Innovating for the Ageing Consumer

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Over the last few weeks we’ve made the case for why the age of the ageing consumer is upon us – a growing and wealthy generation with specific needs – represent a huge, but untapped opportunity for innovation and marketing. Equally we’ve pointed out that the nature of ageing is changing and we need to redefine our view of the older generation to understand this.

Whilst one doesn’t necessarily need to change one’s process because of who you’re innovating or marketing to, in this case it’s about adapting it because of who it is doing the innovating or marketing! In short, because many of us live in a culture where ageism is still rife and we lack an intuitive sense of the ageing consumer which often holds companies back from targeting them.

So for our final piece in this short series we want to offer some ‘tips’ on innovating for the ageing consumer – three approaches we’ve used as an innovation agency which we think are particularly relevant for Seniors:

See the world through their eyes

  • Most of us find it hard to imagine what it will be like to be old and even harder without some negative stereotype coming to mind. It’s hard to innovate effectively for someone you don’t understand or empathise with – so to get to grips with the world of senior consumers one needs to spend time with them and ‘walk a mile in their shoes’. Whether this is through planned ethnographic methodologies or more low key approaches (why not spend some time with an elderly relative or neighbor as they go about their day?) it will provide real insight into their lives.
  • For example, whilst spending time with senior female consumers during ethnographic observations we noticed how much more time they spent browsing whilst shopping – it was far more considered and less automatic than with younger consumers. This was a factor of having more time available but also a desire to really understand what was out there and whether it was right for them.

Work with experts to inspire innovation

  • It may be an apocryphal story, but it has been said that it wasn’t until Nike had a woman on their board that they woke up to the opportunity in sportswear for women. Given very few people in innovation or marketing are in their 50s or 60s, is it any wonder that we’re missing the obvious innovation opportunities around the ageing consumer.
  • Obviously it helps to be building on a real basis of insight into the ‘problems’ (whether functional or emotional) that seniors are struggling to solve. But one way to help your team create ideas that are appropriate and innovative is involve creative experts from the target age group. By working with these ‘creatives’ from complimentary or associated fields you tap into their intuitive understanding of the audience and creative flair. In our experience they will be inspired by the opportunity to focus their creative talents on their own lifestage, having spent their lives thinking about younger audiences.

Use co-creation to shape the ideas

  • As an agency we believe in the power of working with early adopters to build and develop ideas – the power of evolution. Older consumers are no different – indeed most are keener to engage and share their views – so get them involved in the process, working alongside your team to co-create and evolve your thinking, and everyone will benefit. They’ll shape concepts and ideas in ways you won’t have thought of and your team will deepen its understanding.
  • We saw this on a recent project when it became clear that a form of packaging we considered modern and premium was seen by older consumers as wasteful and difficult to open. In short it was putting them off the idea altogether. But by working with these Seniors to co-create the concept, we soon had the product into a pack that was not just easier, but presented an added benefit that the target were willing to pay a premium for.

By thinking more carefully about how to approach innovation for this audience – and perhaps using some of the approaches outlined above – you can create ideas that can really meet the needs of the ageing consumer. That means you win and the consumer wins – and that really is a recipe for success.


Brand Genetics

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