Marketing to Baby Boomer and Senior Customers – Part III

This is the final blog in a series providing traditional and online marketers’ insights into securing and keeping baby Boomer and senior customers.

A significant pitfall is to lump all boomer and older customers into the same group. The average Baby Boomer and senior customer doesn’t exist. Behaviorists have discovered that no two people see anything exactly the same way. No view we have of anything can be fully congruent with anyone else’s view because, like fingerprints, every brain is unique as are the five senses that connect us to the world outside our minds. However, there are stage of life values and motivators shared by us all.

Gender tends to predispose responses to voice-overs in broadcast advertising.
For example, research tells us that male voices are more knowledgeable when describing technical attributes of a product, while female voices are more knowledgeable when describing a product with references to love, relationships and caring.

Marketing Implication:
Choose the voice to match the content and delivery style of a product message.

Pictures of people in motion arouse the brain more quickly than posed pictures.

Marketing Implication: Avoid posed pictures like the plague. Motion conveys vitality. Posed pictures convey lifelessness. You should mostly avoid posed pictures in marketing to Baby Boomer and senior customers, although marketers commonly use posed pictures for that market.

Each experience we have prompts the brain to create clusters of neurons (brain cells) with predisposed responses to new but similar experiences.
As the population of these dispositional clusters increases, a person becomes more habituated and reflexive in his or her responses. This decreases sensitivity to external influences, like advertising, making a person more autonomous.

Marketing Implication: Dispositional clusters are the marketer’s equivalent of “hot buttons.” The older we are the more hot buttons we have. This is good news and bad news for marketers. First the bad news: It’s harder to change people’s patterns after the early adult years. Now, the good news: When a marketer hits a customer’s hot buttons, the deal is all but made. The challenge is learning what those hot buttons are. Fortunately, there is remarkable consistency in the general nature of hot buttons among people in the same season of life. Knowledge of the developmental attributes of customers in a given season will guide a  marketer to connect with their hot buttons.

Initial determination of information relevance occurs unconsciously. 
When a person sees an ad, or a TV spot the right brain initially determines if it has personal relevance. The sequential reasoning processes of the left-brain only go to work on the ad after it has reached consciousness. The right brain conducts a process called information triage to reduce information flow to levels the conscious mind, with limited working memory (RAM) can handle. The primary criterion is relevance to a person’s interests.

Marketing Implication: Imagine having a conversation in your office or at a social gathering when you hear your name come up in another conversation not far from you. Your brain was hearing the other conversation all along, but only when your name was mentioned did it see fit to alert your conscious mind to the other conversation. That’s what information triage is about. Creating product messages that survive information triage is the biggest challenge in marketing. It has become fashionable to complain about advertising clutter. However, the clutter problem is in the brain, not on a television screen or in a magazine. When a message has relevance to a person’s interest, the right brain will take note. When we talk about having a “double take,” we acknowledge the right brain’s ability to pick up in a nanosecond something that has relevance to our interests.

Increased price-sensitivity in nondiscretionary spending
As they age, many customers develop higher economic “literacy” and skillfully apply it to get the best price — an objective not to be confused with “getting the best value”.

Marketing Implication: Bargains primarily reflect price factors while implicit in the term “value” are all attributes of the product, the purchase experience and the expected ownership experience. In purchasing “need” items, Baby Boomer and senior customers tend to be more bargain-minded, whereas in purchasing “desire” items, they tend to be more value-minded in a holistic sense.

Often project what seems to be contradictory behavior
We sometimes characterize Baby Boomer and senior customers as selfish and selfless, penurious and profligate, spontaneous and deliberate, and so on. These conflicting attributes lead some to characterize Baby Boomer and senior customers as contradictory — or at least, confusing in their behavior.

Marketing Implication: However, Baby Boomer and senior customers are not contradictory in their behavior; they are sensitive to context in their behavior. For example, a Baby Boomer and senior shopper may appear needy in using cents-off coupons in a grocery store, after which she drives off in a Mercedes. This is not evidence of contradictory behavior, but an example of the rules of thriftiness applied to basics, and the rules of whole value applied to discretionary expenditures. In the first case, price is the common denominator in customers’ interest, in the second, there is no common denominator because each person calculates  whole value in a unique manner.

We’ve learned that it’s about new rules, new mindsets and new processes. In short, it is about a new, authentically customer centric paradigm. New paradigms challenge the mind because the mind has a natural bias toward preserving the old ways; even when old ways cease working as they once did. But when pain caused by an old paradigm’s breakdown exceeds peoples’ threshold of tolerance, they begin warming to new alternatives.

Finally, we’ve learned that today’s marketplace is unlike any before faced before. Most of its adult members are in the years when the influences of what Maslow called self-actualization begin to show up in behavior. Until the New Customer Majority emerged, these forces had little noticeable influence on the marketplace at-large. Now however, such attributes of self-actualization oriented behavior as the following are widely evidenced in the marketplace:

  • Perceptions – more conditional, less absolutist (shades of gray vs. black and white)
  • Relationships – more autonomous, less dependent on sources (such as advertising) in making decisions
  • Social behavior – more individuated, less subject to “herd behavior,” less easy to pigeon hole into segments
  • Decision making – more emotional (as in “gut feelings” or intuition), less “rational” in decision processes.

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