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How to engage the new 40s and 50s

If people in their 40s and 50s have changed so much, how can we understand them in terms of media and advertising, particularly if they are so diverse?

The answer lies in Smooth’s research, which looks at people as ‘brands’ and puts them into six metaphysical categories.

According to Qualiprojects’ Whittaker, younger people are more keen to express a strong image of themselves, as opposed to a strong and established identity.

Establishing and communicating an identity is more personal, refined, and is how people in their 40s and 50s can be seen to behave.

From people who behave, and possibly see themselves, as having a global outlook (they thrive on diversity) or an eBrand (they spend lots of time online), here are some ideas about who they are and, importantly, how advertisers and brands might appeal to them.

Private Labels (inspired)

Private Labels are fairly private people. They have social lives and hobbies, but are less interested in meeting new people because of them – hobbies and interests are, instead, ways to express themselves.

Private Labels innovate less than other brands – they are somewhat led by their past and often rekindle a childhood interest in later life when they are somehow reminded of it.

Men who live by their football team are an example of this. They do take up new activities, but this is generally driven by friends who ‘innovate’ more than they do. Friendships are longstanding. They imitate rather than innovate and are happy to keep to themselves.

Interests are often practical and fulfil a real need. They tend to be simple, innocent, loyal and pure in their friendships and social activities.

Private Labels may be less secure than others who just ‘get out there’, but they are actually not boring.

How to appeal to them

Use of nostalgia and retro gear to reignite childhood interests; messages around making ‘connecting’ easier; hobbies and activities requiring true dedication and commitment.


Service Brands (altruistic)

Service Brands are individuals who are mainly dedicated to their close families and are happy spending time on others rather than them­selves. They generally find a social life through their children or partner, but are rarely self-motivated in terms of finding something new solely for themselves to enjoy.

Children often introduce new and exciting interests in which Service Brands can be fully involved. They feel obliged to keep the family together and keep in touch with close friends and family, often using Facebook and Skype.  

Singles often throw their caring energies into causes or established communities and groups. Some of those classified as Service Brands are new, perhaps older, mothers who are happy to give up their social lives at this point because they have ‘been there and done that’; others within this bracket are mums with older children who had little sense of self when they entered marriage.

How to appeal to them

Family activities that would be of interest to everybody equally; messages of sharing and learning together.



Business Brands (motivated)

The most important thing to a Business Brand is what they do for a living. By their 40s they often work for themselves, either from home or an office.  

These brands feel that their work is their life; they enjoy and dedicate themselves to what they do, and gain experience in earlier life to work toward a related goal (be that work­ing independently or becoming a manager).

Those working for others can often lead themselves to believe that colleagues are true friends because they have shared interests – the job. However, this is not always the case, because friends are not always as passionate as they are about the friendship – or the job!  

How to appeal to them

Messages of self-development – positive thinking and fulfilling one’s ‘life purpose’; volunteering appeals if linked to self-betterment; excitement about money and individuality – reaching personal best.



eBrands (connected)

People classified as eBrands spend lots of time online. They are generally enhancing their hobbies and social interests through websites rather than face-to-face encounters – although that is not to say that face-to-face meetings never happen.  

eBrands love to research their favourite things online. For them, being on the computer is a hobby in itself. Music and film enthusiasts often become eBrands because the web is the best place to connect with others with the same passion.  

It is exciting for eBrands to meet like-minded people so easily online because in the real world it is rare to find those who have the same ‘understanding’ and outlook as they do.

eBrands may dream of becoming Organisational Brands, living their passions through a working website that will make them into millionaires, but for now they are happy just to stick with research and entertainment. ‘Comping’ is often the premise of the eBrand and enables them to feel connected to others through the prizes they are able to win and give away.

If they start a relationship, they may later become Service Brands, with less need for connecting via the web and more desire to live romantically.

How to appeal to them

Creativity with online messages; making them feel ‘in the know’; ideas around new websites to create themselves; being the first to know about developments in new technology.



Local Brands (good neighbours)

Local Brands tend to be active types with many different interests. Their interests are usually centred on the local area and they tend to know a lot of people, as well as keeping in touch with people from their past.  

Local Brands have different groups or types of friends from the different places they go. They may be active in the pub after work but also have friends from netball, reading club, rugby, rowing or the kid’s school.

Local Brands use local media to keep them­selves informed of what is going on, as well as trusty websites such as Google, and they usually know what courses are on offer in local colleges. Many volunteer as an additional hobby to feel a sense of fulfilment.  

Local Brands may sometimes differ from Private Labels in the way in which they ‘show off’ their hobbies, even if the hobbies themselves are the same. They may, for example, link ‘introverted’ hobbies such as knitting to external causes and other people: knitting to raise funds for a local animal home.

How to appeal to them

Messages around new local trends, fashions and activities; sense of belonging, optimism.



Global Brands (voyagers)

Trying new things makes Global Brands feel alive. Variety, diversity and stimulation are key. People who might be considered Global Brands always have their eyes open to new experiences and events that will teach them something new or enrich them culturally.  

Global Brands love diversity and usually believe that travel is about learning rather than simply having a good time. They are often fascinated by other cultures and the ability to interact or live with people on different continents thanks to changes in technology and the development of cheap international travel.  

Global Brands often enjoy having no ties and may well be more likely to be single – or, if not, they manage to retain a sense of independence in their relationship. Their state of mind keeps them positive and always able to spot new possibilities. They often have lots of friends from other countries with whom they are able to pick up where they left off each time they meet up.

New trends in the UK such as reiki, yoga, acupuncture and meditation are often spotted first by Global Brands, either in the UK or abroad.

These interest areas may be widely promoted and practised by Global Brands, who note the list of benefits for themselves and are then brilliant spokespeople and evangelists for those ideas, brands and interests.

How to appeal to them

Travel opportunities; stories about discovery and exciting lives; insights into other cultures, lifestyles and belief systems.


For more information about creative qualitative research, bespoke online research platforms and qualitative segmentation, contact Jeni Whittaker via email: jeni@qualiprojects.co.uk


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