Marketing bikes to older people

Few things instil more fear into a marketing department than a campaign targeting older people. The starting point is usually that the over 65s need to be spoken to and represented differently to other groups. Many books have been written on the subject. In planning meetings you’ll hear people arguing to:

  • Use younger people in the marketing because old people perceive themselves as looking younger than they are.
  • Use actors. They are easier to work with and will communicate all of the product features and benefits as instructed.
  • Get the actors to pretend they have the product. What’s more, it’s the best product they have ever beheld!
  • Don’t explicitly market the product to older people.
  • Make sure the actors dress like old people. Drop the bright colours, subdued browns and greys are the way forward.

In a desperate effort to avoid causing offence, portrayals of older people often fall into cliché.

In launching a new range of bikes for older riders, our Icons range, we faced a dilemma. Follow convention or do what feels right?

Dumping the rule book

The ethos at Islabikes has always been that as people change, bikes should change with them. During our research we found that few companies were even designing bikes for older riders and those that were seemed afraid to admit it. Marketing campaigns featured younger, athletic types, gliding effortlessly along or no people at all, like age is better hidden.

When we sat down to discuss our Icons marketing campaign there was one word on everyone’s lips – authenticity. We wanted to celebrate age for all the positives it affords. That meant:

  • recruiting ‘real’ people for the marketing campaign, not actors.
  • representing those people as they are. Unique individuals with a story to tell.
  • avoiding pretending they already own the new bikes (we only had a handful of bikes built at that stage).
  • them simply communicating an outlook on life that we thought our target audience would connect with.
  • including a mixture of cyclists and non-cyclists.
  • avoiding scripting anything. Just letting people tell us their story.

Hardly the textbook approach. Were we nervous? Oh yes, but we gave each other hugs of encouragement and got on with it.

It’s all about the people

We put a very short advert together asking for people, cyclists and non-cyclists, who might be interested in a fun couple of days being filmed and photographed, along with a bunch of strangers, in sunny North Wales (in November).

We didn’t expect much interest but within days we had more potential candidates than we knew what to do with. Each submitted a 30 second video for us to assess whether they would be comfortable enough under the scrutiny of cameras and we then met a short list of people to tell them more.

We settled on working with Barbara (early 60s), Pam (77) and Satwant (70). Three very different personalities who shattered every stereotype thrown at older people. Barbara, though not a frequent cyclist, was a passionate global traveller and foodie. Pam cycled over 300 miles a month and joined us on the shoot five weeks after a hip replacement (she insisted!). We discovered quiet and unassuming Satwant had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Etna and Everest base camp and started his own popular cycling group, since turning 60.

Islabikes Icons

A ride on the wild side

The shoot itself was based around the remote village of Penmachno, North Wales. We took over a bunkhouse for a couple of days and used a tiny church hall to film a video. We then photographed our riders in the dramatic landscape around Blaenau Ffestiniog, including a stunning disused slate quarry.

Weather-wise it was around freezing and overcast. Snow dusted the hills. As anyone who has ever attended a professional outdoor photo shoot will tell you, it requires patience. There is lighting and camera angles to set up. Lots of being told what to do by artistic types desperate to get the perfect shot. Despite these trials our participants never uttered a word of complaint, even after several hours of braving the elements. Perhaps the novelty of the occasion and the chance to ride the bikes in stunning scenery carried everyone through.

Lust for life

Two of us from the Islabikes marketing department attended the shoot and came back on a high. Despite being 20 – 30 years younger than our participants, our overwhelming hope was that we share Barbara, Pam and Satwant’s outlook on life when we are their age – and are still riding our bikes!

 

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