Generational Language Differences Influence Boomer Marketing

Review any new internet trend report, and one of the major findings will be how Boomers and seniors are increasing their use of the internet, specifically on mobile devices and tablets. Older demographics are becoming more comfortable with making online purchases from platforms other than a laptop or desktop. 

Where once Boomers and seniors may have hesitated to purchase a product online, they are now accustomed to buying and returning products from websites such as Amazon, Etsy and even eBay. Knowing that these consumers are actively searching for products online, savvy digital marketers are retooling their search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts to better capture these sales. To accomplish this, marketers are using a mix of psychology and data analytics to craft a user experience that is targeted and unique for this age group. 

At the core of this process is understanding how Boomers and seniors use search engines to find what they are looking for. This requires the people developing the campaigns to put themselves into the shoes of the user and understand how he or she thinks, speaks and writes. The language that a Millennial will use to search for a product is probably very different from that which a Boomer would employ. 



Let’s start with patterns of search behavior that cross generational barriers. When someone is searching for a product, regardless of age, he or she often starts with a broad topic and then narrows his or her search. 

For instance, if you are looking for a new pair of shoes, you might start a search with “dress shoes.” That search has more than 155 million results! In reviewing the results, all of the provided websites reference men’s dress shoes, including five paid advertisements from major retailers, such as Macy’s, Nordstrom and Shoe Carnival. 

While a user may choose one of the websites from this search to visit, he or she is more likely to narrow the search further, honing in on the type of product he or she is looking for. The user might try “brown dress shoes” or, perhaps, a branded search for “Clarks dress shoes.” Maybe he or she even changes the search entirely and pivots to a more specific phrase, such as “men’s black loafers.” Each of these varied search phrases are where the real money is to be made for marketers. Sometimes referred to as “long-tail keywords,” these advanced search phrases open up possibilities for smaller businesses to capture digital leads by enticing consumers who are looking for specific products.

As marketers that specialize in the mature market, we recognize that the search language employed by older adults is going to vary because of their life experiences. Younger shoppers aren’t likely to refer to a shoe by a specific type, such as a “loafer”; to younger people, shoes are either “dress” or “casual,” with comparatively fewer knowing the difference between styles. Segmenting your market in this way — by using language that is generationally specific — can help digital marketers better target an older demographic.

An interesting example of how generations view words differently was published by Huffington Post. Just consider this one example: “What do you call a ‘#’?” Younger generations would call it a hashtag. Older individuals would refer to it as a number sign.

This knowledge and understanding is best applied when building the SEO for a website or putting together a SEM campaign. The keywords, phrases and ad copy used in these marketing efforts will be most successful if they accurately mirror the language entered by the user. Major retailers often cast a wide net, trying to draw in customers on the broadest-possible terms, such as our dress shoe example above; however, by creating your advertising, website and landing pages to appeal to an older user, you can be competitive in a growing market that larger organizations just aren’t targeting yet.

I encourage you to think critically about the language you are using in your digital efforts — and how it is attracting the mature market. By doing so, you can compete with much larger organizations with significantly bigger budgets. Creating a smarter search campaign will help you get the most for your digital marketing dollar.

1 comment about "Generational Language Differences Influence Boomer Marketing".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, January 11, 2018 at noon

    Words matter as the Met discovered.  More here...

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