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Despite what Justin Bieber might think, young people do not rule the world, and they certainly don’t rule the marketplace. With the number of American adults over the age of 65 who use the Internet and email having recently passed the 50% mark for the first time, reaching 53% in April 2012, marketers across industries are rethinking the ways in which they can reach — and target — these avid and oft-affluent consumers. And not just seniors, but the “mature market” as a whole, which is defined as marketing to those 55 and over. The Pew Internet & American Life Project calls this milestone especially significant considering in August 2011, the number of consumers over the age of 65 who were online was at 41%. That kind of growth is notable. But so are the other ways in which the tide is shifting in advertising and in-store marketing. Fashion and luxury labels such as Bulgari and Lanvin are but two brands pulling away from the fountain of youth by featuring older models in current campaigns. Some say the shift in the fashion industry is a response to airbrushing and cosmetic surgery, but others argue what marketers across sectors are discovering on their own: an aging consumer base needs and responds to campaigns that inspire them by speaking to them.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like for marketers “growing up” requires gregariousness and gusto. None of us are getting any younger, which makes mature marketing not just the wave of the future, but the future itself.
The mature market is as substantial as it is, well, substantial; in 2008, the entirety of the Baby Boomer generation reached 50. Now, four years later, it’s safe to say that demographic has safely entered what marketers call mature. While marketing to this demographic used to be dominated by healthcare and pharmaceutical brands (and in some ways, it still is), it’s also now brimming with a different kind of life. One reason: we now have a longer life expectancy. Another: older consumers simply don’t view themselves in the same light as generations past. Today’s mature market is full of “cougars” and “silver foxes,” consumers who equate maturing with sexiness. That explains why cosmetic brands such as Estée Lauder, Lancôme and L’Oréal have tapped older models to sell their goods. But marketers outside beauty and fashion shouldn’t ignore the most obvious reason to target mature consumers: they have money, and often, they have more discretionary income than their younger counterparts. Of course, they also have wisdom on their side, so the campaigns that succeed target them on an emotional level. That may pose a challenge for younger advertising and marketing pros, but be assured: silver is the new gold.