Can marketing practice keep up with Europe's ageing population?
Thompson, Nicholas J.
Thompson, Keith E.
Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to draw the attention of managers and academics to the extent of demographic changes now occurring in the European Union, specifically the ongoing change from a young consumer base to one in which most adult consumers are aged over 50. It seeks to explain the nature of the challenge and highlight the need for further research. Design/methodology/approach - Both academic and practitioner sources are synthesised in order to identify and describe the issues, and explore the actions that could be taken to adapt to and profit from the changing demographic environment. Findings - Current marketing practice evolved against the background of the post-war baby boom, a demographic aberration which resulted in an exceptional era during which consumer markets were dominated by youth, and marketing practice by advertising and other promotional activity. The paper also argues that the subsequent ageing of the consumer base will require businesses to place more emphasis on the customer-centric model of marketing generally espoused by management scientists. Practical implications - The paper identifies a major shift in the demographic base of consumer markets, outlines the implications for marketing practice and proposes ways in which businesses can adapt. Originality/value - The overwhelming majority of discussion on, and research into, the phenomenon of population ageing and its impact on markets originates from the USA, despite the fact that Europe faces a far greater challenge. The paper alerts both academics and practitioners to the nature and scale of the demographic change occurring in the European Union, discusses appropriate corporate responses and calls for further research into the neglected area of older consumers.