Commentary

Young And Old Are Flocking Online -- Time You Reached Them

We've talked before about how the Internet has dramatically changed the way in which brand marketers acquire customers. Nearly 50 % of adults now have broadband Internet access, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, using the Internet for a wide range of activities -- health information research, product research, gaming, travel research and reservations and more.

It's past time for brand marketers to embrace the online world as a channel to reach prospects and create deep relationships with customers. From "Everyday Moms," millions of whom use the Internet to manage finances, plan travel and do household shopping, to professional women who welcome targeted email newsletters with relevant information, to health-conscious consumers researching symptoms and cures, the Internet is a powerful presence in everyday life. As part of a multichannel strategy to promote a brand, it's indispensable.

Two groups that bookend the typical Internet browser/shopper demographic wield a great deal of clout. We'll look at these groups -- teens and boomers -- and provide some suggestions for brand marketers who may still be on the fence when considering the Internet as a channel to reach and convince these consumers.

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Tweens, Teens, Boomers and disposable income

It's not a surprise to learn that teens have emerged as a powerful force online for brand marketers. After all, an estimated 89 % have email addresses they check regularly. As a group they are more willing to share information about themselves online. For this group, surfing, IM, email and social networking sites are prime destinations online -- 55% of teens age 12-17 visit them regularly. Yet it may not be clear to brand managers how this group can be reached and motivated with marketing messages.

For another prime age group, retirees, the path is more direct. Today's typical retiree is a tech-savvy baby boomer who relies on the Internet for a range of informational and commercial purposes. These retirees, nearly 30 % of who made a purchase on the Internet in 2006, represent an immediate opportunity for brand managers.

Demographic trends such as those published in a recent The Media Audit report can help brand marketers develop targeted customer acquisition campaigns for the teen and retiree demographic groups. Building these brand relationships online with trusted, valuable information is a sound brand strategy.

Let's look at the teen and retiree online audiences and explore approaches that brand marketers can employ to attract their attention, inform and educate, and add them to the growing community of satisfied online customers.

Tweens/Teens

Tweens (12-14) and teens control a growing chunk of the family discretionary budget. According to a recent report from consumer intelligence expert Mintel, the estimated spending power of teens age 12 -17 in 2006 approached $190 billion. At just under 10% of the US population, teens work and tend to spend their earnings on themselves, with teen boys pushing a surprising $2 billion plus in the health and beauty category in 2006 alone. (Alloy Media + Marketing ).

Although teens exert significant influence over family spending -- estimates suggest they will influence $150 billion of purchases in 2007 -- reaching them with advertising is increasingly difficult. Studies suggest that teens skip as many as 70 % of TV ads; those who watch are likely to be multitasking, chatting with friends via IM or playing online games. As the costs of ad spots increase and viewership declines, marketers are well advised to look to new, online media channels to reach these budding consumers.

Online targeting strategies to reach cash-flush teens include:

Don't ignore tweens, the 12- to 14-year-olds who frequent social networking sites like Club Penguin and Whyville. Although Club Penguin doesn't accept advertising, other sites allow corporate sponsorships with "virtual" product placement opportunities.

Teens are open to receiving informative emails that include relevant, timely information - on a sale, or mail that includes a coupon -- so don't neglect them in your lead generation/customer acquisition campaigns.

Look beyond MySpace and Facebook for targeted, niche sites that appeal to teen interests.

Encourage teens to interact with your marketing outreach, and invite them to include their friends. Teens are strong influencers of their peers.

Boomer/Retirees

Health, fitness, travel and finances lead the topics that draw retirees to Web sites when searching for information online. As the ranks of affluent retirees swell, online purchasing activity grows, with nearly 30% buying online at least once, and 15% making five or more online purchases annually (The Media Audit).

The opportunity for brand managers here is huge; retirees are more brand-loyal and more likely to seek information from online sources than are other age groups.

One touch point for retirees is health. Prospectiv's 2007 Pharmaceutical Marketing Consumer Preference Index (CPI) poll indicates that 75% of consumers begin the search for health-related information online, rather than turning to magazines or broadcast media.  There are tried-and-true online methods to reach these boomer information seekers:

 Microsites that focus on health-specific issues, such as Healthier.com and WebMD give brand marketers a platform to disseminate health news, tips and recipes, paired with relevant offers for fitness, pharmaceutical or beauty offers.

Use interactive calculators, quizzes and polls that test a retiree's knowledge -- what exercise burns the most calories, which foods are higher in fat, how to calculate optimal weight through a Body Mass Index -- and you'll also be able to reach your audience with relevant offers while building trust.

Use travel microsites to combine information on destinations with offers, promotions and valuable travel tips of interest to this demographic.

Choose your method to reach prospects, but don't neglect the Internet, where increasingly members of all demographics turn for first-line information about health, travel, cooking, finance and more. Brand marketers who are savvy about the Internet will reduce customer acquisition costs, strengthen the brand relationship and boost conversion rates, while gathering valuable information about prospects.

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