Promoting The Upside of Aging

Part 2 of 2.

Last week in part 1 of this two-part series, we learned that the baby boomers, and the over-50 population of women are prime Internet marketing targets. Therefore, three steps have been specified for successful marketing to this group:

  1. Define your target audience.
  2. Get to know them.
  3. Speak to them in a voice they will hear.

Having covered Step 1, we conclude with Steps 2 and 3, along with a final caveat on ageism in advertising.

Step #2: Get To Know Them

The core target audience for marketing to women is 48 million women between the ages of 40 and 73. They are characterized by:

  • The liberation of women
  • An identity apart from family and children
  • The ability to seek personal fulfillment
  • The freedom to choose

What distinguishes them from earlier generations of older women is the freedom to choose: If and how many children they have, whether to pursue a degree or not, whether to earn their own income, stay in a marriage, stay in shape, go gray or stay a redhead. And now it’s theirs to choose how they will age.

But the huge contradiction is that very few businesses are talking to them. Does anyone know why? Are we afraid that aging is contagious? Is there a stigma associated with these women? If they wear your products will it be un-trendy, old? If you are smart enough to go get them, you first want to be sure you have all the pieces that will make you successful.

There are seven indicators that transform someone from youth into a mature market consumer. The transformation happens for some women in their late forties if children have left the nest. For others it occurs in their late sixties, particularly if they started working later in life or had children later in life.

The actual age is less important than their state of mind. But the result is shifting attitudes that you need to appreciate before you can motivate the mature market woman.

Lifestyles Change — Something happens to dramatically change the lifestyle. Children leave the nest. The large family home is traded for an easier maintenance home. Retirement happens. Significant changes such as these are catalysts for a new life stage.

The Self Regains Importance — Somewhere along the road of aging a person stops and decides, “it’s time for me now.” The self becomes more important than the demands of the children, community, and career. A sense awakens that whispers, “now it’s time for me.”

Spirits are Renewed — There is something uplifting about taking time for yourself. Turning 50 or 65 or 70 can have some drawbacks. But most people rebound and decide to live full rich senior lives.

New Time Needs to Be Filled — It may be hard for many of you to imagine people being so anxious about free time, but remember, the people who are in their 50s and 60s today are used to being busy, over-committed, and stressed. Now they are intense about keeping busy, active and involved. They are looking to publications and industry to provide them with ideas on how to fill their time.

Money Has New Dimensions — Certainly the end of mortgages and tuition payments bring immense financial relief, and it does not have to be a six-figure bank account to create a sense of wealth. Just having some money left over each week gives people a new sense of freedom to spend.

Bodies Send New Messages — People are very candid about the messages they receive from their bodies. Certain parts just don’t work as well as they used to, but that doesn’t mean that they stop doing. Today’s mature population counts on medications, exercise, better eating and product innovations to help compensate for an aging body. In general, as long as older people are free from pain, they consider themselves to be in good health.

Purchases are Viewed With New Perspective

— Aging brings release from peer pressure. Older consumers need to keep up with no one. They may choose to vacation in a four-star resort and then seek out budget motels with the best senior discounts for weekend travel.

They lived through the ’70s during the birth of consumer activism and protection. Now that they have more time available, they comparative shop and devour information before they purchase.

Most important of all, the mature market is an informed, seasoned consumer. They look for information to guide their purchases, and they will not be fooled. They demand information about what they are buying, and the Internet is the ideal place to give it all to them. Let them choose how much or how little they want.

Step #3: Speak So They Will Hear

Talk about what is of interest to them. Do not be afraid to bring the hush-hush topics out of the closet. On the Internet, you have the option to talk about these topics in private.

The most relevant lifestyle and personal information for women over 50 is not in women’s magazines; it is at iVillage and ThirdAge.com, both of which talk about things this audience wants to hear.

Menopause was a taboo topic, but it has come out of the closet. Menopause talk is everywhere. Best sellers, newspaper and magazine articles address menopause, and hormone replacement manufacturers take their message directly to the consumer in Rx advertising. Wyeth Ayerst sends a complimentary subscription of its Seasons magazine to anyone who receives a prescription for its estrogen products.

There is a lack of information available to women on how to make the most of aging. It is their topic, and the magazines have left it to you to fill the gap.

Once you are talking about what they want to listen to then you need to watch your attitude.

Promote The Upside Of Aging

People are all too familiar with the downside of aging. You don’t need to remind them. Sell to them with the promise of the second stage of their life!

Vitality — This will be the aspirational benefit of living a long, fulfilling life. Without vitality, aging is dreadful. Club Med certainly evokes an image of young, single, free-spirited and adventuresome people. Few of these traits are generally associated with the older market. However, Club Med saw their business as resorts, and the 50 plus population includes frequent travelers who love resorts. With smart copy edits and a well-targeted brochure, Club Med launched “Forever Young” and captured the vitality that attracts the older traveler.

Glow — is the color of vitality. Everything that is good will glow — the glow of good health, the glow of skin, restored glow to hair.

Growth — is what aging people want in all its forms: personal growth, financial growth, muscle growth, hair growth. (The exception, of course, is girth.)

Copy — “First” will replace “new” as the attention-grabbing, neon-letter word. New millennium aging people want to experience firsts: first sports car, first cross-country trip, first investment portfolio, first college course, first grandchild, and first simulated space flight. Retirement will be a time of firsts.

Call to Action — “Now,” “begin,” “start” … These words will be the most compelling motivation because they subtly suggest doing it now while you still can. Words like “fast” and “instantly,” which suggest speed and frenzy, will be much less important to an audience that wants to do things at a more reasonable (not slower) pace that allows them to savor the experience. “On my terms,” and any derivation of this phrase, will be an important re-assurance. One of the joys of aging is freedom from peer pressure. Copy will encourage individualism and offer customization.

Graphics — Small tightly spaced type is illegible. LARGE BOLD TYPE IS OFFENSIVE. Somewhere in-between there is a legible point type size with enough white space around it to encourage reading.

Models — Ageless models surprise! There is such a thing as an ageless model. Is she/he 44, 55, or a well-preserved 61? Only their physician needs to know for sure. Consumers won’t care. As long as the model looks over 45, there is credibility.

New Lifestyles — Think twice about the cozy, silver-haired couple. Among the 50-plus population the majority are widowed, divorced or legally separated. (Half of the rest wish that they were.) The use of couples in advertising will be reserved for luxury goods, like diamond rings. The best people to reflect the over 50 audience will be mixed groups of an uneven number of men and women, followed by mothers and daughters, sisters and menfolk.

Golf Carts — Toss out all those shots of golf carts. The new generation does not want to be confined to a golf cart. That’s the dream of over-worked 45-year-olds, not of active retirees. Golf carts will be replaced by active pleasure symbols, like sail boats, bicycles, hiking boots and walking sticks, carpentry tools, even motorcycle repair kits.

Ageism in Advertising

The final caveat — Watch out for ageism in advertising. Insensitivity to aging will replace racism and sexism as the most fatal offense. This is going to be a real challenge for creative executives in their twenties and thirties.

It will take at least two decades of sensitivity training to program our youth culture to instinctively think in terms of the positive experiences of aging. Will it ever be fun to get old? Of course not. But if advertising can make it appear fun to be a teenager or starting out young and single in your twenties, then why not the fifties, sixties or seventies?

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