By Jim Gilmartin –
Contrary to the perception that aging brings a calcification of shopping habits, many over-50 consumers diversify their spending habits as they grow older. That diversification, plus the narrower tactics of contemporary marketing practices, makes them much tougher to reach through advertising. As older consumers and the Baby Boomer cluster move from the crowd-think of their youth to personal uniqueness, marketing messaging should also move to meet them on their new turf.
Our worldviews, needs, motivations and general approaches to needs satisfaction are not predetermined by our current season of life, and originate in five systems of motivating values (Values). Values systems, from which all behavior emerges, are biologically innate and constitute the core building blocks of behavior. In effect, the five Values systems are the DNA of behavior:
Source of Needs and Motivations
|Identity Values||Sense of Self, and differentiation, maximization and perpetuation of Self|
|Relationship Values||Connections for orientation, grounding, validation of Self
Seeks resources for help in meeting needs that includes institutions and belief systems
|Purpose Values||Commanding focus of Self’s energy output and efforts|
|Adaptation Values||Skills, knowledge, for fulfillment of the Self’s potential|
|Energy Values||Health & well-being of the Self in the physical, psychological domains|
We manifest our Values Systems differently depending on our stage of life. When we’re younger many values are shaped by outside influences, including family, community, school, friends, etc. As we age, others have less influence on our attitudes, beliefs and behavior. We think more autonomously, not stubbornly. Since all of this requires our favorite CPU, the brain, we need to enlist brain and neuroscience to enlighten marketing strategies.
First Half of Life
Second Half of Life
Considerable evidence shows the brain’s right hemisphere pays wide-open attention to the world, whereas the left hemisphere is adept at focusing on detail. A new experience is better apprehended by the right hemisphere, whereas the left hemisphere deals better with the predictable.
The left-brain resists new information, regardless of how brilliantly presented, and often will not process new information unless first dealt with by the right brain. The right brain desires novelty, but it likes connected novelty. Knowing that, early in the marketing process of engaging older consumers you certainly should not design a website, content marketing piece, or video ad campaign crammed with details or product features. It simply doesn’t get processed. Get the right brain’s attention first and provide them access, or links, to more information.
The message: stop putting 10 pounds of copy into a 5-pound landing page or measured media ad. Instead of telling customers about your great products or services, tell a story. Creatively position your product or service as a gateway to a meaningful life experience they might seek. Sure, you’ve heard this before, but do you take the advice to heart? The right brain pays attention to stories but not lectures. Stories should be word pictures because the right brain’s command of language is somewhat primitive. The right is the visual side of the brain, so it gets pictures and images. It doesn’t get verbal or written arguments.
The marketing universe of advertising, marketing, sales and public relations is about getting information into people’s brains and persuading them to take action. The older we become, the more emotional reactions determine if we should think about a matter (the right-brain works harder). Emotional triggers in the right brain activate memories, and the stronger the memory – the stronger the emotional response. Understand those triggers.
Finally, it’s not only important to understand what older customers think, but it’s also important to discover how they think. Infuse your marketing messages with empathy, trust, and novelty. A good understanding of how a customer’s brain processes information is one key to effective communications. Your communications can fail if you don’t connect with the Baby Boomer consumers’ right brain. So get your messages creatively-right.
For additional insights, please visit our What We’ve Learned page.