The purpose of marketing is to stimulate awareness, interest and desire in customer minds that lead to decisions to buy. An implicit presumption in marketing is that customer minds ‑‑ at least adult customer’ minds ‑‑ process information more or less the same way. So, we typically direct our communication to the “average customer.” Moreover, when targeting boomer and senior customers, online marketers tend to group these demos into “the boomer market” or “the senior market.” The danger is this approach creates a herd marketing mentality when attempting to connect with these very diverse populations.
Information processing varies considerably across the life span. If you don’t key your message to the information processing styles that generally characterize customers within a lifestage, you’ll likely fall short of achieving your objectives. The message must resonate with the cognitive styles of the objective targets of the message.
Emotion is Necessary to Motivate Individuals
The experience of emotion motivates individuals to act. This obvious notion has become even more significant with the recently published findings in neuroscience concerning human motivations. The experience of emotion is necessary to motivating individuals to act (on matters having personal relevance).
Cognitive operations in later life reflect a shift from the dominantly objective mode of younger minds to a blended mode that reflects increasing amounts of subjectivity. Simplistically speaking, this means there are less rationally‑derived content and more emotionally‑derived content in the fully formed perceptions of senior people.
Emotionally Neutral Sales Presentations Are Less Effective
Empirical studies have shown that senior adults are relatively superior to younger adults in understanding emotional states. They will generally “get the picture” with less being said, provided what is said is capable of quickly stirring emotional responses. On the other hand, it appears that senior minds tend to be slower in getting the picture when the information representing it is emotionally neutral. Therefore, to focus on functional competence in the early stages of a customer/ company relationship is to place emphasis on the least important issues in the customer’s mind.
Weaving information into an attractive tapestry that integrates “facts” into an emotionalizing matrix can satisfy the need of senior customers to gauge the potential emotional quality of the relationship before considering the product. You generally can’t measure relationship quality; you feel it. Too many facts too early in the customer/company relationship dampen feelings. We process emotional material more deeply than non-emotional material. This suggests that often the best way to transmit objective, emotionally neutral information to senior markets is to piggyback it on or sandwich it between emotionally enriched information.
The Crux of the Matter
Whereas findings add to the considerable literature documenting age‑related decrements for neutral information, they suggest that a similar toll is not taken on memory for emotional information . . . thus . . . emotional material may come to occupy relatively more thought over time. Emotional information is retained and recallable in greater detail.
This observation is the crux of the matter. It suggests that the current focus of online marketing on product features and benefits and other objective information reaches a point of diminishing returns more quickly among senior customers.
Communications intended for people in midlife and beyond will benefit from respecting these differences in message content and style by delivering high-grade results more often. Effective and successful communications begin with creating an emotional environment that typically reflects:
- A desire to listen to the customer
- A process that eases the qualification process
- An understanding of the customer’s needs and wants
- An understanding of the changing communications process (lifestage values and motivators) in senior customers
- The development of a bond, a trusting relationship (vulnerability, honesty and integrity)
- Ease in the processing of relevant facts and information
- Continued expressions of empathy not sympathy
- An understanding of the value and effectiveness of storytelling and anecdotes
Touch their heart and they’ll give you their mind.