Consider an ad picturing a man (perhaps in his late fifties or early sixties standing in the water on a beach with his pants rolled up above his ankles. He appears to be watching a sunset. The caption under the image read “Live the life you’ve imagined” (a quote by Henry David Theroux) followed by your company logo and a sentence telling the reader how your product can help them achieve their dream. The ad allows the reader to interpret the message based on his individual needs and desires. It’s a good example of conditional vs. absolute product positioning, and the concept of less is more (not putting ten pounds of copy into a five-pound page).
Baby Boomer customers are more resistant to absolutism. Absolute positioning aims to generate uniform perceptions of a brand or product while conditional positioning allows diverse perceptions of a brand. The younger mind tends to see reality in simpler terms than aging minds do, and they tend to see things in absolute states or conditions: either something is or it is not. Nuance and subtlety often create more confusion in the younger mind about a matter than an understanding of it. In contrast, Baby Boomers tend to have a greater appreciation for the finer definition that nuance and subtlety give a matter. This bias results from a combination of experience and age-related changes in how the brain processes information.
The predisposition of Baby Boomer customers to reject absolutism means that marketing communications intended for them should reflect a conditional tone. Hyperbole or strongly worded and delivered claims about your product or service typically work better with younger, more literal-minded adults. A softer, more deferential, conditional approach is better suited to the Baby Boomer customer mind that sees reality in shades of gray (life experience has taught them to do so).
Conditional positioning also respects customer autonomy.It projects a willingness to let customers define your message. But, it also makes it possible for more customers to connect with the message because they, not the copywriter, determine what the message means. That is the power of implicitly wrought conditional positioning. A conditionally positioned brand projects human values rather than product or company claimed characteristics, leaving consumers to infer product or company characteristics from the values projected.
Cognitive research has shown that the human brain will finish incomplete pictures or fill in missing information based on personal experiences. Adopting this tactic can provide marketers the ability to move from net fishing to fly fishing. From creating ads that attempt to push all the features of a product or service to try to meet everyone’s needs and wants, to an ad that pulls the customer into the ad using their imagination.
This approach presents your brand in a customer-centric manner, rather than with a product-centric focus. Through conditional positioning you make the messaging and imagery focused on the consumer and their needs, not on your brand and its features. Conditional positioning deserves greater attention from marketers because older consumers depend more on themselves to determine the value of a brand than on values espoused by a copywriter.
There is a crisis going on in current marketing, and many marketing professionals don't know it. The price of their ignorance could be significant. Their inability to effectively market to Baby Boomer customers significantly affects the bottom line. The spoils will go to those who perceive the crises, understand the changing behavior of aging markets, and outsell their competitors. Clearly, at approximately 78 million strong, and with the most disposable income of any demographic, Baby Boomers are today's target population, and, more so, tomorrow's.