For more than twenty years we’ve been helping clients understand better the mind of Baby Boomer and senior customers (48 years of age and older) to successfully secure and retain them. And over that period we’ve learned a few things. Several years ago we published some of these insights and we think they’re worth sharing again. We’ll reveal more in subsequent posts.
1. Increased individualism
Baby Boomer and senior customers are less subject to peer influence than younger customers.
Marketing Implication: Keeping up with the Joneses is not as important as it once was; thus advertising that invokes social status benefits doesn’t play as well in Baby Boomer and senior markets as in younger ones. Largely freed from worrying about reactions of others, Baby Boomer and senior customers tend toward greater practicality in buying decisions than younger customers. This increases individualization (autonomy) in behavior which makes it more difficult to predict what they will do in the marketplace.
2. Increased demand for facts
Baby Boomer and senior customers tend to be less responsive to sweeping claims in marketing messages as they age.
Marketing Implication: Hyperbole turns them off. If Baby Boomer and senior customers are interested in considering a purchase, they want unadorned facts, and more of them, than they usually wanted earlier in life. Years of buying equip Baby Boomer and senior customers with knowledge of what to look for and what information they need for an intelligent purchase. However, they often don’t get to the point of asking for facts until a product has emotionally intrigued them.
3. Increased response to emotional stimuli
Baby Boomer and senior customers tend to be quicker than younger customers to reflect emotionally a lack of interest in or negative reaction to an offered product.
Marketing Implication: Such “first impressions” are more likely to be permanent than among younger who are more likely to give a marketer a second chance. On the other hand, you can embed a positive first impression especially deep in the emotions of the older person — so much so that the Baby Boomer and senior customer is often more disposed to be a faithful customer than the younger customer.
4. Less self-oriented, more altruistic
Baby Boomer and senior customers tend to show increased response to marketing appeals reflecting altruistic values.
Marketing Implication: This tracks with common middle-age shift toward stronger spiritual values in which concern for others increases. As altruistic motivations become stronger, narcissistic and materialistic values wane in influence. Marketers to Baby Boomer and senior customers must rethink their traditional egocentric appeals in marketing communications.
5. Increased time spent in making purchase decisions
As most people grow older, they experience changes in their perceptions of time, but also in its meaning and role in their lives.
Marketing Implication: For example, Baby Boomer and senior customers often ignore time-urgency strategies in marketing — such as: “Offer good until —,” “Only three left in stock—etc…” Generally, “time is not of the essence” is a common attitude among Baby Boomer and senior customers, especially those who have retired.
6. See fewer differences between competing products
Because Baby Boomer and senior customers tend to be more highly individuated, and less influenced by external influences, perceptions of products are more internally shaped.
Marketing Implication: They typically conclude that there is really little difference between products as may marketers’ claim. This contrasts with the tendency of younger customers to assert robustly the differences between a product they prefer and its competitors — even when clear differences don’t exist. In beer tasting tests, for example, young customers often cannot distinguish their favorite brews from others. Beer marketers can influence perceptions of beer taste as much as brew masters can.
7. See more differences between competing companies
Baby Boomer and senior customers tend to be more responsive to “companies with a conscience” than younger customers.
Marketing Implication: From a self-interest perspective, they are also more attentive to warranty issues and a company’s reputation for honoring its warranties than younger customers.
8. With respect to making discretionary-purchase decisions, Baby Boomer and senior customers tend to:
- Have a decreased sensitivity to price;
- Increased sensitivity to affordability;
- and, sharply increased sensitivity to value.
Marketing Implication: Baby Boomer and senior customers have more complex ways of determining value than younger customers. Value determination by Baby Boomer and senior customers tends to be an existentialist exercise whereby they combine soul (spiritual) values as well as mind (intellect) and body (tangible) values into the value determination process. Not only does an item purchased symbolize some aspect of the customer’s being, the entire purchase experience can be a projection of the customer’s whole being.
For example, a person with a passionate concern for a favorite charity may more likely purchase a product from a company with a program benefiting the charity. To that customer, the product has a high Metavalues index, that is, an element of value unrelated to the product performance. Appraisal of Metavalues takes place mostly at subliminal levels of the mind because Metavalues tend to reflect deeply embedded, “background” emotional needs. Younger customers tend to reflect more transparent motivations. After a mature customer develops strong interest in a discretionary product purchase and determines that a brand has acceptable holistic value (basic plus Metavalues) affordability can easily become more important than price in the final decision.
The differences in customer motivations and decision processes between customers in the first and second half of life sometimes frustrate many marketers who have yet to figure out how to market to older customers. Until recently, this was not a matter of serious concern because the young dominated the marketplace. The young are easier to sell to and analyze. Now, with adults over the age of 40 in the majority, marketers are being compelled to figure out the values and behavior of older customers.
We’ll share additional insights in the next post.