When it comes to creating brands, marketers are usually obsessed with the youth, influenced by a strong numerical assessment of their business potential. As a result, categories become extremely crowded with a large number of international and domestic players vying hard to win the minds and thus the wallets of the fickle young customer. It is now time to consider the Senior Citizen as a vibrant customer segment worthy of customised brand creations given their ever-increasing purchasing power, change in attitude and enhanced life expectancy. For this we have to view this audience with a valid set of positive filters and stop considering them to be worthy only of diminished experiences or simply the long tail of a more relevant demographic set.
At the very outset, it is necessary to assess the potential of the Senior Citizen audience from a current and future perspective, in terms of purchasing power as well. The life expectancy of an urban Indian is 79 years today and the core target group will thus be defined as 60-80 years of age, the entry filter based on the popular corporate retirement age and not necessarily the end of monetizable activity. According to data from the Ministry of Statistics, in 2016 the number of people over 60 years of age rose by 35% from 2001 to 2011 and added up to almost 11 crore citizens, a figure that must have shot up further by now. In urban areas, this segment is enjoying the golden years of their potential as consumers, with strong post-retirement benefits and the rapid affluence of their own children. In terms of attitude and aspiration as well, the Senior Citizen is motivated to enjoy life to the fullest as depicted in cinema and all other secondary metrics.
When it comes to brands, however, except in defensive categories such as health care and insurance or as special privileges connected to age, they are compelled to avail of products and services designed for a far younger audience. A function of business at large consider them to be statistically insufficient and most importantly, falsely assess their potential from a morbidity perspective. When in actuality the entire population not yet 60 years of age is waiting in queue to join these ranks with somebody who is 55 needing five years while somebody who is 59 needing just a year, thus making it as robust as birth rate as a frame of reference. Also, this audience is not as unpredictable as the youth in terms of behaviour, thus making experience design across categories far more sustainable and predictable. Marketers do not have to rely on crystal-ball gazing or second-guessing the next scalable fad to make their expensive brand investments a success for this customer whose expectations are derived from long-standing proven buying behaviour.
It is possible for every category to create brands for the 60-80 aged customer based on the understanding that they are looking for positive exciting experiences that enhance their quality of living just like anybody else in any segment. In the world of premium fashion, a luxury brand inspired by the royalty can easily be crafted for the Senior Citizen, commanding a special premium while in the mass arena comfortable style can be the brief for a customised range. Both being crafted by developing an attitudinal insight that is weaved into the brand, in creation as well as communication. The same is true for watches, bags, shoes, jewellery and accessories where some inspired imagination and crafty thinking can lead to old-age brands with new-age values. Designers can be easily motivated to create valuable ranges based on a unique set of inspirations that come from the knowledge of this customer.
Hotels can create special floors for Senior Citizens with bespoke design while designer meals focussing on quality and not quantity can become a standard feature, just as tour groups can curate package holidays from this view. I can imagine a QSR restaurant brand positioned purely at this audience and more excitingly, a fine-dining exclusive restaurant where the old couple is the true superstar. Most certainly a chain of high-end holiday resorts can be aimed at this customer while universities can design higher-education courses both on and off campus to fuel their learning ambitions, which can have a vocational version for lesser requirements. Media channels can benefit with the launch of customised content while even home décor brands can create furniture linked to refined aesthetics.
In technology as well, the opportunities are seamless with custom-made mobile phones, tabs and laptops stylishly crafted for such audiences through a lens of refined yet stylish exclusivity. Car makers and bike manufacturers with a wide portfolio can position a brand appropriately while consumer electronics need not miss out on such an opportunity. In all of the above, the fundamental principle is to design experiences from a positive life-stage perspective relevant to their ambitions and not just basic needs. The mindset of Senior Citizen brands needing to cater to a diminished experience due to reduced physical abilities and indulgent desires must be replaced by the overdue recognition of a profitable and sustainable audience segment.
As a necessary start, we may wish to replace the Senior Citizen nomenclature by peak purchase potential segment to realign our thinking to their true potential. The function of a socio-demographic stature that witnesses a high form of expendable affluence due to sufficient liquidity, fulfilment of all familial obligations, an abundance of available time and a strengthening desire to fill every moment with meaningful experiences, the last a function of the marketing mechanism and popular culture influences. Truly valuable in this endeavour will be the real-life ambassadors of such programmes, iconic citizens over 60 who can motivate others to live to the fullest. Driven by the ambitions of an increasingly-youthful senior citizenry of India, peak purchase potential brands can easily become as successful as youth brands.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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