In 2004 seniors accounted for almost 35 per cent of all European personal care occasions, preening themselves nearly eight times more than teens, but despite this they remain an under-targeted group by an industry that continues to focus on younger groups, the Datamonitor report says.
"One of the major reasons this group has been neglected is that older consumers are far more difficult to market to," said Lawrence Gould, consumer analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report. "Seniors feel that fashion-focused advertising featuring the young is not relevant to them".
In answer to this Dove has gone some of the way to addressing this by using 'ordinary' women as part of its 'Campaign for Real Beauty' - indeed one of the women featured in the campaign was 92 years-old. However, as the populations of US and Europe continue to age, manufacturers will need to do more to tailor their products to seniors or risk missing out on the grey pound.
The single most important demographic trend in the personal care industry is the general ageing of the populations in the US and particularly in Europe, Datamonitor says. Seniors represented 35.6 per cent of the population in Europe in 2004 compared to 15.8 per cent in the US.
As well as being the largest demographic group in the EU, over 50s make up the most affluent consumer group in terms of income and wealth. Seniors are also by far the main consumers of prestige personal care products and as such their per-head usage is significantly larger than that of other lifestage groups.
However, marketers of personal care products have historically focused a very high proportion of their efforts on teenagers and young adults, often neglecting older consumers.
"Seniors wish to 'look good for their age'. They have no intention of falling prey to the effects of age on their appearance, and are prepared to pay a premium for products which will reap results," said Gould.
Some manufacturers have picked up on this. Lanctme, for example, specifically targets women over 55 years of age as they do not consider themselves to be old and take greater care of their appearance than previous generations.
There is also a lot of evidence showing that senior males are generally becoming more open to trying out new products and grooming practices, many of which would have been unthinkable a decade ago. "This is particularly the case with younger men who are less affected by their elder peers' traditional macho attitudes, but this is by no means exclusive to young men," commented Gould. "Senior male consumers are most likely to use products that are a part of a shaving regime, such as moisturisers specifically formulated to men."
Older consumers are also less likely to experiment with new product types because through experience they have clear preferences, expectations and needs. They are also often relatively set in their ways with long-established personal care routines which they will only modify if they see clear benefits from using new products. Because of this, advertising and marketing should be specifically tailored to their needs, making functional properties perfectly clear, the report recommends.
One of the biggest challenges for marketers is communicate to seniors who increasingly do not feel their chronological age. Datamonitor says that manufacturers should express a certain degree of sensitivity.
"Seniors do not want the fact that they are not 20-year-old models to be ignored, neither do they want to be viewed as old," said Gould. "Advertisers have to tread a fine line between making advertisements and marketing messages relevant to older consumers and avoiding treating them as old, since they generally do not consider themselves as such."