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Tips and tricks for targeting older audiences

9 July 2010

Be careful about targeting older people on the basis of their age, says Donna Tipping 

If, like me, you are lucky enough to have known and remember your grandparents, you may feel a twinge when you see one of their contemporaries enjoying the sun on a park bench, when you read about Second World War veterans in the news, or when you’re reminded of their favourite TV programmes.

However, as colleagues working in comms targeting older people know, there’s a lot more to the over 50s market than the stereotypes of little old ladies leaving their money under the mattress to the cat.Communications with older people can be improved by following some key principles:

  • AGE = identity. Anyone inhabiting their own skin for six decades plus is likely to have worked themselves out and have a strong sense of self. Older people are a sophisticated – sometimes cynical – audience. And they quickly spot tokenistic or patronising campaigns.From marketing or communications materials they will probably be seeking:

information, rather than image

benefits, rather than brands

logic, rather than logos

  • AGE = diversity. Be careful about targeting older people on the basis of their age – unless you’re offering a specialist product or service that is designed for this age group. Look beyond age – this is an incredibly diverse sector of society that runs from newly minted 50 year olds to both active and vulnerable 90 year olds, and everyone in between.

Lifestage, health, income, values … all underpin mindsets and behaviour.

  • AGE = renewal. Older people are looking for new, refreshing, more representative forms of communication in materials aimed specifically at them, or at mainstream audiences that include them.

If we are to engAGE, rather than enrAGE, we need to begin our creative approach with some baselines:

  • recognise older people’s life knowledge, lifeskills and sense of self. 
  • reflect their strengths (individuality, acquired wisdom, flexibility) and their unique lifeexperience.
  • respect their concerns, problems and needs (including the need for tailored design of products, services and materials).
  • reject stereotypes – re-think your ideas about older people.

These tips are taken from a new good practice guide: Engaging Communications: communicating with and about older generations, produced by AGEncy. This new arm of the communications agency Forster aims to help reframe how society sees old age and to re-establish the value of being older.

Donna Tipping

Deputy director marketing and brand, Stroke Association