December 19, 2009

The 18-to-49 age group has been the Holy Grail since the 1950s. Today, the baby boomer generation makes up about one-third of the U.S. population but it controls three-fourths of the wealth. It wields $2 trillion in annual buying power. Nevertheless, frustration is mounting because the $275 billion ad industry still gears only 10% of ads toward 50-plus customers.

So How Do You Connect?

Marketing communications should be easy to read and be experiential in nature. They should reflect and understand the values of this demo and positioned as a gateway to desired experiences. Values and motivators for this group include:

- Autonomy and self sufficiency (independence/participation)
- Social connectedness (relationships/friendships)
- Altruism (opportunity to share wisdom and ability to do for others: family, community and country)
- Personal growth (gain knowledge)
- Revitalization (need to rejuvenate)

The more ads and sales approaches that reflect the product or service is in harmony with these values and motivators the higher the success rate.

Aging-related changes like reduced vision need also be considered. For example, as we age, we need more light to see, pastel colors become distorted and blend to dark, etc. Large font, serif type, vivid colors, etc. are recommended.

We See What We Want To See

There is also evidence that communications that take a "less is more" approach to this demo are more effective. Presenting your company or product in a manner that is more suggestive than descriptive allows the target demo to subjectively interpret the message based upon his/her needs, values and motivators.

Most marketing and sales center on customers' objective identities (demographic and psychographic) and research shows that a product's message succeeds when it connects with a customer's subjective identity (allowing for individual interpretation). Brilliant messages and sales presentations not connecting with the subjective mind are usually unproductive.

Stories Work Well

Another good communication tactic is the greater use of story-telling techniques. Stories are generally quicker to arouse emotions than straightforward propositions about a product's features. Think Hallmark cards. They surpass most in using stories to present its products.

Today's customer universe is age-weighted toward midlife values. Resistance to emotionally neutral information (mainly processed in the left hemisphere of the brain) increases in midlife. Receptivity to emotionally enriched information -- such as stories -- increases in midlife. Storytelling has become an important part of market strategy. Whoever tells the best story and tells it best will most likely win.

By Jim Gilmartin
Jim Gilmartin has emerged as one of America's experts on improving marketing, sales and service to baby boomer and senior customers. He is a frequent source for journalists writing on these lucrative markets. Jim is president of Chicago-based Coming of Age, Inc. (, a marketing/ad agency, PR and training firm specializing in helping clients increase market share and profit in baby boomer and senior customer markets. An author of hundreds of articles on these rapidly growing and lucrative markets, Jim recently co-authored "Market Smart: The Best in Age & Lifestyle Specific Design."
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