The Older Adult Market: New Research Highlights 'Key Values'

By Leinweber, Frank | Generations, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

The Older Adult Market: New Research Highlights 'Key Values'


Leinweber, Frank, Generations


GENERATIONS

A marketing strategy to influence consumer behavior

People in the business of marketing to older adults are as likely as anyone else to hold stereotypical views of this segment of the population. "Older adults don't have enough money or the will to spend it; their brand loyalty is absolute; retirement equals a sedentary lifestyle.' Sweeping generalizations such as these are based on outdated concepts-- as marketers are beginning to learn.

In fact, the older adult market represents one-- third of the population yet controls three-- fourths of the wealth. Older adults are no more or less brand loyal than individuals a fraction of their age; for some product categories, they are more likely to abandon a brand than their younger counterparts. And their lives are far from sedentary.

Marketing messages that embrace cliched themes not only miss their mark but also alienate older adults. A survey conducted by Active Times reported that people over age So feel that advertising messages geared to them are condescending, stereotypical, and place far too much emphasis on medical conditions. Smart marketers are replacing conventional approaches with new ways of understanding and connecting with mature Americans.

Traditionally, companies have relied on many methods to predict consumer behavior, including those based on chronological, biological, or psychological age-or on consumers' attitudes, opinions, or demographics. While all of these approaches have merit, they also have shortcomings. Chronological age is no longer considered sufficient for understanding older adults. Who among us can't think of an 8o-year-old going on 50, or vice versa? Biological age provides an understanding of metabolic changes such as decreasing visual and aural acuity or diminished mobility, but health declines occur at different rates in different people. Psychological age also sheds light on agingrelated characteristics such as attaining more wisdom and confidence, indulging ourselves, and experiencing intergenerational issues as our parents grow older and our children build their own families. Yet, these experiences, too, vary dramatically from person to person.

In addition, attitudes, opinions, and demographics can and do change over time because of life events and circumstances. Although members of any generation are linked by shared experiences, Seniors Research Group (SRG), a division of Market Strategies Inc. …

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