In our last post we shared some insights learned from more than twenty years of helping clients understand better the Baby Boomer and senior customer mind and successfully secure and retain customers 48 years of age and older. The following provides traditional and online marketers’ more insights into understanding better older customers.
1. Motivations do not originate in the conscious mind.
The conscious mind is the executive officer that, like a corporate CEO, makes decisions on needs that have been framed at lower levels. Neurologist Richard Restak states in The Brain Has a Mind of Its Own “We have reason to doubt that full awareness of our motives may be possible.” Adds brain researcher Bernard Baars in, In the Theater of the Brain, “Our inability to report intentions and expectations simply reflect the fact that they are not qualitatively conscious.”
Marketing Implication: Answers customers give researchers about their motivations are often incomplete or off the mark simply because people can only speculate about their motivations at deepest levels of the psyche. Creators of product messages need to become more intimately familiar, than is typical, with the “hidden drivers” of customers’ behavior about which they have little explicit knowledge. These drivers tend to be stage-of-life specific. For example, young people generally have stronger outer-directed motivations relating to social status than younger customers. As they age Baby Boomer and senior customer’s motivations tend to be qualitatively more experiential and less materialistic than younger people’s motivations.
2. People use different brain sites and mental processes in answering researchers’ hypothetical questions than they use in real life situations.
Research respondents tend to draw more heavily on the objective sequential reasoning of the left-brain than on the subjective emotional right brain in answering researchers’ questions. This bias is reversed in favor of the right brain in reacting to product messages and making buying decisions.
Marketing Implication: We can improve research results by techniques that are more effective in defining customers’ implicit testimonies that have not been distorted by undue influence from left-brain processing. The recent trend toward studying customers in their natural living and shopping environments is justified by the finding that people process hypothetical information differently than they do real life information. Researchers need to make more use of indirect techniques to get behind the curtains of consciousness.
3. Brain development is lifelong. How people mentally process information changes from one decade of life to the next.
This alters how people view and connect with the external world (worldview). Language style preferences also change over time. For example, youth and young adults generally have a more assertive language style than Baby Boomer and senior customers.
Marketing Implication: Product messages will be more effective when expressed in the stage-of-life language style of the core market to which you primarily address the message.
4. Adolescent brains are significantly inferior to adult brains in reading facial expressions.
The older people are, the more skilled they generally are at reading facial expressions.
Marketing Implication: Product messages depicting people should reflect awareness the core audience’s ability to read facial expressions. For instance, older people’s greater sensitivity to facial expressions means that facial expressions should bear authentic connection to the product and product message in Baby Boomer and senior customer markets. Younger customers will generally be more concerned with what people are doing than with what their faces are saying.
5. As midlife (40+) approaches, people increasingly draw on right brain functions.
They begin relying less on left-brain sequential reasoning and more on emotions – aka “gut feelings” or intuition.
Marketing Implication: Product messages for people over 35 should have more affect (emotional toning) than product messages for younger people. Under 35, people tend to have a stronger reasoning bias, thus product messages generally should implicitly or explicitly promote concrete reasons for purchase.
6. Information entering the brain’s cortex (outer layers) is first processed mostly in the right brain.
The right brain processes information as sensory images rather than as words and numbers. The left-brain works in numbers and words.
Marketing Implication: To arouse the strongest attention, product messages should be rich in sensory stimuli. Even though the right brain can’t process words, words can create sensory images, as every storyteller knows. The older a market, the more important it is to present a product in story form.
7. Emotion, not reason, is the final arbiter in decision-making.
Initial responses to information entering the brain are visceral. Changes in body states (e.g., pulse, hormonal flow, saliva flow, body temperature, etc.) generate emotions. When a matter fails to generate emotions, a person will not take action on it. (Brain patients who have lost their emotional abilities while retaining full powers of comprehension and reasoning cannot make advantageous decisions in which they have a personal stake in the outcome.)
Marketing Implication: A cardinal rule for developing effective product messages is go with the grain of the brain or “Lead with the right; follow with the left.” The only way to get into a person’s conscious mind is via the right brain. Again, the use of sensory images is a key to getting into the right brain.
The differences in customer motivations and decision processes between customers in the first and second half of life boggle many marketers who have yet to figure out how to market to older customers. The young are easier to analyze and sell to. Now, with adults over the age of 40 in the majority, marketers are being compelled to figure out their values and behavior.
We’ll wrap up this series in the next post.