New Report Reveals Australia’s Marketing Blind Spot: The Over 50s

WPP AUNZ research shows the Ageless & Booming audience needs more from brands


Australians over the age of 50 have the highest levels of wealth and disposable income, outspend millennials in entertainment, auto, health, travel and almost every other category – but are largely ignored by brands, according to new research.


The WPP AUNZ report called Secrets & Lies – Ageless and Booming – also reveals that a whopping 94% of the over 50s dislike the way organisations and marketers communicate with them.



Rose Herceg, Chief Strategy Officer and Futurist with WPP AUNZ said the new study shows Australians aged 50+ are clearly booming in number, and lifestyle, and embracing life with ambition, purpose, and money in their pockets.  But this ‘ageless’ outlook by the over 50s is poorly understood by marketers who often misfire with the demographic.


“More than a quarter of all Australians are over 50, they have 46% of our disposable income, and 50% of our private wealth and yet it’s almost impossible to find organisations and brands that understand this high value audience,” she said.  “This is all the more startling when you consider the unrivalled opportunity that lies in their enormous purchasing power.


“It appears that marketing has an ageing blind spot – and as a result, many may be missing out on a significant new target.  As an industry, we need to deconstruct every outdated idea about people over 50.  We need to realise that they’re connected, they’re calling their own shots and they don’t like being labelled.  To ignore them is folly - and misrepresenting them with bland imagery or assuming they are winding their lives down risks rejection.  That could be a very expensive communications mistake to make in what is a highly challenging, and ever-changing marketplace.”


Herceg said that contrary to popular belief, the over 50s are not slowing down, disconnecting or opting out.  Instead the new Ageless & Booming report shows:


  • The over 50s spend about $40 billion more than millennials and Generation X each year on consumer goods purchased online
  • They spend an average of 27 hours online each week; two hours longer than Millennials and Generation X
  • 77% regularly research and buy products online
  • They also purchase a huge 64% of all cars, 55% of all travel, 50% of all alcohol and more than half of new clothing, household items and furnishings


Herceg said that despite this incredible purchasing power, as an industry, less than 5% of the briefs received from marketers specifically target the over 50s.  


“It appears that most brands and marketers fail to understand that the over 50s audience is a new kind of mass consumer, just as interested in ‘new’ as everyone else.  So instead of continuing to ignore them, we need to get smarter and start targeting them with the vibrant and optimistic messaging that reflects their outlook on life.  We need to engage them with the rigour and vigour they deserve.”


The new research also shows that despite what many may assume, the over 50s are not blindly loyal, with 89% of the over 50s open to trying new brands, while a further 79% having moved on from brands that are no longer fulfilling or meaningful:  “Change is in the generational DNA of the over 50s,” Herceg explained.  “We know they’ll happily move on from products or services that no longer meet their needs, and they are happy to forge new relationships with brands and people.”


To help brands forge these relationships and better connect with the over 50s, WPP AUNZ has identified a six-point action plan for marketers which includes the following recommendations for marketers:


  • Get forensic and make sure you understand the data around this powerful demographic; their consumer behaviour, purchasing habits and intentions.  There’s a significant new market to explore
  • Invent new ways, new models, new products and new brand positions to connect with this audience
  • Ensure you are reflecting the vibrancy and optimism of the over 50s; they’re gearing up, not down
  • Recognise the change, and evaluate what role your brand or organisation can play for an audience that’s changing their lives
  • Differentiate between 50 and 80.  The over 50s are not a homogenous group.  Investigate their various sub-segments and target them accordingly.
  • Model diversity.  Ensure your organisation values the skills, expertise and voices of the over 50s


As a result of the research and the recommended action plan, WPP AUNZ itself is currently evaluating how it can better market to the demographic, and is also investigating ways it can represent age diversity better within the organisation.


Herceg concluded: “Those of us in the marketing industry have so far failed to fully appreciate and embrace this audience.  But there’s still plenty of time.  We are urging a rethink across the industry.  After all, those organisations and brands that accurately relate to, and connect with, this audience will win their attention and gain a bigger share of wallet in an otherwise shrinking Australian market.”


Ageless & Booming is the third and latest research report in a series called Secrets & Lies, which analyses the difference between what Australians say and what they think or do. The public values reported.  The private truths hidden. Commissioned by leading creative transformation company WPP AUNZ, it offers valuable insight into personal behaviour.

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