Article

When ageing population unlocks new opportunities for brands

Marketing (and other) teams that shape communication with customers are frequently quite different people to those they are speaking to or designing for. Where this difference is most apparent is when those in their 20s and 30s who reside in the cool parts of town are creating brands that are used by many people who live in the outer suburbs where there’s no Bondi Wholefoods or poke bowl on the menu.

We’ve sat in meetings with young client team members who haven’t taken-up the product or service they’re selling, either by choice or because they haven’t had the opportunity to. Getting a home loan would be an example. Buying a car would be another. In fact, maybe they’ll never buy a car and instead rely on a car sharing scheme or Uber.

How can people effectively design experiences for people who are much older than them?

Empathy matters

We’re not saying it’s not possible to design for people older them oneself, but it requires commitment, focus and discipline to achieve great empathy and see the world through their eyes.

The danger is the fall back option of either: i) thinking of the target as what they think they’ll be like in the future; ii) thinking of the target as somebody who’s a magazine cover version of someone of the target age.

One of our research participants in his late 60s, let’s call him Albert, was recently telling us the story of not having a TV – he happily relied on two tablets for his entertainment and these were swapped as each battery gave way.

The ageing population of today has not grown up with digital. Some have discovered it quite late in their life. At the same time, they have become such staunch advocates.

In one way, he was akin to the young vinyl collecting hip hop enthusiast who had a TV screen (but no antenna) used to display the likes of Twitch from his laptop connected with an HTMI cable. There lies the charm in understanding the lives of a diverse set of real people that live in what may be considered a different, yet similar, world.

In contrast, Albert’s mates are not into digital at all. They resent the difficulties they have doing their banking nowadays. A cheque book and biro still suits them perfectly.

Language rules

Language is an aspect of communication that can easily get overlooked. It evolves over time - still, older people rely on vocabulary that’s been part of them for decades. They don’t take on the new words or really have to make an effort to decode what something means.

Tone of voice can be crafted with good intention, however can so easily alienate or patronise.

Keen to be heard

Older age groups feel that many brands are not talking to them and they’re not being listened to. In research, they can be the best participants. They say it how it is and they simply want to help us help them. We hear them tell us they don’t want to inconvenience customer service staff or companies in general. No other targets tell us that.

Building a CX strategy that genuinely encompasses this target is a joy for us. Let’s get beyond the outdated stereotypes and create solutions that truly resonate.

Team composition

Attracting great candidates who want to do magnificent work for this demographic can also be a challenge. People in Marketing and related teams, early in their career, tend to want to work for ‘cool’ brands, or ‘disruptors’ or those with mass appeal. These things are seen to help the resume and be a good career springboard. It may also play into their personal brand, in their own social circles.

At the same time, arguably, the biggest impact they could possibly make is with the products and services suitable for older buyers.

Have a think about the make-up of the teams that are designing experiences for your company. How might team members be better at reaching out to connect? How might everybody on the team consider the diversity within this age group (e.g. think about cultural backgrounds)? How might you incorporate those who are part of the cohort being designed for