News article

The secrets to marketing to over 50s

He won’t thank me for telling you this, but my husband recently turned 50. Amongst all of the well wishes and compliments (he really doesn’t look his age) were the jokes about losing his eyesight/hearing/bladder control/marbles and how he now qualifies for Saga insurance.

He’s really not happy about it. He doesn’t want to be 50; he doesn’t ‘feel’ like he’s 50. And just like the jokes, the onslaught of marketing that he’s expecting to receive, is just as unwanted. He can’t bear the thought of being bombarded with emails, post and online adverts showing old, grey, wrinkly people.

My husband is 50 but he doesn’t want to be reminded of it by seeing these images which are supposed to represent him. So why do businesses which target the over 50s market think that these sorts of images appeal to people like my husband?

I don’t want to name and shame any financial services firms in particular, so I’ve just done a quick search on ‘over 50s’ on Shutterstock, and these are the kinds of photos I’m talking about…

The problem is that these images are damaging; they are putting off the very people that they’re supposed to be appealing to.

Over 50s feel under-represented in the media

In September 2019, Marketing Week published some research undertaken by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). It found that:

  • 69% of adults over the age of 50 feel that people their age are under-represented in media imagery.
  • 28% believe they are more likely to be portrayed negatively than those under 50.
  • 73% of images show over 50s with wrinkles and 12% with age spots, while only 15% show people with clear skin.
  • Over 50s are more likely to be shown at home (one in three) than those under 50 (one in 10), with just 4% of images of 50-plus people showing them with co-workers.
  • Just 5% of images show them using technology (even though over 50s are expected to spend upwards of $84bn on technology products by 2030).

Lessons to be learnt

When you are working out who your target clients are (i.e. the kinds of people that you want to have as clients), it’s really important that you don’t slip into stereotypes. Think about actual clients you have or people you know who fit your ideal client type before you start putting together your marketing plan. We call this building up a ‘client persona’.

Thinking about your clients as actual people, rather than generalisations will help you to:

  1. Develop your services to meet their exact needs.
  2. Communicate with them using images and language that they understand, and more importantly, like and will engage with.
  3. Identify the best channels to reach them with your communications.

And another thing…

Whilst we’re on the subject of imagery, can I put out a plea to all financial planners to avoid ‘cheesy’ stock photography in their marketing materials? When using stock photography (as opposed to photos you commission yourselves) it is a challenge to find suitable images that don’t look ‘stock-like’. But generally, it’s best to avoid photos which feature:

  • Impossibly beautiful people with perfect smiles and make-up (I mean, who looks that good when they’re camping?)
  • Shots of people looking into the camera
  • Domestic or workplace images which are clearly shot outside of the country that you are targeting
  • Overused images, such as ‘older couple walking along the beach’…

For more tips on the types of photos to avoid, take a look at Vanity Fair’s video where Emilia Clarke re-creates workplace stock photos:

NB: It’s really funny!

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