The Happiest Consumer Segment
In her book, The Age Tech Revolution, Keren Etkin mentions a 2019 study by the British Office of National Statistics that labels 65-79 year old people as the happiest age group, while younger people are generally less satisfied with their lives. So it should not come as a surprise that, according to a different source – the University of Southern California – older adults tend to favor positive information more than negative information in their attention and memory. And as a result, they see and remember positive images better and negative images worse.
Older adults also tend to filter information. They will prioritize things that are positive and deprioritize things that are negative. While this process is not exclusive to seniors, they are more likely to be this way than their younger counterparts.
Do you see a trend here?
An obvious implication is that these tendencies impact the ways older adults receive advertising. It is a good bet that positive messaging and imagery will lead to more successful advertising campaigns, if you are targeting this aging consumer group! So why, then, is advertising that targets seniors often less than positive?
More likely than not, it is because most marketers see aging adults as “needy,” and assume these “needy aging adults” are in the market for products and services to help them live out the waning days of their lives more comfortably. It is kind of a depressing assumption, isn’t it? This point-of-view when selling seniors certainly won’t result in messaging that tugs at their heartstrings…
What Else Makes Older Consumers Different from Younger Ones?
According to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, there are other attitudinal differences between older and younger consumers:
Older consumers are more autonomous; hence they do not respond well to advertising that tells them what a brand should mean to them.
They are less rational and more intuitive in their decision-making, which means it is more important how a product or service makes them feel rather than what features and benefits it offers.
Purchase decisions are less affected by peer pressure – seniors are generally not out to impress others.
Older consumers are generally not time-sensitive; after all, they have all the time in the world!
They are more focused on self-actualization; that is, seniors are more interested in feeling fulfilled or feeling that they are living up to their potential.
The point here is: marketing approaches targeting younger adults don’t necessarily apply to marketing to older adults. Purchase decision processes are different. So, the marketer that attempts to sell younger and older consumers in the same manner will likely fail at selling at least one of those groups.
What Older Consumers Want from Marketing and Advertising
The Society of Certified Senior Advisors goes on to suggest five things older consumers want out of advertising:
Information – Boomers want to be able to make educated decisions. Because they are educated shoppers, they will not be fooled or ignored. They want choices, and they want the information needed to make smart
Understanding – Not only do they want ads to give them the information they need, seniors want an enjoyable experience interacting with those ads. They want the marketer to demonstrate through the advertising that he gets them.
Respect – They expect attention, good manners, and respect from marketers.
Value – Value is more important than brand name to seniors. They are willing to try new brands, but marketers need to showcase the greater value those new brands will deliver in order to get them to make the switch.
Successful Experiences – Boomers generally don’t have much patience with products or services that don’t meet their expectations. Make the first buying experience a positive one and that older consumer will continue to buy from you.
The Benefits of Being a 60+ Shopper
There are some benefits that come with age that advertisers should consider when selling older consumers. Probably the most prevalent, according to proprietary research conducted by AGEIST in 2019, are:
Wisdom and Experience – One of the benefits that comes with age is seniors have made similar purchase decisions in the past and have experienced the consequences of their decisions – good and bad. So, they usually don’t need to spend much time and effort to make an informed decision, because they have made similar decisions before and can better anticipate how a present purchase decision will turn out.
Freedom – Most senior consumers don’t have to deal with a lot of outside influences when making purchase decisions. They are generally free to do whatever feels right to them.
Financial security – Seniors generally have access to greater financial resources than younger consumers, having built up their bank accounts over the years – not to mention, they often don’t have others depending on them for financial support. So, they are usually in a position to spend as they see fit.
All this can be summed up pretty simply. Older adults do not want to be reminded about their infirmities, their losses, or their neediness. Advertising that dwells on negatives will generally fail. However, these seniors will be drawn to positive ad messaging that reinforces the joy they expect a product or service will deliver.