A long time ago, at the birth of the ageing business, there was a set of arguments that were always rolled out to justify why brands focus on the young. In those days young was 18-34, for many it still is but it has gone up a decade or two.
I partnered with Omnicom to research the older consumer in Australia, UK, US, France and Czech Republic. This formed the basis for my first book on older consumers (The 50-plus Market).
Yes, we found that there was some difference between the young and old in their likelihood to change brands but it varied greatly by geography and the consumer’s socio economic status. In Australia for instance, the old were more likely to change brands than the young, whereas in France the correlation was reasonably strong.
I have just read an article in WARC by the head of Insights at ZenithOptimedia that has brought up the old argument. I quote:
Our findings suggest that younger consumers may be less fixed in their purchasing patterns and therefore, for brands interested in growing their market share, there’s a rationale for prioritising them. This may not explain all of advertising’s obsession with youth but it certainly shows that there are reasons, beyond incompetence, for targeting the under 35s.
I guess my response to this finding is that I am not surprised but so what and why only tell a bit of the story?
For a brand to decide to ‘prioritise’ targeting a demographic group there are a lot more variables than the propensity to change brands. I seem to have read once or twice, or is it 2 or 3 million times, how Millennials are all poor and their b****rd parents have all the money. Maybe this is another factor to consider.
Maybe, the category of brand is relevant? There is a big difference between ‘momentum’ loyalty, like in purchasing utility or banking services, or ‘I have always had this product and have no intention to change’ type loyalty.
Maybe, there is a big difference between somebody aged 65 and somebody age 80?
When I first was involved with the ageing business I did think ‘incompetence’ was the reason why there was such a huge mismatch between the spend on marketing and the economic value of the consumer. I soon discovered that a more significant reason was the ultra conservative nature of B2C marketers. More lately I have realised how difficult it is for large organisations, with their multiple customer facing silos, to implement significant change.
But please, please, if we are going to resurrect the old argument about loyalty let’s put it into context.