Saturday 22 November 2008

I am not a number - I am a free man (or woman)

Marketing to baby boomers is an interesting issue. Previously brands trying to attract an older audience could simply put an older person in the advert with an attractive pen or carriage clock and watch the customers pile in… well that was probably never true, but more recently the "older" generation has changed – it no longer considers itself "old" – age is just a number.

This really came home to me a couple of weeks ago when I was looking over some work we did for a financial services brand in the US. The brand had successfully communicated what it was about – telling people that it had products and services aimed at an older audience – the problem was its target audience of over 50's didn't consider themselves old and thought it was for someone "older".

This seems to be an increasing problem for brands looking to market to older customers, especially where these brands already have an established older customer base which they need to retain, but want to continue to attract new customers. A brand tackling this head-on is coffee & tea merchant Taylors of Harrogate - the ground coffee market has a skew to over 45's, so how do you make the brand relevant to new customers without alienating the existing customer base.

Taylors have done this with the introduction of new campaign, "The Coffee of Choice" which has a more edgy creative feel than the traditional corporate Taylors of Harrogate site and matches perfectly to their recent above the line creative. A tie up with Classic FM is helping to ensure the message reaches their target audience, but the creative is helping to make the brand stand-out and seem more relevant. This has been combined with a great selection of ground coffees which are packaged by occasion and blend – helping to appeal to both the new coffee consumer and the more established coffee connoisseur.

Nintendo has been targeting this market as well, but unlike Taylors who had an established audience; Nintendo was trying to create a market from the ground-up. Since the launch of the Wii and subsequently the Wii fit, demand has outstripped supply and the console has been propelled to pole position, with sales greater than both the XBOX360 and the PS3. This is largely down to the introduction of the gaming console to new segments – including the over 50's – or as Nintendo puts it "moving into the blue ocean", based on the book Blue Ocean Strategy. The advertising for the Wii isn't aimed at any particular age demographic and instead shows families interacting and playing with the console – something that is attractive to both parents and grandparents. The DS handheld console however has different celebrity endorsements to appeal to specific market segments, using Fern and Holly and Girls Aloud for the hard to reach younger female market and Nicole Kidman, Ronan Keating and Patrick Stewart for the older demographic with Brain Training.

With 80% of the UK's wealth and representing over 50% of the population by 2020, the over 50's are not a niche segment that can be communicated to using a one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, age based demographics are becoming increasingly less relevant – to create relevance a communication really needs to be personalised and to personalise something needs behaviours. Having communications based on how a customer behaves rather than when they were born will always create greater cut-through.

The brands that win here will be the ones that truly know their customers.