In 2011, Fauja Singh (aka the Turbaned Tornado), casually waved at adoring fans as he crossed the finish line at the Toronto Marathon. He was 100 years old.
Stories like these are, of course, exceptions, but it’s becoming more and more common to hear of people living long, fruitful lives, working well beyond conventional retirement age and achieving feats generally reserved for the younger generations.
While he wasn’t fortunate enough to see Singh at the recent Auckland Marathon, Cigna chief executive Lance Walker says there was no shortage of runners over 50 showing the young’uns a thing or two about hitting the tarmac.
“It is hugely inspirational,” Walker says. “There are a lot of misconceptions about the older market and events like these always remind me that we need to learn more about it.”
Learning about the 50-plus generation is, of course, a major reason why Cigna decided to acquire the GrownUps online publication earlier this year.
“We wanted to get to the point of understanding the needs of that market better,” Walker says.
“We had a look around, and we had dealt with GrownUps in the past, and they certainly seemed to be an organisation that understood the market well. So we talked to them and formed a partnership that focused on helping them grow while allowing us to engage more with this important segment.”
As a company selling life insurance, Cigna has a definite interest in understanding the 50-plus market, but Walker believes marketers and media decision makers stand to benefit by taking note of the older generation.
“A lot of media agencies and advertisers really focus on the core household market, and yet over half of the disposable income sits with people 50-plus,” he says.
“Something like a third of people over 65 are still working, which is a growing trend. We’re going to see people working into their late 70s and early 80s.”
New Zealanders are living longer healthier lives, and this is raising some serious question marks over the continued relevance of the 25-54 demographic that has until now been the major determinant in media spend.
Another interesting point is that those aged between 50-65 are the connective tissue between generations. With the one hand they’re helping their parents choose retirement homes and on the other they’re buying their children’s first cars.
“They’re influencers in their own right,” says Walker. “They’ve got kids and grandkids, so they’re influencing the market across a broader scope. To ignore that is to ignore a huge opportunity.”
By purchasing GrownUps, Cigna has been able to access in-depth insight and a greater understanding of the older generation. And because this knowledge continues to grow every year, Walker says he isn’t interested in interfering with the way the GrownUps team operates.
“You’re not going to see Cigna that prominent on the site,” he says. “We really want to keep GrownUps as a separate business and let it continue growing.”
Walker says another advantage of purchasing GrownUps lies in the content marketing skills the team has developed over the years.
“This is another interesting learning opportunity,” Walker says. “The whole content marketing trend is important, offering the ability to engage in a relevant way with readers and subscribers, and they do a really good job of developing a wide suite of material.”
This added skill set in the content space when combined with GrownUps insight and knowledge makes it a valuable tool in Cigna’s marketing arsenal. And while these aspects may not be the sexiest side of the industry, Walker is banking on them delivering results—which, after all, is what marketing is all about.