Beauty Industry Essentials: 10 Golden Rules for Marketing to the UK’s Most Affluent Demographic

Our recent report, Older Women: the Forgotten Demographic, highlights an unexploited opportunity for an ageing population that wants to stay younger for longer and is prepared to spend money on beauty treatments and solutions, especially at the premium end. But is the beauty industry really doing enough to maximise this growth demographic?

Mark Beasley is planning director of rhc advantage, the 50+ marketing agency. Here, he brings us up to date with current thinking on the older consumer, with advice on how best to target this group, which is far from over the hill.

David Bowie has been in the news lately, after an absence of 11 years. His new single –‘Where are we now? – was released on his 66th birthday.  This has astonished the world of media, which seems surprised that the “poor old chap” is still alive, let alone able to croak out a few words of song,

According to Robert McCrum, writing in the Guardian:  ‘At 66, Bowie also defies gravity’, going on to assert that ‘most poets and songwriters do their best work before the age of 40’, citing Byon, Keats, Shakespeare and Shelley.

This sort of casual ageism continues to underpin the attitudes of many of us working in marketing.  In fact, Byron, Keats and Shelly never even made the age of 40 - this was not unusual in the 19th century.  However, life expectancy has moved on significantly since then.  Most of us can expect to live well into our 80s and if you’re born this year, you have a one-in-three chance of living to 100 and beyond.

Already, more than 50% of adults in the UK are aged over 40.  So what are we to make of the ageing population that comes with increased life expectancy?  As David Bowie’s single enters the top ten, here are my top ten soundbites for marketing to more mature consumers.

1.  Think of individuals, not groups.  Do not categorise older people as a single, homogenous segment.  There are too many of us for that and we are not all the same!

2. Do not overtly target ‘older people’. We know how old we are, you don’t need to remind us.  If you are more subtle and convince us that you meet our needs, we might be interested.

3.  Think differently.   Traditional stereotypes of age and ageing no longer apply.  In popular music, artists older than Bowie continue to survive and prosper – Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, for example.

4.  Following the money? The over-50s account for 80% of the UK’s wealth and disproportionately high levels of expenditure. However, this is not evenly distributed and will not be replicated to the same extent by younger age cohorts.

5. Let’s get physical. Physical and cognitive decline are part of the normal ageing process. Make sure you have an inclusive approach to all aspects of the marketing mix, not just marketing communications.

6. Age is relative. Our own age dictates our perceptions of old age and the attributes associated with old age. Make sure that your marketing is consumer-driven and not at the mercy of well-meaning younger marketers or agency staff.

7. Don’t target by generation. In the UK, terms such as ‘Baby boomer’ and ‘Generation X’ provide little consumer insight. Members of such groups share little other than the period in which they were born.

8. Think across age groups. Few products and services are consumed and purchased only by older people. There will often be more than one generation involved.  Also, the audience for many brands is likely to span different generations, as consumer needs and interests are seldom shaped by age alone.

9. Walk the talk.  If you care about older people so much, why not employ some? Few people over 50 work in marketing.  This no longer makes sense, if indeed it ever did.

10.  There are no ‘golden bullets’.  This is a large, diverse and complex group of people – not a small niche group.  Please do not expect ‘off-the-shelf’ guidelines – despite this article!

To conclude as we started – with David Bowie, who wrote back in 1971 in the song Changes:  ‘Pretty soon you're gonna get a little older.’  The biggest danger of marketing for older people, I think, is the tendency to think of older people as ‘them’.  In fact, it’s not them, it’s us:  if not now, then later.  If we’re lucky.

These ten soundbites were distilled from rhc advantage’s 180 page research report which is available via its website, .