Age is just a number: How to adapt influencer marketing strategies for different generations

By Adam Williams, CEO of Takumi,

When it comes to influencer marketing, the temptation is to frame it within the context of millennials. After all, they are the largest generation in terms of population – now counting 1.8 billion people worldwide.

They are also the most likely to engage with influencers and generate conversions for brands. Our recent whitepaper research Trust, transactions and trend-setters: the realities of influencer marketing shows that 60% of 16-24-year olds credit influencers with purchases they made in the past six months, more than any other age group. This is also a trend on the rise, increasing 13% year-on-year from our survey in 2018.

However, to discount other generations in your influencer marketing strategy would be naïve.

According to Ofcom, the number of over 75s using social media almost doubled between 2016-2017. Meanwhile, a recent Nielsen report also found that Generation X (those aged 35-49) was revealed to spend almost 7 hours per week on social media, whilst Millennials spend just over 6 hours per week.

This increased usage and exposure among older demographics is translating into genuine purchases too.

In our survey, 17% of 55+ year olds in the UK and US said that social media advertising impacts their purchasing decisions – a sizeable proportion.

Further, millennials might be larger in number and more likely to buy as a result of influencer marketing, but they don’t have the most disposable income. Experian’s Spending Power Index, revealed 41-45 year olds are the highest absolute spenders of any age group in 2019, as they’re estimated to spend an average of £785.64 per week. This means that for brands and agencies, there is huge and largely untapped potential amongst older demographics.

So, how can they ensure their ad spend stretches as far as possible across multiple generations of consumer?

The future consumer

Although marketers should not actively encourage children to buy an advertised product in line with the CAP code, it’s worth understanding the behaviour of 5-15 year olds as a window into the future consumer.

This age group has grown up immersed in a digital world, and they are therefore comparatively more tech and media savvy compared with their predecessor generations. They are more online than ever, for example, often replacing traditional media outlets such as TV for their internet equivalents. 73% of 5-15 year olds use YouTube – making it the most frequented social media site for kids.

While some have ethical or moral concerns, it’s undeniable that there has also been a growth in the number of ‘kid influencers’. For example, Elle Lively McBroom and Everleigh Rose could be considered the modern day ‘child star’ equivalents of Macaulay Culkin. This may mean they might develop a fraught relationship with social media, and be more aware of the potential benefits and consequences of exposure to influencer marketing.

Young adults

The age group most likely to be persuaded by influencers to make a purchase is 16-24 year olds, 91% of whom in the UK and US credited advertisements on social media with influencing their purchasing habits. However, that doesn’t mean marketers can assume engagements and conversions are guaranteed.

This group is open to influencer content, which can make them a valuable target audience, provided their products are appropriately promoted with the correct labelling and responsible advertising. On the other hand, we have seen how this has sparked a backlash against Instagram, raising concerns over its impact on mental health.

Our research has shown how consumers are quick to unfollow influencers if they feel they have acted improperly. 67% of consumers in the UK and US would do so if they discovered incorrectly labelled post, rising to 73% if an influencer was found to be promoting unsustainable or unrealistic lifestyles or body images. This is driven by young generations becoming more aware than ever of the negative side effects of social media usage if irresponsibly consumed. This has led to the rise in popularity of emerging platforms such as TikTok among younger consumers.

Parents

Parents, and the age group between 39-50-year olds have similar priorities to the millennial generation in terms of ethical advertising.

Where they may differ is in their consumption patterns. For older generations, they may be more persuaded by functionality as they tend to look for services more than products. They principally care more about health, travel and entertainment as opposed to the latest car with flashy designs or stylish trends. For example, Experian’s Spending Power Index also revealed that 41-45s spend more on lifestyle and holidays than anyone else – even Millennials – perhaps because they start to focus more on improving quality of life over accumulating possessions.

Influencer marketing to this generation should focus on individuality and retaining their identity outside of parenthood. This group has a desire to choose products that feel authentic to them. While parenthood is a big part of the identity for many in this age group, they don’t necessarily like to see themselves as only mums or dads, but as ordinary people. Marketers should therefore use influencers who clearly understand the lifestyles and needs of older people and the pressures of parenthood, but without communicating this in a way that is patronising or solely focussed on their parental status.

Granfluencers

It’s an old cliché, but in the realm of influencer marketing 50 really can be the new 30. While almost three-quarters of influencers are believed to be under-35, there has been a notable rise in interest in so-called ‘granfluencers’ – or influencers above the age of 55.

According to emarketer, the 10 most popular senior influencers on Instagram saw a 24% increase in followers since September 2017.

Facebook’s affiliation with Instagram has helped to make it a more appealing platform to over 50s, and it’s clearly attracting more consumers and influencers from this generation. But it’s not just older consumers following older influencers – younger generations also appreciate the lack of airbrushing and authenticity in the posts from granfluencers.

This older age group can often feel ignored by brands or feel they are only targeted by those emphasising the downsides of being a certain age, so positive messaging about enjoying old age can be well-received. This is certainly a growing audience for marketers to target and a lucrative one too, with 68% of over-55 consumers buying something online every month according to Havas’s 2018 Meaningful Brands study.

Granfluencers are showing that the influencer marketing space is becoming increasingly age-fluid. While some useful generalisations for marketers can broadly be made about different age groups, it’s important to treat consumers individually. Above all however, transparency and trust is consistently considered a core value across all age groups, and must be a priority for marketers as this young industry continues to mature at such a fast pace.

Photo by Don Fontijn on Unsplash

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