Awhile back I wrote an article headlined, “The Problem Isn’t The Things We Know, It’s What We Know That Ain’t So,” quoting Mark Twain. His comment is simply a reflection of a common sense reality. Today, traditional marketing and selling continues to draw on many beliefs “we ‘know’ that ain’t so.” For instance: Marketers once “knew” (and many still do) that people 50 and older rarely change brands. Everybody “knew” that once consumers settled in on a brand or a company, they became more resistant to switching as they got older. Research shows that to be wrong. In a number of categories, Baby Boomers are more likely to switch brands and companies than younger customers.
While many marketers have recognized their knowledge shortcomings in recent years, some continue to face an uphill battle in appropriately targeting this demographic. But it’s not surprising some are grappling with the issue. Born between 1946 and 1964 (ages 51 to 69), the Baby Boom generation is more diverse than any other market segment.
But before you attempt to reinvent your advertising and marketing campaigns, ponder the following “don’ts” to avoid when communicating with and ultimately selling to Baby Boomers.
1. Don’t talk down to them or remind them of their age. Most do not consider themselves old. Don’t use unrealistic and negative images of or portray them as frail, weak or not smart. Remember that aging Baby Boomers, on average, have a superior sense of reality.
2. Don’t succumb to the myths and stereotyping about aging that pervades our society.
3. Don’t use words like “senior,” “senior citizen” or “elder.” All the typical euphemisms used to describe these populations reek of ageism. If you connect with the values and motivators of people in the fall and winter of life, they’ll recognize the product or service is right for them.
4. Don’t pressure Baby Boomers to purchase your product or service. They typically make more independent judgments and base their decisions on information and their experience.
5. Don’t create an overly busy website design with small type sizes, garish colors and gratuitous design elements such as flash or slow-loading graphics.
6. Don’t try to shove 10 pounds of copy into a 5-pound page. Less can be more, especially in the early stages of communications.
7. Don’t design your online promotion that doesn’t allow the customer to define the service attributes using his or her imagination in terms of his or her needs and desires (conditional positioning).
8. Don’t rush them. Win them over gradually. You will have to gain their trust before they will buy from you. Don’t attempt to instill a “sense of urgency” during a purchase consideration. Time is usually not of the essence in their decision-making process.
9. Don’t assume you know about physical, psychological and behavioral changes caused by the aging process. Learn and apply your knowledge to product design, and online and traditional marketing approaches.
10. Don’t promote features. Promote and advertise your product as a gateway to desired experiences beyond the intrinsic value of the product. What additional value (metavalues) does it provide?
11. Don’t be dishonest. Avoid over-embellishing product or service performance claims. Most have seen it all and are naturally skeptical. Doing so may be automatically perceived as misleading, as would small print on product labels and advertising.
12. Don’t be practical or pragmatic in the early stages of connecting with them. Touch their hearts and they will allow you to enter their minds.
Marketers continually look for ways to group targeted customers to efficiently connect with them. Instead, treat Baby Boomers as individuals. The population spans those that are active, independent Baby Boomers at the peaks of their careers to those in need of care.
One of the things that rings true for these populations is effectively approaching them and that demands knowledge of their values and purchase motivators, then converting that knowledge into images and copy that connects with them.
Ultimately, the key to Baby Boomer pocketbooks lies in gaining a better understanding of their minds and treating them as individuals without making any assumptions or lumping them into stereotypical roles. You’ll reduce more of the things you know that ain’t so.