by: Dick Stroud
Focalyst is a joint venture of AARP Services and Kantar, the research, insight and consultancy arm of WPP. Focalyst claims to be the leading source of information about Baby Boomers and Older Consumers. The launch conference was held in New York on 28-29 September 2006.
I have just returned from attending the conference and I thought I would share my top-line impressions of the event. A more detailed and considered article will follow once I have access to the presentations and have got over my jet-lag!
A conference’s location is important in setting the tone for the event. Without doubt Focalyst chose the most impressive location I have ever visited. The Allen Room in the Frederick Rose Hall looks directly over Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. It is truly breathtaking.
Was it worth a travelling 7,000 miles to attend the event? Absolutely.
My attitude to 50-plus marketing was changed in a number of ways. These are my top-level conclusions.
► The US is drawing away from Europe in its approach to the 50-plus market. Maybe it is due to the publicity surrounding the first Baby Boomers having their 60th birthdays but you felt that US companies were really starting to appreciate the importance of older consumers.
► Focalyst’s segmentation model could become the de facto standard for the 50-plus market - at least in the US. There is nothing special or particularly exciting about the model but with a panel of 30,000 people and the combined weight of AARP and Kantar it could easily dominate the scene. I suspect that Matt Thornhill of the Boomer Project will be doing his best to ensure this is not the case!
► Technology is really important. There were two excellent presentations from Intel and MIT Age Lab that demonstrated how technology based products and services will become vital to the aging Baby Boomer. I weep at the lack of attention that European companies are giving to this subject.
► Women, women, women. A recurrent theme was the importance of the older women as the Alpha-consumer. The evidence is still sparse, but it looks like women will progressively become the dominant consumer group. One of the speakers had a good way of expressing the difference between the sexes: as they age, men gravitate back into the home – women want to ‘do things’. Simple as that.
► Retirement is history. Either due to necessity or out of personal choice, the concept of retirement is becoming a quaint historical memory. Amazingly, the higher the income the longer people take to retire. It looks like the US (and I suspect Europe) is about to be hit by a tidal wave of new start-up businesses as older people give vent to their entrepreneurial spirit.
► Singles rather than partners. Did you know that 50% of women in California are single or that two thirds of divorced people in the US, over the age of 45, are women? The quaint idea of 50 years old-plus ‘nuclear families’ is fast disappearing.
► The uptake of digital media (broadband and digital TV) changes very little over the age range 18-64, according the speaker from CBS. At long last the idea that only the young have got the digital habit is being firmly rejected.
Finally, even though the US is taking the lead with its 50-plus marketing, the issues it faces are very similar to those in Europe. Lots of the experiences and knowledge from the US can be applied in the European context.