Myths about mature markets
So let’s start with what we all should know. When marketers talk about Asia, they usually make the mistake of talking youth. It is true that countries like Indonesia, India and Vietnam have very large populations in which the great majority of people are young, but the real demographic story and opportunity in the region is the over-60 cohort. Four of the five oldest age profiles in the world are Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. One of the fastest aging societies is Thailand. By 2030, one-third of China’s GDP will be managed by the 400 million of its citizens older than 60. The fastest growing population segment in nearly all Asian countries is the 50-70s.
Toru Shibata, former president of Johnson & Johnson Consumer in Japan and now EVP of Cocokara Fine Inc., points out that marketing departments and their research partners across the region are remarkably under-equipped to come to grips with this aging dynamic. Shibtata-san observes, “The problem is that not enough people in marketing have ‘senior experience.’ Companies don’t have people in the right age bracket. And the marketing staff usually equates the ‘aged’ with their grandmother from 10 or 20 years ago, not the 60-70 year old of today. Research companies need to fill the gap.”
For many, it is a case of falling for the myths of aging: they don’t buy; they don’t swap brands; they don’t know how to use technology; they only care about saving – all myths. Look at sixtysomethings anywhere, and you will see a generation actively interested in travel, entertainment, food, fashion and cosmetics – and looking forward. Of course there are differences, but we have to take into account that today’s 60-70 year olds in Asia have gone through more change than any generation in history and embraced an amazing range of technologies and lifestyles. The experiences of Japan, China and Indonesia may have been different, but constant change and its acceptance was consistent.
With that have come new expectations about life. A few years ago, an insurance company suggested that any woman living in Tokyo who turned 60 today would live to be near 94. Across the region, the number of centenarians is growing dramatically. Asians are living much longer and embracing it.