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Why marketing to over 60s must do better

Our specialist insight division Sixty recently re-ran its research into the attitudes and lifestyles of its focus audience, the over 60s. The results that filtered through confirmed what we strongly suspected: this age group feel pretty fed up with the way they are represented. They just don’t recognise themselves in TV shows, media and adverts that depict, or are targeting, an older generation.

You don’t have to look hard to spot lazy imagery in marketing. Recent examples include an ad for over 60s eyewear that depicted a couple that could be in their 80s, whose general befuddlement generated the punchlines.

This illustrates the first mistake many marketers make when targeting over 60s: treating everyone in this age bracket the same while ignoring the huge diversity in the category. Marketers change their tone when targeting people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, so why not speak those in their 60s, 70s and 80s (and beyond) with similar nuance?

Clearly, doing this requires good insight. So what did our refreshed research tell us? A few highlights:

Adrenaline junkies come in all shapes and sizes 
The over 60s are a growing market for extreme sports. Demand is high for white-water rafting, bungee jumping and parachuting.

Retirement isn’t about slowing down
The majority of over 60s ‘feel they have more freedom’ now they’re retired and nearly 40% stated they feel no older than they did at 40. For a significant proportion (44%), retirement means an opportunity to set personal challenges, and learn and sample new things. 88% agreed with the statement ‘retirement is a happy, stimulating time in life’ and a further 83% think “older people can still make a huge difference to this country”.

Booze is ‘in’, bridge is ‘out’
Another clear theme was the ‘ageless’ dimension to hobbies enjoyed by those in retirement – the image of biddies playing bridge just isn’t true. Only 8% of respondents to our survey stated they play card games regularly with friends and only 5% are members of book clubs. It turns out the top 5 activities the over 60s indulge in with friends are: catching up over a drink; shopping; visiting museums and other attractions; and going to the cinema, in that order.

No more excuses, marketers can and should talk to older generations far more intelligently. Taking time to get to know them is the first step.