When Old Can Be Gold

November 1, 2009 Business and Management 1 comment

When Old Can Be Gold
Not all seniors are frail and embittered (courtesy of ACE)

One of the biggest mysteries about contemporary marketing is this.

Why are such an overwhelming proportion of companies in the world only obsessed with advertising or selling to the young?

Don’t they know that the youth market is going to be shrinking in the years to come, or that seniors will dominate the world’s population, especially in developed countries?

Growing Proportion of Seniors

By 2047, the total global population of older persons are expected to exceed the number of children being born for the first time.

In the more developed regions of the world like Europe and Japan, population ageing is far advanced. In these countries, the number of children dropped below that of older persons in 1998.

Growth in seniors population world
The proportion of seniors are rising in the next few decades. (courtesy of Introduction to Sociology/Aging)

More Wealth, Leisure and Respect

Beyond population size, seniors are usually more wealthy, less time-stressed, and more willing to indulge in their leisure interests.

Without the constraints of raising a young family or meeting monthly mortgage payments, they represent an excellent market segment – one which is unfortunately all too often ignored altogether.

Often, they are also more loyal to brands than younger customer segments, and if impressed with a remarkable product, may be more apt to share their discoveries with their friends and families.

In Asian markets in particular, elders are often well revered. Forming the nexus of extended family groups, they often have significant influence within the family unit.

8 Ways to Grow the Silver Market

What can businesses do to tap the growing and significant senior market?

Here are some ideas fresh off my head:

#1 Classical and Evergreen Products

Create products or services along classical lines of taste and design.

While some degree of innovation or experimentation is good, one should not go overboard with the bells and whistles if one wishes to target this market. Opt for comfort and familiarity, where flashy design and state-of-the-art features may be less important than ease of use.

#2 Avoid Jargon or “Coolspeak”

Refrain from using new age jargon or “coolspeak”. Such language may put off the elderly or leave them cold.

While the number of older bloggers and Facebook users are increasing, the majority of 50 and 60 year olds may find new social media channels and platforms a challenge.

Instead of emphasising their ignorance, why not make it easier for them to embrace new technology by pitching your product at their level instead?

#3 Home in on Heritage and Nostalgia

Heritage and nostalgia are vital marketing strategies when reaching the mature market. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be sepia-tinged or reflect Elvis Presley in the 60s.

However, it does mean that products and services could harken back to the days of yore focusing on different dimensions of that experience.

Remember that what is hip and happening today will become tomorrow’s history!

#4 Employ Seniors to Reach Seniors

Hire older workers to market to the senior markets.

Just imagine how much more traction a 40 or 50 something would have speaking to a parent of fast growing teenagers compared to a young and single guy. Similarly, a mature executive or manager may resonate more soundly with a target customer in his 60s or 70s.

The universal rule of like attracting like works in any market. People of the same age-range tend to be viewed with greater empathy than those from a different generation.

#5 Be Patient

Be patient when explaining one’s product or service benefits, whether in an advertising copy or in person at the sales counter.

This is especially important when hawking technology-based products like computers, digital cameras, handphones or other devices. Don’t just look to close the deal and end the relationship, but seek instead to be available to answer to your customer’s queries post sales.

#6 Educate and Teach Gently

Don’t be afraid to educate or teach your senior customers.

Naturally, their mental and physical capacity will diminish as they age. However, this doesn’t mean that their learning journey has to stop at retirement.

Bundle training or workshopping opportunities into your product or service usage if possible so that you can create a loyal community more positively affiliated to your brand.

#7 Consider the Physical Realities of Seniors

Consider the realities of life at 50, 60 or 70.

Active seniors may still be exercising regularly, but their body structure may mandate attire that is less revealing than that pitched at the young.

Similarly, the slowing of metabolic rate means that one’s ability to consume food may be reduced compared to one’s youth.

F&B operators may want to consider offering “moderate-sized” portions that are not as large as a young adult’s portion but certainly larger than a kid’s meal.

#8 Don’t Stereotype Seniors!

Finally, understand that being silver-haired doesn’t mean being sexless, tasteless or dull and insipid.

Like people from other segments, the mature also want to lead active lives that are fulfilling, energising and fun.

Don’t be patronising. When portraying seniors, avoid making them appear frail on a walking stick.

Instead, depict them in ways that inspire and encourage. If possible, look for role models in your marketing that can motivate and inspire similarly mature peers.

Meryl Streep Old But Gold
If Meryl Streep at 66 can do it, so can you! (courtesy of Daily Contributor)

Are there other ways which we can reach the silver market? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.

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