Rules for Reaching Older Customers

May 1998


Rules for Reaching Older Customers

Arrogance is a no-no and upbeat messages a must when advertising to the mature market

In market-research circles, old stereotypes about old age are falling by the wayside. Instead, researchers are taking a serious look at what really does interest and motivate the old or – shall we say – the late-adult consumer. It's a lot more than shuffleboard, bingo and early-bird specials.

It turns out the 50-plus crowd (yes, it's a cruel definition of old age, but the one used for much market research) is much more varied than younger segments of the market, according to an article in The Journal of Consumer Marketing.They're more "diverse and idiosyncratic," the article says. That's because they're less influenced by what others think of them. Without the herd instinct that often guides younger people, they're free to do their own thing.

That said, though, there are some generalizations that can be made about them.

Older people absorb advertising messages differently than younger ones do, the article says. They don't like the short, terse statements found in much ad copy. Such writing exasperates them. Nor do they like having a product's benefits precisely spelled out – it smacks of condescension and makes them feel the advertiser is trying to dictate to them. (The article cites the Quaker Oats slogan, "Oh, what these oats can do," as an example of the kind of open-to-interpretation message that older consumers cotton to.) In short, they don't like anything that suggests arrogance on the part of the advertiser.

What they do like is ads that involve them emotionally, especially ones that do so through stories of some sort. They like to establish a relationship with the marketer, a sense of trust and familiarity, before being given large amounts of product information. Once they're ready to consider a purchase, they like to do so for quite a while. Older customers spend more time than younger ones mulling over a product's attibutes before deciding whether to buy.

One final point: Older consumers, contrary to what many young people believe, tend to be satisfied with their lives and optimistic about the future, the article says. They like advertisements reflecting their rosy frame of mind, incorporating graphics with rich, vibrant colors and bold, confident messages.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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