses.
- Most men (57%) prefer to travel with their spouses as they get older, compared to just 43% of women who want their spouse as a traveling companion.
- Women are three times less likely than men to want to go on a health retreat with their spouse.
- More than half of men said they prefer to visit museums and art galleries with their spouses, while barely a third of women feel the same way.
- The 50+ years are marked by an increased commitment to community and spirituality. They volunteer for charitable causes three times more often than those in their 40s and attend religious services or events more often. Almost half said they attended a religious service or event because it made them a better person.
- Improvement of mind, body and spirit are prime motivators for people 50+. They are happier pursuing their interests alone than younger people are, with less regard for what others might think.
Now, for the ways Ketchum says you can create positive experiences that inspire 50-and-older customers:
- Feed the hunger to learn – People aged 50+ are curious, self-directed and seeking self-improvement.
- Destigmatize the solo – Make it easy and comfortable for individuals to enjoy travel, concerts and shows.
- Connect the ladies – Bring women together for friends to catch up and share experiences.
- Enable service – People 50+ care about community and are energized by accomplishment.
- Netflix and chill – People aged 50+ are still into cocooning with a spouse and a good movie.
- Whisper smart – Those aged 50+ love a good podcast, something that feeds hunger to learn.
- Food for the soul – Foster wellbeing and belonging through uplifting community events.
- Do it on foot – Give those aged 50+ opportunities to feel healthy, active and accomplished through movement.
- A whole new world – Offer travel experiences to 50+ that are new to them.
- Make them laugh – Humor is uplifting and good for you; women aged 50+ especially appreciate it.
Although the study focuses on consumers (good for B2C and charities), the information can help in marketing to business buyers and professionals over 50 as well.
Use marketing channels that appeal to their desire to learn and that foster well-being and belonging. They’ll enjoy webinars, podcasts, e-books, and instructional videos that engage them and feed their curiosity.
Promotional offers such as contests and giveaways can entice their desire for self-improvement. Items like self-help books, spa experiences, massages, and classes (i.e. yoga, art, hobby) can appeal to them. Try connecting your brand with these items if it works. For example, an appliance supplier can produce a branded cookbook or offer an online cooking class.
Although you want to focus your marketing tactics on the individual, promotions such as contests and giveaways should allow participation for two people. For example, if you’re running a contest or incentive that includes event tickets or travel, give winners prizes for two, so they can bring a spouse or friend.
If you want to target 50+ women, focus on experiences they can share with other women. If you have the ability to do in-person marketing promotions, here are a few ideas:
- Charities can hold events that cater to women’s interests. Of course, topics will depend on the mission. A community foundation can host an after-work happy hour with a speaker discussing women’s roles in philanthropy. A food bank can host a women’s volunteer event where they sort donated food followed by a healthy cooking demonstration.
- Retail stores can bring women together for exclusive events such as a special advance sale.
- B2B companies and membership organizations can offer industry or professional learning opportunities to women.
Most businesses or nonprofits can engage their 50+ customers with community projects. Creating these volunteer opportunities can build brand awareness and loyalty for your business or organization. (Just make sure your motives and marketing are authentic. Customers can see through phoniness.)
And lastly, don’t be afraid to use humor in your marketing campaigns, even if your products, services, or missions are serious. Years ago, when I worked for a large charity that served people with physical disabilities, I proposed shooting television public service announcements (PSAs) using humor. Initially, no one thought it was appropriate, but I persevered.
On an extremely limited budget, here was the result:
Are you currently marketing to customers 50+? What’s working (or not working) for you?