Why 50 years and above is the new target consumer group for some brands

While millennials still rules the marketing roost, some millennial-first brands are putting the spotlight on older generations.

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The music company developed this portable digital music player two years ago, to not only impress the older generation who love to hum a song or two during their routine but also for the millennials.
Fact: Marketers are obsessed with ‘millennials’. Soon millennials will be displaced by Gen Z. But in this endless pursuit to appeal to the young, marketers seem to have forgotten an influential and rich consumer group – the +50?

Former vice-chairman of Omnicom Group, Tim Love says, “Many marketers have difficulty making the transition to ageing market opportunities.” Love says the root cause of this skew is the economic model that is geared to an infrastructure that rewards youth in hiring and investment; “The marketing model of the past 50 years was predicated on winning with a demographic of 18-49. However, this huge segment of the audience is now 50 plus and talking directly to them, one-to-one is harder when your workforce and agency partners are still focused on 18-49.”

Of course, matters are worse as we go further and further away from the letters M and Z on the age spectrum. According to Anisha Motwani, managing partner, StormTheNorm Ventures, “A brand has to be truly myopic to ignore this lucrative segment with disproportionate purchasing power.” Motwani believes the real FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) comes from this segment, and that’s why, for instance, their attention is gradually tilting towards enhancing their life, making their world richer and more fulfilling. The endgame is maybe retirement, but not from a fuller life. Aspirations don’t suddenly fall off the cliff after fifty. Nor do their Netflix subscriptions.


Companies that appreciate and cater to life-stages and not arbitrary age groupings will always win in the end. “Businesses in the future should be attitude-biased and age-neutral,” says Motwani.

40 is the new 30. 50 is the new 40. 60 is 50.
Echoing Motwani’s sentiments. Simeran Bhasin, co-founder, BRAG, and former marketing head of Fastrack, says, “We have to remember that with the downing phenomena today’s 50 plus behaves more like yesterday’s 40 plus and even younger. I also wouldn’t classify the 50 plus segment as a completely separate segment with unique needs for all product categories.” Bhasin believes brands should not overtly target this segment as ‘old’ or ‘mature’.

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However, it’s time to de-millennialise marketing. In this special feature Brand Equity takes a look at how three brands are changing the age game in advertising.

How Indian ads are making Daddy, & Amma, cool
After every nail-biting over during the Cricket World Cup, Swiggy’s praying uncle gave the nation hope, and laddu cravings. When India’s World Cup dreams started to crash, Bollywood’s “cool dad”, Anil Kapoor, started appearing in ad breaks. Kapoor was seen in Spotify’s maiden India campaign, along with upcoming actor Ishaan Khattar who features as Kapoor’s son. The energetic Kapoor listens to Khattar’s music playlist but goes back to his favourite playlist seamlessly at the end of every ad film. Then Vodafone Idea’s popular older brand ambassadors ‘Asha and Bala’ - C.P. Shanta and V.P. Dhananjayan – made a comeback with #LiveMore campaign - for the telecom brand. The sprightly couple is seen inaugurating a new restaurant Asha's Kitchen in a TV spot. In another ad, the duo is seen sharing tips for what we assume are ‘Instagram’ perfect photos.

Now, what’s common between the Swiggy Uncle, Kapoor’s role in Spotify, and Vodafone Idea’s characters Asha and Bala? The answer is grey hair. These millennial-first and new-age brands are roping in older ambassadors and creating characters who are on, what one wrongly assumes, the wrong side of fifty. Here’s why.

Kavita Nair, chief digital transformation and brand officer, Vodafone Idea, says, “The popular myth that we as advertisers must break is: just because you have an older person in the ad or a younger person in the ad does not mean that is the target group. For us, featuring an elderly couple just helps showcase the accessibility of technology, to exhibit that anyone can ‘live more’.”
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Amarjit Singh Batra, managing director, Spotify India, agrees with Nair. He says, “Our campaign intends to show the new India, where parents and kids connect and are informal with each other. We didn’t look at an ‘old character’, but someone who is seen as a cool dad. We look at music listening as a collaborative experience, where recommendations and tastes matter more than age. We are also highlighting the simple value propositions of the product for the larger audience to ensure they know the clear benefits of our app.”

Sagar Kapoor, CCO, Lowe Lintas, whose team created the Swiggy ads, tells us that they have been focused on “creating reliability and educating consumers about the convenience that a brand like Swiggy brings. The flavour is fun yet to the point. It’s not targeted at just the older segment. However, the older characters add a fresh flavour in our millennial-focused world.”
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According to Babita Baruah, managing partner India, GTB, that’s what marketers should be exploring more often. “Most brand communication operates within a self-imposed, research-backed safety net, of young protagonists on the screen, even though the relevance may extend to 50 pluses. The argument for this is usually on “mindset”. Brands claim to be addressing a mindset rather than age, and hence the protagonist that seems to best represent that mindset. However, the question is, why can’t a 50 plus cast with the right spirit and attitude do the same? Why should there be an overbearing cascade of 25-year olds peddling brands most of the time?”

