We have learned that today’s customers control markets. They do so by zapping commercials and freely choosing what they will buy and from whom they will buy it. Also, most astute marketers understand that younger markets receive, perceive and dissect their messages differently. What many are not aware of is the differences crop up because of age-related changes in brain functions. As marketers’ increase their insights into the aging mind and understand the age-related differences between customers in the first and second halves of life, their ability to connect will improve.
Boomers’ intuition may enable them to size up a situation more quickly than younger customers might; their cognitive or reasoning processes tend to be slower. They are also more distracted by their creative techniques that work just the opposite for younger consumers. For example, a television commercial with fast-moving and frenetic visuals and brassy music may appeal to younger customers while Boomers may react negatively.
As they age, Boomers are more resistant to absolutism. Hyperbole or strongly worded and delivered claims about a product’s features and benefits usually work better with younger, more literal-minded customers. The young mind tends to see reality in definitive states or conditions: something either is, or it is not. However, Boomers tend to have a greater appreciation for the finer definition that nuance and subtlety give a matter. This predisposition means that marketing communications intended for them should reflect a conditional tone. Say less and let the customer interpret your communications based on their internal needs and related perception of your message.
Boomers rely more on emotional reactions than younger customers to determine if they should think about a matter. Boomers can safely rely more on their emotions than younger customers can because they have a richer database of emotionally coded knowledge on how to manage situations. When we experience something in the present, the brain scans its memory banks to see if what we are currently experiencing is like anything we have experienced before. When asked why we acted as we did, we might respond, “Just intuition” or “Just a gut feeling.”
A Boomers’ first impression tends to be more durable and difficult to reverse than those of younger customers because they have more confidence in their gut feelings. When something feels right or wrong to a Baby Boomer, they likely will be less inclined than a younger customer experiencing the same thing to second guess those feelings. If an ad headline generates a negative first impression (or none at all), the older person is less likely than a younger consumer to plunge further into the ad.
Stories work better for getting Boomers’ attention than expository. The minds of 50+ customers work more out of the brain’s right hemisphere where we process engaging stories, so it makes sense that storytelling is especially useful in marketing to Boomers. Stories arouse emotions more readily than emotionally neutral expository. Research shows that the more emotionally neutral information is, the less likely the Boomer mind will give it attention. The younger mind is less discriminating in this regard and may provide emotionally neutral information as much attention as emotionally enriched information.
Boomers tend to be more holistic in perceptions and thinking. They tend to be better at seeing “the big picture.” The right brain sees reality in terms of relationships. The identity of parties to a relationship is dependent on the relationship. The left-brain, in contrast, sees reality as a mosaic of separate pieces in which each piece has a distinctly independent identity. Boomers are in the time of life when mental activities are increasingly subject to the right brain’s relationship-based view of reality. That suggests all the supposedly new “relationship marketing” did not originate in academe or business, but in the collective mind of consumers.
These are but a few differences in mental processes in the first and second halves of life and are generalities, but generalities can have value when they express verifiable central themes. The theme here is that we need to adjust marketing to the fact that no two people perceive anything the same way, and that genetic inheritance, experience, and processes of maturation contribute to the differing perceptions that exist between Boomers and younger customers.