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In RECOGNITION of the 65+’s

You don’t get to meet them very often in research groups. 18-34’s are almost always in the sample because it’s kind of the law you have to talk to Millennials. 35-50’s too, because that’s family and lifestage is still as big a divide as ever.

Then 50+ is post-family. The lost souls of the newly abandoned or the gay abandon of the newly free. Or more likely, the “do you think they’re ever going to leave?” or “yes, OK, I can have the kids after school again”.

But it’s only ever 50+15 max. 65 is invariably the cut-off.

Of course, there are arguments for and against this. Look at the value going through 65+’s in some categories and it seems strange indeed to keep leaving them out of the equation.

But equally it’s generally assumed that changing their behaviour is bound to be an uphill struggle. Like you have your 65th birthday and suddenly become the very kind of loyalist we’re told never really existed. People aren’t loyal, they’re just less disloyal than everyone else.

The thing is how do you know anything much about the over 65’s if you never actually speak to them? By sounding out your own parents or grandparents? By listening to Helen Mirren being interviewed on Graham Norton? By projecting forward from your own life point either optimistically or pessimistically?

So here are a few observations that may or may not seem obvious. It’s a small sample from recent projects, made up of respondents who were either right on the 65 cut-off or snuck through the net because the recruiter’s database was a bit out of date.

The first thing to say, and sorry about this, but some people over 65 can be quite annoying in groups. I mean, they’re lovely and charming and polite and all that, but THEY WILL NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION.

Often they set off on an answer and never quite make it back round to the question. That’s because of another thing, which is that some of them REALLY LIKE TO TALK. And once the floor is theirs, they are not going to give it up lightly.

There are other times when it’s as if they don’t really understand what you mean. I think it’s often because, to them, THE QUESTION IS PRETTY STUPID-SOUNDING and they can’t believe anyone could possibly want to know the answer to it. “So imagine everything you know and feel about this brand gets turned into a person and that person then walks into this room…”

Sometimes you even get the impression they feel the kind of concerns being discussed, in the general scheme of things, are not that important. This is particularly true around views on children. Most by 65 have seen a lot of children grow up, not just their own. So what you tend to get is a kind of SIMPLE COMMON SENSE around the subject. Most of the time children turn out OK, despite rather than because of their parents’ best efforts.

Then there’s the power thing. Some are fighting hard to RETAIN THEIR AUTHORITY. I spoke to a man in a group on car insurance who acted as a kind of broker for his children, directing all of them to the same company, the one he’d been with for 20 years. When I asked why, his answer was blunt: “Because I’m still the head of this family”.

Of course, new technology can be a daunting area, but it doesn’t mean they avoid it like the plague. Far from it. Facebook is great for staying in touch with the family. YouTube is free music. BBC iPlayer means they can watch what they want when they want where they want. After all those years of battles over the remote, THEY’RE BACK IN CONTROL.

And it’s true, the 65+’s do often head back towards the familiar. They may have been buying your brand on and off for many years. But as with everyone else, trust is hard won and easily lost. So beware thinking you have their loyalty for life, if you ever had it in the first place. DON’T TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED

In fact, that’s pretty much the whole thing. So if you do decide it’s worth including them in your research sample and they’re then patiently trying to explain, in their own time, why they do what they do, remember THEY WANT YOU TO LISTEN. Which is what research is all about anyway.

You could call it a need for Recognition. To be heard. To still count.

So if they matter to your brand, maybe they should matter to your research. Just make the groups a little bit longer.

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