The risk, she assumes, is the fear of the young rejecting the brand when they see grey hair and a wrinkled smile. “Icons have changed and the centre of influence is moving rapidly from celebrities to people around us. So, the debate should not be on a 25-year-old versus a 50 plus as bull’s eye audience or protagonist in ads. It should be on a breakthrough message, a conversation that engages and an execution that is bold and different.” She sums it up, “Growth today has a far greater chance with inclusion.”

Age No Bar
While marketers are busy making tailor-made solutions for millennials and the Gen Z, Ayush Agrawal and Tapan Mishra are building an e-commerce business only for senior citizens of this country. Seniority, the RPG group-backed venture, entered the market three years ago with an idea of creating an eco-system that makes the life of seniors convenient. Currently, some of the bestselling products of this Pune-based startup are talking alarm clocks, anti-crack heels, portable smoothie makers, lazy glasses, nail-cutters with magnifying glass, and electronic stair climbing wheelchair. Interestingly, 70% of Seniority’s portfolio is lifestyle and not wellness-focused due to the changing demand trends. Mishra also points out, “Almost a third of sales are coming from senior citizens buying for themselves.” To build in assistance, the brand has a WhatsApp Line that addresses all sorts of purchase queries. As far as marketing is concerned, Seniority has been experimenting with branded content to target its other consumer base — the millennials, who make purchases for their older loved ones. For this, Seniority has worked with popular content creators Filter Copy and Humans Of Bombay. Mishra plans to look for similar collaborations in the near future.

Early in their journey Mishra and Agrawal also understood the importance of offline stores. Today, Seniority has four physical stores — one each in Pune, Coimbatore, Bhiwadi (near Gurgaon) and Chennai. But all have different formats. For instance, the Coimbatore and Bhiwadi stores have been set up in partnership with senior living realtors, CovaiCare and Ashiana Housing, respectively. On the other hand, with increasing online sales coming from Chennai, it was a strategic decision to set a shop there as well, informs Mishra. He strongly believes that India has a long way to go to create product innovations for this segment. That’s one of the many reasons why a lot of products featured on the website are imported from China, the UK and Japan. Mishra hints, Seniority’s private label is in the works to push open the market.

An Indian brand that has successfully created a convenient entertainment product is Saregama's Carvaan. The music company developed this portable digital music player two years ago, to not only impress the older generation who love to hum a song or two during their routine but also for the millennials. “Teenagers and working kids play a very big role in all tech-related purchase decisions for their parents,” says Vikram Mehra, MD, Saregama. That’s one of many reasons why a Carvaan has often been a perfect gifting product. Mehra and his team are currently working on compact devices that have more local content; and the company is also exploring strategic content tie-ups with brands. Mehra’s main source of feedback and insights still come from his users. “To understand this segment, go out and meet them in the heartland. Don’t consider them to be an extension of your social circles in metros,” he suggests.

A Lesson From The Japanese
The aging of Japan is thought to outweigh all other nations in what is termed a “super-aging society” which makes it a good example to gauge what will happen as the rest of the world experiences greater longevity coupled with lower birth rates. In Japan, the government is working to address the acute shift they are experiencing with their aging population. It is anticipated that Japan’s current population of 128 million with 25% over the age of 65 years, will by 2050 decline to 97 million with 40% of the population over 65. The Japanese government is emphasizing new considerations like changing the definition of “Old” from age 65 to age 75. This to allow people who are living longer to work longer and to help ease the burden on social programs geared to the old definition of “old”.

The Folly of the Past-tense Perspective
One of the most successful brands who has done a good job on the aging population opportunity is BoomAgers, a NY-based marketing services agency geared to help marketers better address the aging market. BoomAgers is now the leading marketing services company for marketing programs to aging demographics globally. I remember talking with Martin Sorrell at an industry conference back in 2014-15 when it was announced that I would be the Chairman of the Board of Advisors for BoomAgers. He commented that the idea of marketing to aging consumers was not new and that he had not seen anyone be successful with this focus. I told him his perception was no longer accurate, because of what is different today and in the future for marketing—— the dramatic and rapid growth in the median age of the global population and the corresponding shift in composition to 55 plus consumers with the highest disposable income. Even Sir Martin was looking at the market from a past-tense perspective.
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