Issue 14

Charlotte Richardson Andrews: What factors are contributing to population ageing?

Emma Herbert: Population ageing has been driven by declines in fertility and improvements in health and longevity. The most rapid increases are occurring in developing countries.

CRA: Is this as an opportunity to engage with older consumers in a new way?

EH: Yes, absolutely. But there are further opportunities which manufacturers are failing to capitalize on and this is not just limited to the older consumers market. There are opportunities for manufacturers to position products that work for all demographic groups at once.

As the population ages, the concept of age has new meaning for today’s consumer. In addition, diversity within age groups and the overlap between age groups has led some to believe that age is no longer a useful way to describe consumer behaviour. The concept of age blurring is starting to emerge with some age groups acting younger and some age groups acting older. This is leading to a greater overlap of the needstates among age groups. Ageing anxiety is starting to affect consumers at a younger age. This presents an opportunity for manufacturers not only to position products that can positively appeal to all demographics, but to use the trends which are occurring in redefining age to change the negative perceptions that have previously limited new product development, especially in the soft drinks market for older consumers.

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CRA: Why does Canadean believe over 50s should not be classified as one group?

EH: A consequence of viewing the older consumer as one homogenous group is it that it tends to emphasise the negative elements that are associated with ageing. In addition, older consumers of today are not sedentary and retiring individuals – they are more involved in activities and are far younger in their outlook and activities than their predecessors were two generations ago. The myth of poor health permeating this market needs to be dispelled. Public perceptions of ageing need to be changed with a refocus on the positive elements. Furthermore, the people in this consumer segment have higher levels of disposable income than any other age group, so in this respect, manufacturers are missing a major opportunity when it comes to new product positioning.

CRA: What are the different "consumer segments" within the 50+ population group?

EH: In 2007, Liverpool John Moores University produced a general market segmentation model based on questions relating [to] socio-demographics, health, lifestyle and consumer behaviours. They came up with 5 specific clusters:

Solitary sceptics (5 % of the market): They are the least healthy and prefer solitude to socializing. Their scepticism is reflected in negative attitudes towards marketing and consumerism. They lack market knowledge, are the most materialistic and the most nostalgic.

Bargain hunting belongers (38% of the market): These are the oldest group in terms of age (average age 70), but perceive themselves as younger. They place greater importance on belonging. They have positive attitudes towards marketing and consumerism and like a bargain.

Self assured sociable (6% of the market): This group is healthy and energetic with high levels of self esteem. They are not particularly adventurous as consumers. They are price conscious, but hate the idea of senior discounts.

Positive pioneers (30% of the market): This is the youngest segment, with an average age of around 56. They are relatively affluent and more adventurous. They have greater market knowledge than the other groups and are positive about marketing and consumerism.

Cautious comfortables (21% of the market): This is the most affluent, healthy, active and energetic of all the segments. They are the least adventurous and have very little market knowledge. They have low levels of price consciousness and positive attitudes towards credit.

CRA: How can packaging design accommodate older consumers’ needs?

EH: Older consumers often feel disenfranchised by marketers, retailers and manufacturers particularly with regard to packaging. Many consumers find product packaging hard to open and labels, prices and usage directions difficult to read. All these are obvious, but the problem for manufacturers appears to be that packaging is universal: accommodating mature shoppers with appropriate packaging may lead to the alienation of younger consumers.

Furthermore, several common conditions make it increasingly difficult for older consumers to see packaging: older consumers also find themselves losing the ability to visually scan. Smaller packages are better for older consumers. However, with more people in other age groups living alone than ever before, this type of packaging can also appeal across demographics.

CRA: Are there any particular products that successfully cater for these consumers?

EH: The product from United Biscuits (Cheddars) uses technology from Payne. The new packaging has a horseshoe tab that protrudes from the tube so it can be easily identified and pulled to tear open the pack. While this packaging has been designed for elderly consumers, it is not mentioned at all on the packaging itself.

CRA: How can packaging manufacturers appeal to today’s ageing consumer population?

EH: As the population ages and life expectancy increases, older consumers will be looking to enhance and optimize their health and wellbeing as opposed to just merely preventing disease. Therefore, it is about sending a positive message when targeting this market. Older consumers are much more knowledgeable about diet and how that can play a part in extending their active years.

They are also better informed about how they can live active lives for longer. Manufacturers can ‘speak’ to older consumers by positioning products which can potentially address these health concerns and, in particular, market products with specific age-related health claims. This type of product is gaining traction among older consumers. However, older consumers are more sceptical and critical of products which offer age-related health claims so manufacturers will also need to position their products in an authentic way with greater transparency relating to ingredients and formulation.

CRA: How can brands ensure they do not patronise older consumers?

EH: While older consumers have different needstates to other demographic groups, they don’t want to be singled out and targeted with elderly products. Products such as the ‘elderly phone’, which has a keypadthat is easier to see and larger buttons that are easier to navigate, is a good example of this. Consumers don’t want products targeted to them to be that specific. Many older consumers don’t perceive themselves as old and positioning a product in this way only reminds them of their age. Furthermore, this type of positioning emphasizes the perceived deterioration of overall health as people age.