Strategic Marketing to Boomers and Seniors

“It is a young mind, in an aging body,
with a maturing wallet.”

That is how Robin Wight, Chair of London-based advertising firm WCRS, describes the 55+ market. While a dementia friendly focus is imperative, marketing to older adults no matter what their cognitive state, requires a different focus and awareness.

Consider that most marketing functions in health care consist of Gen X and Millenials and you can readily see some of the barriers in understanding and communicating with an older audience, let alone an audience that includes people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s and their frazzled family caregivers.

Marketing theory is intrinsically age neutral but application of marketing is instinctively youth-centric.

We have proven thought leadership and a passion and mission devoted to boomers and seniors. Anthony Cirillo is the expert guide for Senior Care at about.com. He is also a monthly contributor to the Charlotte Today program on aging and caregiving issues.

Baby boomers are an elusive group with diverse interests. They are living healthier and longer. That means they may not need your services right now. Yet you need to form a bond with them so that when they need health care they have brand loyalty to you.

Are You Ready to Market to an Older Consumer?

 Here are some obvious but strategic questions to ask when marketing to an older population.

  • How is the age composition of our markets changing?
  • What effects does this have on our marketing strategy?
  • What is the target age range of our customers? How has it changed in the last five years and how will it change in the next five?
  • What research and assumptions are used to reach these decisions?
  • How is our media spend allocated over the age profile of the market? Will this change?
  • What is the basis for deciding how we apportion the spend?
  • What account is taken of the needs of people 50+ in our new product and service development?
  • To what extent do we research the needs of older consumers?
  • Is our marketing age neutral?

Age Neutral

To gauge whether your marketing is age neutral take this test. Answer yes or no to the following.

  • With regard to the consumer’s age, is the marketing strategy and its implementation unbiased, dispassionate and based on facts only, not assumptions?
  • Is the application of the marketing strategy regularly reviewed to ensure that it remains age neutral?
  • We assume that the consumers’ behavior is age neutral unless there is convincing evidence to the contrary.
  • We make no decisions based on assumptions about the effects of aging on consumers’ reactions to new brands technology, change and new experiences.
  • We have plans to exploit the changes to consumer markets created by changes in population age and economic structure.
  • We account for the differences in the behavior of older people on the basis of their nationality and ethnic origin.
  • We apply an age-neutral approach to all areas of marketing, not just communications.
  • We are aware of the physiological effects of aging and incorporate them into all aspects of our marketing.
  • Our intention is to make age-neutrality part of our marketing strategy.
  • Unless we have compelling research evidence, we do not use the chronological age of consumers to segment our market.

Age Prejudices

In a Caring.com article entitled, “5 Common Misconceptions About Aging”, Anthony Cirillo writes about some of the common age biases many associate with older people. Typical stereotypes are that seniors are “slow” or have poor memory, for example. In addition, Princeton University professors have uncovered prescriptive prejudice, which are beliefs about how older adults should act. They found three key ideas:

  • Succession, the idea that older adults should move aside from high-paying jobs and prominent social roles to make way for younger people
  • Identity, the idea that older people should not attempt to act younger than they are
  • Consumption, the idea that seniors should not consume so many scarce resources, such as healthcare

How one perceives older people impacts how you care for them. And how you care impacts the experience. And the experience impacts word of mouth. And that impacts revenue and referrals.

Don’t Assume

When marketing to the mature market, don’t make assumptions about their desire to change brands, adopt technology, accept change or seek new experiences. All bets are off.

Don’t use age-related segmentation of chronological age, life stage, generation unless proven by specific market or product research.

Age is an attitude and lifestyle is the manifestation of that attitude. That is what you market to in an older population.

But Be Realistic

While people may have the attitude and lifestyle younger than what is associated with their chronological age, here are certain physical realities that have to be addressed such as vision and hearing loss and problems with dexterity. Do take account of age-related deterioration and health issues. These impact the delivery and presentation of your marketing messages.

A marketing  audit that assesses culture, messaging and deliverables can go a long way in refocusing your marketing to effectively reach older adults.

Resource: Case Studies in Niche Marketing – purchase this book and read the chapter on marketing to boomers or email us and we will send you the chapter!

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