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Why businesses should be ditching the age stereotypes

I noticed two interesting incidents this week, which made me realise how wrong brands can be when it comes to targeting people in certain age groups.

The first happened earlier this week while I was planning some blog posts for one of my clients. Their SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) agency had sent over some suggested titles based on regularly searched keywords. The agency thought it would be a great idea if we were to write an article aimed at the over 50’s who might be looking forward to their retirement packages and might, therefore, be considering the possibility of a house extension. They said we should target ‘customers who want to update their home for one last time.’

Nothing depressed me more than this statement, and I spoke to the Sales Manager to see what she thought. A delightful and brilliant businesswoman reaching retirement age, she’s far too busy planning her next holiday and watching Game of Thrones to thinking about how suitable her home is for a zimmer frame. ‘Ugh, for goodness sake’ was her response. If I had written that blog post, my client would have lost a fair few customers.

Wave goodbye to age stereotypes

The second incident happened on Friday evening. I was with my friends at the opening of a new local restaurant and it was packed. We were sitting outside around a table, and we noticed a mobile phone left on a bench. Within moments of picking it up to see if it belonged to anyone, its owner rushed over to us with an expression of sheer relief. They thanked us again and again, flapping their hands and making big dramatic gestures. The fearful expression on his face was one we all recognised, and we were reminded of how awful it feels to lose a phone, bank card or car key. The thing that surprised us is that he couldn’t have been more than 12 years old.

As these two examples illustrate, a person’s age does not determine their interests and behaviours. Who knew a mobile phone could be the most important thing a 12 year old owns. But age is one of the first things that brands and businesses will often define when they start to look at who their target audiences are. We seem to think that older generations are all silver-haired gardeners who like to go to National Trust estates, while those enigmatic millennial types are obsessed with Instagram and Harry Potter.

How businesses get it wrong

What many businesses seem to forget is that life does not become boring when you hit a certain age. Their customers over the age of 50 are simply not being targeted in the right way. When was the last time you saw an advert for a travel comparison website that featured anyone over the age of 30? They are put into one large stereotypical group and targeted with advertising campaigns that seem to lack energy and creativity.

This is a big mistake and a missed opportunity, as it seems like this is an age group who are enjoying the best years of their life. They are a group with the most money to spend and they want to spend it on new products and services that interest them and make them happy. They'll simply ignore brands that don't strike a chord with them.

Instead of targeting your customers by age, consider targeting by behaviour instead. 40% of marketers say that behaviour is a very effective way to define their customers. Only 3% said the same thing about age. 55% of marketers say that targeting specific age groups like ‘millennials’ or ‘Gen Z’ are not very effective at all. *

So how can you look at behaviour instead? If you are a florist then you might want to target people who buy interior design magazines or like to celebrate anniversaries. If you make cruelty-free shampoo then think about targeting people who buy vegan cheese. Ultimately older individuals have a huge range of interests, likes, needs and behaviours just like anyone else, so as a business owner you’re going to get a better response if you let your customers know that you understand them.

Source: Marketing Week Research*


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