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Five Common Misconceptions About Marketing to Seniors
With all the possible target markets, why would anyone want to market to the elderly?
Some consider them a “lost cause” but label them as too old, too disabled, too ignorant or too modest. While these nicknames may apply in some cases, it’s surprising how wrong these perceptions are when you examine the reality of today’s buying public despite a bad economy, real estate crisis and unemployment at its worst levels in decades.
Suddenly, seniors look very attractive to some, if not all, marketers because of a few important facts:
Error no. 1: Senior citizens are in the minority
Fact: 76 million baby boomers in the United States have now turned 65, making senior citizens the majority. As of February 6, 2011 The New York Times article on the business of aging these new senior citizens differ from previous generations in that they expect to live longer than in the past – a period of at least another twenty years. According to United Nations estimates, worldwide the over-65 population segment will more than double by 2050, from 523 million to 1.5 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are more women than men nationwide, with the Northeast leading the way for that difference, as well as the highest percentage of people in the 65-and-over age group. Although more and more people will delay their retirement in the interest of maintaining a sustainable income, those who do decide to retire will have a lot of time for which the only solution is to stay employed. Extrapolating truth from reality, staying employed means senior citizens will make up one of the largest markets in the country, too large to ignore and certainly too available to refuse.
Misconception no. 2: Senior citizens are too old, technologically demanding and computer phobic
Fact: Given that a “senior citizen” is defined as someone who has lived to a ripe old age (but, to the amusement of this writer, is still described as “ancient” in some dictionaries), most baby boomers will be a relatively young group (age 65 – 74) until 2034. That’s a good twenty years of time in which marketers can benefit. Baby boomers are not wallflowers who are intimidated by the prospect of going out dancing. Indeed, they are our accessories, advanced, mature, and experienced actors who have been major participants, if not initiators, of today’s technologically advanced lifestyles for most of their existence. Difficult to drop out of society are connected individuals, aware of the ramifications of social media and Google rankings, alternately engaged and irritated by followers of political wrongdoing and world events, and affected by the consequences of job loss and home foreclosure. These are very conscious consumers of the most powerful physique.
Error no. 3: Senior citizens are too “cheap” to spend money
Fact: The elderly are today’s biggest spenders. Baby boomer households in the United States spent about $2.6 trillion in 2009, according to estimates based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. That’s up 45% from a year earlier, as measured by a Gallup poll reported on June 10, 2010. The New York Times article by Catherine Rampell titled “Who’s Spending Again? The Rich and Old.”
While it’s true that seniors tend to be more conservative in their tastes and thrifty in their choices, it’s also true that their spending habits are heavily influenced by the wants and needs of those they care about: their children, grandchildren, and parents. grandchildren. For example, if the son of a senior citizen has lost his job and can no longer support his family at the level of comfort they once enjoyed, far from grandma watching them suffer. Many older Americans have welcomed the younger generations back into their homes and are now spending lavishly to keep themselves fat and happy, so to speak.
But there’s another reason why seniors have loosened the tight reins on their often extremely large balls. Recent gains in the stock market have a psychological effect on the investment mindset of retirees, even if those investments are tied to bonds or annuities, leading them to conclude that they are richer. Add this sentiment to the rationale that the elderly may feel that life is too short and now is the time to waste it before it is too late. Buoyed by years of moderately successful finances, now bolstered by the flimsy fruits of welfare benefits, some of these seniors enjoy substantial assets and plan to experience life’s luxuries before time runs out.
What does that mean? That means vacations, cruises, luxury vehicles, and home entertainment purchases. This means shopping for clothes, jewelry and gifts for the kids. That means spending on hair and nails and plastic surgery and a new smile. This means dining out and going out for an evening of pleasure. All regularly. Once they start, it’s hard to stop.
