Under 25 and Over 54: The Power of Demographic Outliers

June 21, 2011

Nielsen’s Joe Stagaman and Pat McDonough presented findings at Consumer 360 on the opportunities that exist for marketers looking beyond traditional “sweet-spot” demographics. In fact, marketers who are only focusing on the traditional 25-54 age demographic are missing about 58 percent of the U.S. population totaling 180 million people, overlooking growth opportunities as baby boomers age and those under 25 wield increasing influence over household spending.

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“A general understanding of those aged under 25 and over 54 is lacking,” said McDonough. “Many of the long-held beliefs about these groups’ purchasing and media habits are just plain wrong.”

The over-55 age group is important not only because of their growth rate, but also because their value as consumers and their relevance as media users.

“The misconception is that spending drops for people in this age group, and that they’re set in their ways,” added Stagaman. “But those in the 55+ age group are just as likely to switch brands as those aged 25-54, and the two groups’ buying rates almost match.”

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The 55+ age group logs the most hours watching TV per day (6.5 hours), and also spends 85 minutes per day online—15 more minutes than those in the 12-24 age group. And in both groups, 75 percent are online and watching TV simultaneously, which can double ad recall.

Marketers tend to underestimate the value of those under 25 as well. “This age group is extremely important as a point of entry for products and brands,” said Stagaman. Capturing the culture and attitudes of those in this group allows manufacturers and retailers to establish and build their brands with these consumers as they age.

In order to speak to the under 25 age group effectively, marketers must keep in mind that the young consumer population grows more ethnically diverse every day. By January 2012, almost half of the under 25 market will be multicultural.

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The key opportunity with young consumers falls around the fact that they hold significant sway over household purchases, including food, clothing, movie tickets and fast food. Often they’re considered the default family experts on major household electronic purchases. In fact, when purchasing tablets (88%) and smartphones (72%), the great majority of families rely on the influence of younger consumers when selecting a brand.

Those under 25 and over 54 need to be an integral part of the marketing mix, not only because of their growth rates, but because of their value as consumers and relevance as media users. Taking a closer look reveals incredible opportunities. “Overall, we need to adjust our marketing mix as we understand who we are truly reaching,” says McDonough, “…and more importantly who we’re missing.”


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