Commentary

Boomers Crave Open, Honest Marketing

Target. Equifax. Cambridge Analytica. Our system of voting.

It seems every day a new report comes out explaining how a major company has failed to protect our personal data or attempted to monetize it in an exploitative way.

While senior users make up only a fraction of all internet traffic, they are very concerned about their privacy. A 2017 poll by AARP found that 78% cite privacy as a major concern, while 84% fear having their personal information hacked or stolen. The boomer market is fearful about information security.

Last year, I worked with a client who sold Medicare insurance. We were conducting focus groups with appropriately aged individuals, discussing how they want their insurer to communicate with them. The majority of people were OK with receiving routine emails regarding their insurance, but were legitimately frightened of having their information stolen.

One woman's opinion really resonated with the whole group when she said "You know, I get that email is easy, and I like it and all… but when it comes to my health, I really wish they would just pick up the phone more often."

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This should come as no surprise, as boomers and seniors grew up in a world where a phone call was the most expeditious and secure way of transmitting information.

Today, healthcare providers and financial corporations are moving away from person-centered customer interactions, automating as much as possible to save money. More than once, I've heard a boomer grouse about how the bank is charging them for paper statements. "I just want a physical record of my account each month,” one woman lamented to me. "Isn't that the most basic service that they can provide?"

In reaction to this trend, we find many boomers and seniors attempting to eschew digital interactions because it makes them feel safer. With the news blaring the pitfalls of Facebook, online credit scams, and major privacy concerns, it’s no wonder that this is a trend. But the modern world makes it hard for boomers to escape the clutches of marketers.

Nearly every boomer and senior has adopted the ubiquitous "membership card" for local grocers and other stores. Maybe they've even signed up for emails about upcoming deals. After all, who doesn't love a sale?

Yet each of these contacts provides a way for a retailer to collect data about consumer preferences and interactions. Even the simple act of having a Facebook account causes this to happen.

Don't believe me? Log in to your Facebook account and visit: https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/

This site shows you everything Facebook has determined about you as a user. Scary stuff, right? If you were to show this to a boomer or senior, how do you think they would feel about this information?

In a new era of privacy and security, it behooves those who market to boomers to be honest and truthful about marketing tactics. Trust will earn you far more business than sneakily targeted ad campaigns. Open and honest communication was the way of the past — and it will be the way of the future. But, in the present, we need to mitigate the perceptions about what we do as marketing professionals.

1 comment about "Boomers Crave Open, Honest Marketing".
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  1. David Beck from Retired, September 5, 2018 at 1:30 p.m.

    I'm a Boomer and I looked at the FB info. Boy they need some work. Lots of US car dealerships (I live in the UK), apparently I work for USAfoods (I'm retired and previous worked for Reuters and Dow Jones) which was info I actually gave them which they seem to forgotten. Working a treat. FB keep up the great work.

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