Marketing has always been challenged by the intelligence of its customers, but never has this been truer than now. While most would agree that technology is responsible because of the information access it provides, let's not forget about the impact of demography. With people living longer than ever before, we need to get better at marketing to age and to a consumer who brings more experience and scrutiny to the transaction. With a growing number of older and wiser consumers in the mix, we're going to need to get smarter in the way we market.
Let's think about the notion of being "older and wiser" and why it seems that no one talks about wisdom when they're young. That's because the focus throughout most of our lives is on intelligence. Intelligence is naturally a good thing, but wisdom is a higher state of intellect because it includes everything learned from life's experiences. Since the boomers have lived longer lives than their younger counterparts, they've had more opportunities to learn from trial and error, resulting in the accumulation of more wisdom.
This insight on wisdom is important because it's tempting for marketers to treat aging consumers as being cognitively impaired. To be fair, while advanced age can compromise older adults' cognitive ability, gains in wisdom can improve their ability to reason and exercise sound judgement. What's more, many consumers of age are committed to growth and self-improvement, which often takes the form of continued or lifelong learning. They are a cohort that is wise and getting wiser, and the marketers that choose to prioritize them need to understand that they're going to be a "tough sell."
Here's some insight and advice to help you field smart programs for a savvy aging consumer:
Respect their wisdom – Older consumers are wise and because they're wise, they know they're wise. As such, it's important that your brand reflects an understanding of them that respects this prowess. Their wisdom is a source of pride because most of them have earned it over the course of a lifetime that has been filled with challenges, perseverance, and success. It is a gift of age — no different than the beauty of youth — that they secretly hope gets noticed and perhaps even praised. So be equally as wise and do whatever you can to recognize and appreciate that age has its advantages. Respecting their wisdom is the smart thing to do.
Empower them with education – There's a lot of truth in the old Syms clothing store slogan, "An educated consumer is our best customer." Educated consumers recognize and appreciate even the most nuanced differences in offerings and are willing to pay a premium for added value. While they also expect more from brands (think customer service and unique experiences), aging consumers, in particular, are going to reward high-performing brands with their extended loyalty.
As technology continues to improve transparency and makes consumers smarter about things like price and free delivery, purchases are getting more transactional. The offset to this is to make the brand engagement experience more educational. Educational marketing for consumers at age is work that anticipates their need for additional information (why are there no instructions included?) and delivers it in a simple and intuitive way to a consumer who has proven that they want to learn and grow. The power in marketing to age lies in empowering them with knowledge that makes them feel smarter about their choices at a time when they believe that many marketers are talking down to them.
Be smarter by having a deeper understanding – Smart consumers of age are starting to recognize that marketers either don't value them or fail to understand them. With too much of the advertising that's meant for them not resonating, there's a big opportunity for new marketers to show up with smart programs that represent boomers authentically. Nothing is more effective than messaging that demonstrates that you understand them better than anyone else.
Truly understanding consumers of age means having an intimate understanding of their needs, dreams, and desires. Marketing to age often misses the mark because it either dwells on needs and problems or because it's overly aspirational and not attainable. Your messaging must get at the pithy essence of what you're offering, and it has to speak their language. Give them credit for being smarter than your competition believes they are.
Older Is Wiser
We can't complete a discussion about wisdom without conjuring up the image of a wizened Zen-master teaching their wide-eyed disciples; the respect they command is due to their mastery of the teachings and moral precepts of their order. While our culture in the U.S. still has a long way to go before it respects age and wisdom the way other global cultures do, we need to get started if we're going to catch up. That begins with accepting that older people are wiser and that the wisdom they have accumulated over the course of a lifetime is incredibly valuable to those of us who have yet to experience what they have.
Marketers are some of the most important change agents in the business and this is the time for the ultimate win-win. If we're willing to respect the wisdom of people of age, we will win with them. When this happens with that many people, we will also instigate positive societal change in the way age is seen. That would make us all wise beyond our years.
Photo courtesy of BoomAgers
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