Challenges + Opportunities of Marketing to Senior Citizens

Posted on November 9, 2016 by Media Culture

Back in April, Pew ran a piece about how the Millennials had finally overtaken the Baby Boomers as the largest generation in America.

It’s incredible, Baby Boomers are a generation made up of almost 75 million people who many marketers have ignored—and it seems like such a waste. After all, Millennials aren’t the only game in town, those Baby Boomers have a fantastic amount of disposable income, they’re looking for guidance to help live their lives better and they’re open to a properly delivered marketing message.

Although we’ll eventually lose the Boomers to the ravages of age, that’s not happening any time soon according to Pew—65 million of them will still be with us in 2028. Marketing to this unique demographic shouldn’t be a secondary thought, you need to consider them in each and every marketing campaign, even if it means maintaining some old-fashioned print ads in order to reach them.

Where you’re going dead wrong with senior marketing

Do you remember a few years ago when everyone was declaring that “40 was the new 20” and “50 was the new 25” and so on and so forth?

There’s a lesson to be learned here, one that all marketers absolutely have to take to heart in order to successfully market to Baby Boomers and beyond: no one wants to be old. Our culture values youth above everything else and if you spend any amount of time with a random Baby Boomer, you’re not going to see your grandparents in their steps.

This is a generation of exceptionally exuberant, energetic and optimistic people who are spending their retirement both attempting to recreate the thrills of their youth and working hard to fight aging with rapidly evolving science. They’re not wasting away or sitting still, so you need to drop that image you have in your head of old ladies at quilting bees and old men playing chess in the park. Grandma’s just as likely to be on her smartphone as the teen on the bus.

Marketing to seniors and retirees

So, then, how do we address a market of retirees with the energy and interest levels of teenagers, despite the picture we might otherwise have of “senior citizens?” First, give up terms like “senior citizens” and “elderly” and “old”—especially “old.” They don’t feel old and refuse to identify with the idea.

Instead, try some of these tips:

  • Keep your marketing active. No matter what you’re trying to sell your Baby Boomer market, remember that they’re an active bunch. Instead of using images of older people sitting around using your products, imagine more active ways to use them.
    Even products like Depends are reinventing their image by displaying attractive Baby Boomers in glossy magazines with the implication that these celebs don’t let a little urinary incontinence slow them down.
  • Think “youth” plus “wisdom.” Youth and wisdom rarely go together, but if they’re married anywhere, it’s in this generation. Boomers are still participating in extreme sports, they’re collecting comics, they’re taking exotic vacations, they’re doing all the things they wished they could have when they were younger right now.
    This is their time to live out their fantasies and they’re doing it without hesitation—they’re looking forward, like they’ve always looked forward. That vision’s not pointed at a casket, though, it’s at the next adventure, the next experience.
  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T. In many ways, marketing to Boomers is no different than marketing to Millennials. Like Millennials, Boomers don’t have much patience for your empty words or pushy sales. Instead they want facts, figures and solid information. Instead of wasting time trying to sound like a car dealer, be a teacher and a brand ambassador.
    Teach Boomers about your product instead of trying to sell it. Boomers may want to have paper brochures to review, however, so be prepared with print media you can hand out or mail to their homes.

In some ways, marketing to senior citizens can pose a number of challenges, but the opportunities to capture a huge market with lots of disposable income are immense. Baby Boomers need help choosing the products that are best for their active lifestyles and a hand navigating the issues that come with aging, even actively. That’s where marketers can come in, if we act more as educators than as salespeople who will push any product no matter how ill-fitting.

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