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Ageless marketing: disregarding senior stereotypes

In my last article about the rising popularity of river cruising, I identified the 50-plus demographic as one of the key factors behind the industry’s exponential growth, writes David Winterton, brand manager at Emerald Waterways. 

As a product of the ‘swinging 60s’ and the 70s, this liberated generation played a crucial role in societal change and experimentation. Today, they are looking to rekindle that sense of freedom through life-enriching travel experiences.

When marketing river cruise holidays to the ‘greying’ audience, brands need to ensure their product, advertising and promotional collateral appeals to their guests’ aspirations. Yet, despite everything we know about senior holidaymakers, the travel industry can be guilty of underestimating their wants, needs and desires.

Promote value not discounts

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about big savings. Value for money is far more influential in the decision making process. Free drinks, bonus nights, upgraded travel, enhanced experiences – these are the things that affect choices, not outdated ‘BEST EVER SAVINGS’ messages, which can also devalue product integrity.

It’s far more about what you get for your money, not just how much you can save. In an increasingly tech savvy world, people are accustomed to better deals and instant access to exclusive online sales. They can find a low-priced river cruise if they want to, but they can’t always find one that offers a balance of inclusions, experiences and value.

Know your audience

While stereotypes in marketing have been shown to influence consumer perceptions, emotions and behaviour, when we look in the mirror we all see the same thing: an individual.

The senior stereotype, in particular, is fraught with limitations that misrepresent an age group who lived through the birth of rock and roll, pioneered the rise of feminism and saw the introduction of the pill. With a lot of free time and a disposable income, it’s pivotal that we appeal to their sense of adventure and worldly curiosity through aspirational, ambitious and passionate imagery. Most importantly, they don’t see themselves as old – so selling your product through age-based marketing can prove detrimental.

Sell the experience

In Clia’s UK River Cruise Market 2014 report, a multiple choice survey titled ‘What are the three principle reasons for choosing your last cruise?’ revealed ‘Itinerary/Destination’ as the top pick, with 65% of the vote. We can use this information to our advantage and promote river cruise holidays as voyages of discovery. Too many times do we fall into the trap of portraying a relaxing couples’ retreat, when in fact what they really want is an exciting adventure with a little luxury at arm’s length. They may be retired but that doesn’t mean they’re looking for eight days of tranquillity in an arm chair with a cup of tea.

The allure of travel is an ageless commodity that appeals to all of us. Some travel because they want to get away from it all; river cruisers travel because they want to experience new countries and cultures. The years won’t hold them back, but your marketing might.

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