Five shared Misconceptions About Marketing to Seniors
With all the possible target markets out there, why would anyone want to market to seniors, anyway?
Thought of by some as a “lost cause,” they are labeled as too old, too disabled, too oblivious or too frugal. While those monikers may apply in some situations, it is astonishing how wrong those perceptions are when you examine the reality of today’s buying public despite a sour economy, a real estate crisis and unemployment at its worst level in decades.
Suddenly, seniors are looking mighty alluring to some, if not all, marketers because of a few major facts:
Misconception #1: Senior citizens are in the minority
Fact: 76 million baby boomers in the United States are now turning 65, a fact which is putting senior citizens in the majority. According to a Feb 6, 2011 New York Times article on the business of aging, these new senior citizens are different from past generations, anticipating a life expectancy that is longer than in the past – a period of at the minimum another twenty years. Worldwide, the part of the population 65 and older will more than double, from 523 million to 1.5 billion by the year 2050, according to estimates from the United Nations. The US Census Bureau reports that there are more females than males nationwide with the Northeast in the rule for that distinction, in addition as for having the largest percentage of people in the age group 65 and over. Although more people will be postponing their retirement in the interest of maintaining a sustainable income, those who choose to retire will have lots of time on their hands for which the only salvation is to keep busy. And extrapolating truth from reality, keeping busy method that senior citizens will comprise one of the country’s largest markets, too expansive to ignore and certainly too obtainable to dismiss.
Misconception #2: Senior citizens are too old, technologically challenged and computer phobic
Fact: With “senior citizen” defined as someone who has reached old age, (however, to the entertainment of this writer, nevertheless described as “ancient” in some dictionaries), the bulk of baby boomers will be a comparatively young group (age 65-74) until the year 2034. That’s a good twenty years of time in which marketers can assistance. Baby boomers are not some wall flowers intimidated by the prospect of stepping out to dance. Indeed, these are our gadget-savvy, forward-thinking, mature and experienced, movers and shakers who have been big participants in, if not initiators of, today’s technologically progressive style of life for most of their existence. Hardly inclined to dropping out of society, these are connected individuals aware of the ramifications of social media and Google rankings, alternately engaged and irritated by the entourage of political missteps and world events, and influenced by the fallout from job loss and home foreclosure. These are acutely aware consumers of the most great stature.
Misconception #3: Senior citizens are too “cheap” to use any money
Fact: Seniors are today’s biggest spenders. According to estimates based on a consumer expenditure survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009 about $2.6 trillion was spent by baby boomer households in the United States. That’s up 45% year over year as measured by a Gallup poll cited in a June 10, 2010 New York Times article by Catherine Rampell, entitled “Who’s Spending Again? The high and the Old.”
While it is true that seniors tend to be more conservative in their tastes and frugal in their choices, it is also true that their habits of spending are greatly affected by the wants and needs of those important to them: their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. If, for example, the son of a senior citizen has lost his job and can no longer sustain his family to the level of comfort they once enjoyed, far be it from grandma to watch them suffer. Many older Americans have welcomed the younger generations back into their homes and are now spending liberally to keep them fat and happy, so to speak.
But there is another reason why seniors have relaxed the tight reins on their often additional-large nest eggs. Recent stock market gains have a psychological impact on the mindset of retired people with investments, already if those investments are bond- or annuity-based, leading them to the conclusion that they are wealthier. Add this feeling to the rationale that seniors may feel that life is too short and now is the time to splurge before it is too late. Bolstered by years of moderately successful finances now enhanced by the tenuous fruits of social security benefits, some of these seniors enjoy meaningful method and plan to experience life’s luxuries before time runs out.
What does that average? It method vacations, cruises, luxury vehicles, and home entertainment purchases. It method shopping for apparel, jewelry and gifts for the kids. It method spending on hair and nails and plastic surgery and a new smile. It method dining out and going out for an evening of pleasure. All on a regular basis. Once they get started, it’s hard to stop.
