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Marketing to Older Crowds Calls for Differentiation

Lumping seniors and boomers into one group is a marketing pitfall many make when trying to appeal to older audiences, and marketers say the key is to understand and adjust to individual mindsets while using language they identify with.

In order to effectively approach baby boomers and older consumers’ demands, marketers need to know about their values and purchase motivators, says Jim Gilmartin, principal of online senior and boomer marketing agency Coming of Age. That knowledge, he says, can then be converted into images and copy that connects with the target.

“A significant pitfall is to lump all boomer and older customers into the same group,” he says.

Terms commonly used to describe older populations are becoming less acceptable, a recent survey suggests.

More than seven in ten said they were comfortable with the term “baby boomer,” but less than half—49%—felt comfortable with “senior” as a descriptor, revealed the survey, conducted by SeniorMarketing.com, which polled 1,114 people regarding language used to describe those aged 50 and older.

No clear winner emerged when survey takers were asked for suggestions of better phrases for those aged 55 and older. A majority—18%—thought it was appropriate to simply say, “a man or woman age…” while the next highest amount (17%) went with “boomer.” Only 11% thought “senior” was appropriate.

“Our survey results clearly show how certain words, acceptable a generation ago, have rapidly become taboo,” says Kevin Williams, president of SeniorMarketing.com. “Knowing the preferred terms when talking about particular groups of people is important from both a human and marketing perspective. The wrong word or phrase can alienate your target audience overnight.”

“All the typical euphemisms used to describe older populations reek of ageism,” Gilmartin says.”We in marketing use the terms baby boomer and senior to help differentiate between the two groups because they’re in such common use.”

Marketing to boomers and older customers should appeal to their core values and motivators, according to him.

“Just like other groups, boomer and older customers identify with others who reflect their core values, their lifestyle, and their stage of life,” says Gilmartin. “For example, goods and services that “celebrate the vitality, energy and individuality” of the purchaser are more tempting than those that do not.”

However, mature audiences tend to be less responsive to sweeping claims in marketing messages, he continues, and hyperbole is a turnoff. Rather than trying to force a marked distinction between products that are similar, it may make more sense to stand out as a company.

“Because boomer and older people tend to be more highly individuated, and less influenced by external influences, perceptions of products more internally shaped,” Gilmartin says. “They typically conclude that there is little difference between products than marketers claim… Boomer and older customers tend to be more responsive to ‘companies with a conscience’ than younger customers are.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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