By Jim Gilmartin –
In Part I of this series, we shared some of what we’ve learned about marketing to Baby Boomer and older populations. We’ve learned that marketing activities exert an enormous impact on individuals and that consumer behavior is very relevant to the dynamics of marketing practices. We’ve also learned that a good understanding of how the brain processes information goes a long way to improving connecting processes.
Here is more of what we’ve learned.
1. There are material differences between males and females in the architecture and functioning of their brains
This difference often leads to different responses to the same experiences. Women make greater use of right-brain functions in thinking processes, making them more subject to emotional arousal than males. However, research indicates that in later life, the gap between men and women in emotional sensitivity narrows. Men become more sensitive and depend on emotional reads of a situation to determine if it warrants further attention.
Marketing Implication: Logic in product messages works better with males than females. However, this doesn’t mean qualitative differences in accuracy of perceptions because women make more efficient use of intuition, a right brain and emotionally-based function. However, once a woman experiences a favorable insight, she may become as rational in further processing a matter as a male. It’s just that her right brain is a more formidable gatekeeper to the left-brain than male brains are.
2. Our 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 just reflect the fact that they are not qualitatively conscious.”
Marketing Implication: Answers consumers give researchers about their motivations are often incomplete or off the mark, just because people can only speculate about their motives at deepest levels of the psyche. Creators of product messages need to become more intimately familiar than is typical with the “hidden drivers” of consumers’ behavior, about which they have little explicit knowledge.
These drivers tend to be stage-of-life specific. For example, young people have stronger outer-directed motivations relating to social status than older people. Older people’s motivations tend to be qualitatively more experiential and less materialistic than younger people’s motivations.
3. We 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 left-brain bias is reversed in reacting to product messages and making buying decisions.
Marketing Implication: We can improve research results by techniques that are more useful in defining consumers’ implicit testimonies that have not been distorted by undue influence from left-brain processing. The recent trend toward studying consumers 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.
4. Brain development is lifelong, and how we mentally process information changes from one decade of life to the next
This finding alters how people view and connect with the external world (worldview). Language style preferences also change over time. For example, youth and young adults have a more aggressive language style than older people.
Marketing Implication: Product messages will be more efficient and effective when expressed in the stage-of-life language style of the core market to which you primarily address the message.
5. Adolescent brains are significantly inferior to adult brains in reading facial expressions
The older people are, the more skilled they 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 an authentic connection to the product and product message in Baby Boomer and older markets. Younger consumers will typically be more concerned with what people are doing than with what their faces are saying.