Error no. 4: Senior citizens are not brand loyal
Fact: Older people show much more brand loyalty than members of today’s younger generations, who tend to be fickle and flit from one thing to another on a whim. While fads, trends and social influences lure young people from one product to another, the elderly are considered more valuable as customers, according to a September 26, 2007, report. The New York Times article by Matt Richtel on “Sticky Old People.” The elder will take time to carefully evaluate the decision and will generally stick to this commitment for longer.
Although older people have a lifetime of experience to draw upon, a wealth of knowledge on many subjects, and valuable skills representing a variety of professions, such wisdom is viewed with some reservations in today’s rapidly changing world. First, old age causes forgetfulness and memory loss. Second, when it comes to knowledge accessibility, Google offers answers to anything and everything in milliseconds, which is hardly a level playing field for senior citizens (or anyone else), no matter how smart or accomplished they are. Finally, the skills that the elderly have mastered are usually for things that we no longer need or use, such as yesterday’s motorbikes or outdated entertainment hardware that is now being replaced by state-of-the-art wireless computing technology. Even if seniors have kept up with every technological development over the years, their motivation to keep up with such changes after retirement is greatly reduced, as is their ability to hold on. A younger person has an advantage here.
Error no. 5: Seniors won’t buy anything unless there’s a discount
Fact: If there’s one thing seniors absolutely dominate, it’s the health care market, discount or no discount. No one buys more health-related products than senior citizens, making them easily the most valuable market for companies in this industry, bar none. Old age naturally brings problems with balance, dexterity, autonomy and mobility, as well as sensory maintenance and retention. Some of these conditions promote social withdrawal. Industries concerned with protecting the elderly from physical and psychological death can only expect to reap the benefits of their manufacturing and marketing acumen. However, it is clear that the possibility of large investments in the development of products that can serve such purposes is causing fear in the companies that will benefit. This is because the seniors market is still untested territory, as it has not shown that it will embrace new technologies that preserve health and well-being, even if absolutely necessary. Instead, companies like Ford Motor, which has a hands-free parallel parking system that alleviates the need to strain the neck (a common aging trap), along with blind spot detection and a voice-activated audio system, take solace in their ability to market to broad market, not just targeting the mysterious seniors for product success.
While writing this article, I happened to be contacted by a local non-profit organization called “Aging in Place” who claimed they needed a marketing plan to facilitate an increase in paid memberships. Aging in place is a concept used by national senior citizen groups to describe efforts to keep older adults in their homes as long as possible while receiving assistance from a variety of outside services as needed to find solutions to any inconvenience or problem they may be facing. facing. This may include assistance with medical, social, financial or nutritional needs, to name a few.
At the same time, many real estate development companies across the country have embraced the idea of building senior-friendly housing or retirement centers that incorporate new technologies to monitor the health and safety of residents, as well as social, dining, entertainment, fitness and physical therapy, are a safe bet for senior marketing.
Certainly, either scenario makes sense as long as all marketers are concerned with the age-old question: What’s the best way to reach seniors? Or is it instead a question of how to reach the grown children of the elderly? While the choices remain the same as trying to reach the entire market, all of which are expensive when an unknown response rate is always possible, there are ways to target seniors with intuitive thinking. Think old fashioned if you want an older demographic; think creatively to reach the newly adopted “younger” older youth or their adult children. Among a whole range of strategies, old-fashioned means advertising in the daily newspaper; on conservative talk radio programs; or sponsor marketing and live handout presentations at senior fairs and community or faith center events. Creative marketing can mean using the Internet to reach more tech-savvy seniors through an email campaign; or sponsored ads that follow relevant Google searches to barely touch the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. Probably the safest route to a person of any age is through their postal address, lists of which can be purchased by selecting an age and a number of other parameters that might be suitable.
And as with all marketing, one effort may not be enough. A varied approach and multiple attempts are usually what translate to a more successful outcome, with attention to measuring response at each step of the process. But don’t forget one thing. The elderly fall victim to scams more often than we care to admit. While some may still be helplessly vulnerable, others have become even more wary, distrustful of every marketing offer they come across!
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