When Old Can Be Gold

Not all seniors are frail and embittered (courtesy of Too Lazy To Do It)

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?

By 2047, the number of older persons is expected to exceed the number of children for the first time. In the more developed regions, where population ageing is far advanced, the number of children dropped below that of older persons in 1998.

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

Other than population size, seniors are also more wealthy, less time-stressed, and more willing to indulge in their 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 and they form the nexus of extended family groups.

What can businesses do to tap the growing and significant greying market? Here are some ideas fresh off my head:

1) 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 features may be less important than ease of use.

2) Avoid new age jargon or "coolspeak" which puts them off immediately. While the number of older bloggers and facebookers are increasing, the majority of 50 and 60 year olds still find social media 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) 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) Hire older workers to market to the senior markets. Just imagine how much more traction a 40 something would have when speaking to a parent of fast growing teenagers compared to a young and single guy. The universal rule of like attracting like works in any market, and people of the same age-range tend to be viewed with greater empathy than those from a different generation.

5) 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) Don't be afraid to educate or teach them. Naturally, one's mental and physical capacity will diminish as one ages, but this doesn't mean that one's 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 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) 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.

If Richard Gere at 60 can do it, so can you! (courtesy of Daily Contributor)

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