A Positive Prescription For Marketing To Boomers

In my last blog post, I wrote that medical science and lifestyle changes have made it possible for Boomers to expect to live active, healthy, productive lives well into their 80s and beyond. 

However, the recent deaths of Boomer ex-superstars, Robin Gibb (62) and Donna Summer (63), are a reminder that, as much as we Boomers want to control what happens in our lives, some things are simply out of our hands. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. 

 Forty million Boomer and older consumers maintain a regular exercise program. Fifty-seven million control their diets for health and fitness reasons. Over 60 million take prescription drugs regularly to prevent or treat serious medical issues, and to allow them to look, feel and behave as the youthful, vital beings they strive to be. 

When I saw my older brother balding more than a decade ago, it took me less than 24 hours to find a doctor to hook me up with my starter drug, Propecia.  A temporary side effect of Propecia resulted in a brief flirtation with Viagra.  Not long after, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and Crestor became part of my daily morning routine. 



I am one of many Boomer and older consumers creating the demand that keeps pharmaceutical companies working day and night to provide solutions that allow us to avoid, or at least delay, the effects of aging.  

Sixty-five percent of all drug prescriptions are filled for people age 50+, up from 59% seven years ago and expected to grow as our population ages over the next four decades.  

In the last seven years, the number of annual drug prescriptions filled has increased by 24%, or nearly 700 million.  Eighty-eight percent of that growth was attributable to consumers age 50+.   

Insurance covers most of the annual cost of prescription drugs, but $700 comes directly out of each 50+ consumer's pocket.  That's roughly $40 billion dollars annually.  

With that much usage and spending, pharmaceutical companies understand that there is a lot to gain from DTC advertising.  Yet, after two decades of practice, many are still learning what it takes to resonate on the deepest level with consumers.  Ads that place ailments front and center, rather than consumers, are less likely to positively connect with and empower consumers.  

Since it’s important that our members learn and benefit from the pharmaceutical advertising they see across our media, we routinely measure its impact.  We’ve learned a thing or two about what makes DTC advertising most effective and encourages people 50+ to take action.

Three Guidelines for Marketing Rx Drugs to Boomers

1. Avoid defining Boomers by their conditions.

Boomers don’t define themselves by their conditions, and you shouldn’t either. They aren’t “diabetics”; they “have diabetes.” There’s an important distinction here for pharmaceutical marketers. Eli Lilly recently developed a Cymbalta campaign with this headline: “Fibromyalgia. It’s what I have. Not who I am.” Immediately, it says to the consumer, “I am talking to you, not your condition.”

 2. Celebrate the upside of aging. 

Age-related conditions are a reminder of the downside of getting older. Marketers can play a pivotal role in helping Boomers develop a positive perspective on aging as they deal with these conditions.  

What a breath of fresh air the recent Viagra campaigns have been. Using headlines such as, “This is the age of knowing who you are,” “This is the age of knowing how to get things done,” and “This is the age of taking action,” Viagra places aging in a positive context. There’s an acknowledgment of an age-related problem, but front and center is the notion that aging actually works in the consumer’s favor by providing the wisdom and life experience necessary to face these challenges quickly and get on with living.  One execution is supported by imagery of a car breaking down, the driver finding a simple solution, and then getting back on the road (of life).

3. Empower Boomers to take action.

Boomers aren’t looking to be rescued by anyone or anything. They know what’s best for their lives. Give them the opportunity to feel as though they, not a drug, are providing the solutions to life’s obstacles.

A recent Crestor print ad showed a woman on the beach in a wet suit, holding a surfboard. Looking to be in her 50s, she is still participating in a demanding physical activity she was doing 30 years earlier.  We know this because she is looking at an old photo of her younger self on the beach with a surfboard, accompanied by the headline, “30 years ago, you didn’t know about high cholesterol and plaque buildup. Fortunately, now you do.” That’s followed by the sub-headline: “Over time, you’ve learned a thing or two.” Below is information about Crestor and how it lowers cholesterol, and by inference, improves one’s life. 

In a subtle fashion, Crestor reinforces that Boomers are as physically capable as they ever were, but there are challenges to remaining so, and there is something they can do about it because they are well informed. The truth is that the consumer may or may not be knowledgeable about high cholesterol or plaque buildup, but Crestor creates that impression and then provides the critical knowledge that apprises the consumer and enables her to take action. 

These ads have excelled because they treat potential users as human beings, not as ailments, and they instill in Boomers a sense of confidence and peace-of-mind in their ability to make healthcare choices that allow them to live their fullest lives possible. 

1 comment about "A Positive Prescription For Marketing To Boomers ".
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  1. John Peter Fyvie from Peter Fyvie & Associates, June 12, 2012 at 11:35 a.m.

    We note Boomers are waking up to the idea that we need to grow up and start changing our collective behaviors. A little self-restraint perhaps? Dying during sex or on Mount Everest may appeal to a few of us but who will lead our nation through this current economic and leaderless mess? Big Pharma needs to market a self-restraint pill or we're doomed. Peter.

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