For decades, and pretty much from the outset of mass-marketing, brands and marketing agencies have steered clear of targeting grey consumers, unless they were promoting products specifically to this demographic.
Typically, they were seen as too cynical, set in their ways and unmoved by marketing so they were largely ignored. In more recent times this cohort has emerged as very important to all brands however. These individuals are living longer, are now more open to the new and have above average levels of disposable income.
So has marketing thinking changed?
In the fifth decade of life, our brains start to undergo a radical ‘rewiring’ which results in diverse neural networks becoming better connected and integrated, resulting in changing cognition and perception.
A recent scientific study suggests that these network changes result from the brain reorganising itself to focus on real-time activity rather than broader learning and experience gathering.
The research, conducted by a team at Monash University in Australia and published in Psychophysiology Magazine, summarised how the connectivity of the human brain changes over our lifetime.
The team interrogated over 144 studies which used imaging techniques to probe the brains of tens of thousands of subjects. From this analysis, the researchers mapped how the networked brain changes over our lifetimes.
Early on, in our teenage and young adult years, the brain appears to have numerous, partitioned networks with high levels of inner connectivity, reflecting the ability for specialised processing to occur. That makes sense, as this is the time when we are learning how to play sports, speak languages, and develop talents.
Around our mid-40s, however, that starts to change. Instead, the brain starts to become less connected within those separate networks and more connected globally across networks. By the time we reach our 80s, the brain tends to be less regionally specialised and instead broadly connected and integrated.
This ‘rewiring’ has tangible effects on cognition and perception.
These function changes first manifest in adults in their fifth decade of life, consistent with the findings of the systematic review that functional network connectivity changes reach their inflection point in the fourth and fifth decade.
They concluded that older adults tend to show less flexible thinking, such as forming new concepts and abstract thinking, lower response inhibition, as well as lower verbal and numeric reasoning and therefore require a fact-based and personalised strategy from brands in respect of their marketing communications.
So their findings reinforced what marketing strategists had suspected for many years and supported the need for more direct and pragmatic marketing messages to this demographic, reinforced with credible and factual data where appropriate.
And we can put these learnings to good effect by carefully shaping a spectrum of marketing messages rather than taking a ‘one size fits all approach.’ And this is where big data and social media sentiment analysis can be so valuable in understanding nuances for example, rather than relying on ‘big bang’ communication ideas.
But data has to be treated with care when creating strategies for this audience as far too often analysis results in black and white polarisation of outputs rather than what is needed in this instance which is a spectrum of responses.
By doing so, fuzzy logic can win with this worldly-wise and life experienced audience who seek precise and validated messaging, personalised as much as is possible to them.
If you’d like to chat about how I’ve helped clients promote their brands to grey consumers, click here.