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Golden oldies reframed

Old couple on beach

The world is getting older. Not just the planet, but the people.

In a nutshell

  1. Over 65’s Kiwis went from being seen as healthy, wealthy and fun-loving to be seen as the the most vulnerable to COVID-19
  2. They rapidly became people for whom society had to make sacrifices and marketers may have started to shift their messaging.
  3. In reality they have been far less negatively impacted by COVID-19 than other groups.
  4. They are excited for the recovery and keen to get their active lives back.
  5. They still have money to spend and want to support the New Zealand recovery, so tempt them with good ways to have fun.

Specifically, in economically developed countries, there are a growing number of older people. In New Zealand, where we have a relatively young profile, 15%  of the population is over 65. They have a name, various names in fact – boomers, silver surfers, plus a few less flattering like ageing hippies and senile delinquents.

Golden years

At TRA we track 12 cultural currents, one of which we label Golden Age. Named because, in economically developed countries, this group are healthier, wealthier and have acquired a life style beyond economic activity and child rearing, which, by comparison, fully occupied their parents, leaving no time for purely hedonistic pursuits. The Golden Agers have hobbies – golf, tennis, sailing, cycling, wine – and  they have acquired a taste for travel, food and a myriad of entertainments. 

The signals we detect from global products and services are very clear. This is an audience that has time to play and time in which to pay attention, coupled with the money to demand that companies meet their needs. Hearing aids that are not ugly, communications showing active lifestyles, travel tailored to a mix of luxury and authentic experiences. 

Society had surrendered the image of older people in slippers, living sedentary lives and instead, while the boomers were picking up some criticism for having wrung the best out of life, leaving slim pickings for younger generations, for the most part, onlookers either tutted or looked on enviously as the oldies had fun.

From Boomers to Busted

Then COVID-19 turned boomers into vulnerable people, associated with sickness and death. They became people for whom society had to make sacrifices. They were told to stay at home while neighbours delivered groceries. The government gave extra heating allowances to keep then warm. The golden agers were reframed as susceptible and without agency.

A rapid and extreme reframing is not without consequences – is this how marketers will view this group going forward? Let’s hope not, because the reframe is an external cultural shift, whereas those over 65 still feel like 30 year olds and the data shows they have been far less negatively impacted by COVID-19 than other groups.

Our data shows that compared to a nationally representative sample, people over 65 have had far fewer times of feeling downhearted (52% reporting ‘none of the time vs 34% for all ages) and 70% claim to have had a lot of energy over the lockdown. The overarching feeling for two thirds of this age group is calm and peaceful (two thirds saying this is how they have felt all or most of the time.).

Of course this group are less likely to have been financially impacted by job losses – 7 in 10 tell us they have experienced small financial impact and are not expecting that to change. So, not surprisingly, many are living for today – 60% compared to under 50% of all ages. That means they are revved up for the recovery and keen to get their active lives back on track. To capture a share of their attention and spend, companies will need to show they are have not adopted the reframe and peel that back to show they see the gold beneath.

Implications for brands

  1. Don’t get sucked into a reframed view of older audiences – they don’t see themselves that way.
  2. Talk to the joy of living for today – they are itching to get on with it.
  3. They still have money to spend and want to support the New Zealand recovery, so tempt them with good ways to have fun.
  4. Acknowledge that you see them – that you get them and you want their business. 

It's never been more important to make information-based decisions. Because although the country is in lockdown, organisations still have to make choices that will guide their actions and determine the success of what they do.

So, in this series, we’re sharing what TRA knows about New Zealanders to help inform better decision making, so that our companies can better serve people. 

Read the other articles in this series:

Kiwis or New Zealanders?
When progress is on pause, how should organisations behave?
A nation of independently minded rule-benders
When visions of a new life add uncertainty
What do Kiwis want brands to get behind?
Sex Matters.
Focus on people, not the flag
Five insights on revenge shopping in New Zealand
The inbetweeners are taking it hard
Bubble: A light word carrying a world of meaning

Bursting bubbles: speaking to Kiwis during Level 2
Make it your new normal

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA

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