Engaging with people as individuals and targeting groups based on their unique tastes and preferences has become a critical part of marketing in recent years.

However, it seems many organisations are failing to bear this in mind when they are trying to engage with older people.

Whereas other groups are defined by their interests, habits, behaviour and suchlike, it seems over-55s are being defined solely by their age – with no regard for the fact people in this age group are just as diverse as their younger counterparts.

This point has been flagged up by Steve Moncrieff, client strategy director at ewe agency, who believes brands are making a mistake if they adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to engaging with older people.

Writing in Prolific North, he pointed out that companies spend millions of pounds on engaging with certain age groups and demographic profiles, such as "cool kids, the John Lewis parents, the fun-loving 20s [and] the free-spending 30s".

However, he said they often fail to apply the same logic to people aged over 50 and simply lump them into a single category.

"The over-55s are not a homogenous group, as mentioned, who reach a certain birthday and morph from individuals into convenient consumer stereotypes," Mr Moncrieff commented.

"There are several generations between the ages of 55 and 100, and the individuals defy traditional segmentation. The Rolling Stones have an average age of 72, meanwhile, 55-year old Madonna continues to shock to the pop and fashion world."

Attitudes to age have evolved

Mr Moncrieff argued that age is a relative concept that has altered a great deal in recent years. For instance, he noted that over-55s still harbour a desire to be "cool" so will step out wearing trendy clothes, use smartphones and tablets, holiday abroad and shop online.

Despite this, Mr Moncrieff said businesses and marketers often treat this segment of the population with disdain, even though they hold 80 per cent of the UK's wealth and have much more disposable income than younger generations.

He has therefore called on companies to change their approach and adopt a more data-driven relationship with over-55s, so they can gather information on their preferences and behaviour and use it in a way that adds value and helps them understand these people better.

"What does this audience want from companies and brands?" Mr Moncrieff asked.

"They want products and services that are designed around the needs of their lifestyle. Whether financial services, travel, luxury goods or online dating, one thing's for sure – no one likes to be called old, retired or be referred to as over a certain age, or being shown older than they are or believe they are."

Mr Moncrieff advised marketers to see how their campaign appears from the perspective of a customer aged over 55, as this might encourage them to move away from the idea of defining them by their age.

Audience should be defined with precision

Mr Moncrieff suggested that marketers should treat over-55s exactly the same as any other demographic group by understanding what they like about a certain product and what might be stopping them from making a purchase.

Communications can then be designed with these insights in mind, so they are targeted and relevant, without being patronising or insulting.

Businesses were also urged not to limit their marketing efforts to traditional media platforms, as older people are increasingly embracing outlets such as social networking sites.

Mr Moncrieff said they would then be able to combine online and offline profiling tools in order to identify the many groups that make up the over-55s.

He pointed out that with innovations such as big data and marketing personalisation, brands can engage with customers in a "more personal and effective way than ever before", as they have garnered real insights into their experiences and brand journeys.

As a result, people aged in their early 50s can be treated very differently to those in their 60s and 70s, with marketing activities no longer restricted by people's ages and incomes.

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