Misconception #4: Senior citizens have no brand loyalty
Fact: Seniors demonstrate brand loyalty much more than members of today’s younger generations who tend to be fickle, flitting from one thing to another at the drop of a hat. While fads, trends, and social influences lure youth from one product to the next, seniors are considered more valuable as customers, according to a September 26, 2007 New York Times article by Matt Richtel on “Sticky Old People.” A senior will take time to estimate a decision carefully and will stick with that commitment longer as a general rule.
Although seniors have a lifetime of experience to draw from, a wealth of knowledge about a whole range of topics, and valuable skills representing a variety of careers, such wisdom is viewed with some reservation in today’s rapidly changing world. First, old age tends to bring on forgetfulness and memory loss. Second, when it comes to availability of knowledge, Google provides answers to everything and anything in a matter of milliseconds, hardly a level playing field for a senior citizen (or anyone for that matter), in spite of of how smart or achieved they may be. Finally, the skills seniors have mastered tend to be for things we no longer need or use, like yesterday’s engines or out of use entertainment hardware, for example, now replaced by wireless computer technology of the most progressive level. already if seniors have kept up with every technological development by the years, their motivation for keeping abreast of such changes once retired lessens greatly, as does their capacity for retention. A younger person has the edge here.
Misconception #5: Senior citizens won’t buy anything unless there is a discount
Fact: If there is one thing which seniors totally rule, it is the healthcare market, discount or no discount. No one purchases more health-related products than senior citizens, making them easily the most valuable market for businesses in that industry, bar none. Old age, by character, brings on difficulties with balance, dexterity, autonomy and mobility, in addition as sensory maintenance and retention. Some of these conditions encourage social withdrawal. The industries that cater to protecting seniors from physical and psychological decline can only expect to reap the rewards of their manufacturing and marketing acumen. however, it is apparent that the prospect of investing heavily into the development of products which can serve such purposes is conjuring up trepidation within companies poised to assistance. The reason for that is that the senior market is however unproven territory, having not shown that it will buy into new technologies which preserve health and well-being already if there is a dire need for it. Rather, companies like Ford Motor, which has a hands-free, similar parking system which eases the need to strain one’s neck (a shared pitfall of aging), coupled with blind-identify detection and a voice-activated audio system, take solace in their ability to market to a general-based market, not just targeting the mysterious seniors for product success.
During the writing of this article, I was coincidentally contacted by a local non-profit “Aging in Place” organization who claimed they needed a marketing plan to ease an increase in paid membership. Aging in Place is a concept used by national senior citizen groups to describe efforts to help older adults keep in their own homes for as long as possible, while receiving assistance from a variety of outside sets, if needed, to find solutions for any inconvenience or problem confronted. This could include help with medical, social, financial or nutritional needs, to name a few.
At the same time, many of the real estate development companies nationwide have embraced the idea that constructing senior-appropriate residential or retirement centers which incorporate new technologies to monitor the health and safety of its residents, in addition as on-site social, dining, entertainment, fitness and physical therapy areas, are a safe bet for senior marketing.
Certainly either scenario makes sense as long as all marketers address the age-old question: what is the best way to reach senior citizens? Or, is the question instead, how to reach the adult children of senior citizens? While the choices keep the same as when trying to reach the total market, all of which are expensive when an unknown response rate is always possible, there are ways to target seniors with some intuitive reasoning. Think old-fashioned if you want an older demographic; think creatively to reach the newly inducted “younger” baby boomer senior or his adult children. Among a whole range of strategies, old-fashioned method advertising in the daily newspaper; on conservative talk radio programs; or sponsorship marketing and live presentations with handouts at senior fairs and events at community or religious centers. Creative marketing may average using the Internet to reach the more tech-savvy senior by an email campaign; or sponsored ads to join appropriate Google searches, to barely touch the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. Probably the safest route to any age senior is by his postal address, lists of which can be purchased by age selection plus a gamut of other parameters which may be appropriate.
And as with any marketing, one effort may not be enough. A diversified approach in addition as multiple attempts are usually what spell a more successful outcome, being vigilant to measure response throughout every step of the time of action. But keep one thing in mind. Seniors have become victims of scams more often than we care to let in. While some may nevertheless be helplessly unprotected, others have become already more cautious, distrustful of every marketing offer they encounter!