How to Market to Your 50+ Consumer

With Canada’s rapidly aging population, determining how to reach seniors with effective marketing messaging is now fundamental. And these customers are not all the same. Here, I’ll  share useful tips when marketing to the various senior segments, based on a seminar I attended this past fall in the U.S. lead by Kurt Medina, President of Medina Associates and a Direct Marketing consultant specializing in the 50+ market. Medina works with a wide range of clients; both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations, including Fortune 100 companies.

Medina started off by telling us how big this market is becoming and that they have a disproportionate amount of discretionary income (house paid off, kids gone, etc.). He split the 50+ market into three groups:

1) Pre-Retirees/Boomers - 50-63; 2) Active Retirees - 64-74; 3) Seniors: 75+

  1. Boomers (50-63)
    They’ve had their way throughout their lifetime and that expectation will continue into their latter years. They work long hours, they’re busy, they trust themselves (not marketers or institutions) and aim to be self-sufficient. To reach this group you need to make sure you acknowledge they are special and offer them something unique to their needs – e.g., insider tips, VIP access. They want customization not mass. And because they are independent, offer answers to their questions right up front.
  2. Active Retirees (64-74)
    In the U.S. at least, this was a segment that had rising incomes during the most recent recession. The most exciting part of being a retiree, according to Medina, is the possibility of new and expanding horizons with more independence, comfort and ease. Now that they are mostly retired, they are beginning to truly think about ‘me’ – what have I done, what haven’t I done, and what can I now do.
  3. Seniors (75+)
    First, they don’t like being called senior - so be wary of using that term in your messaging. Senior sounds too old, even to this group. An interesting statistic Medina shared was how old we think ‘old’ is. The answer changes as you age - if you’re 40 you might say 60+ is ‘old’ but when you’re 60, 80 becomes the ‘new old’.

Whereas Boomers are still rushing around, the 65+ group has more time on its hands. So don’t rush them. Phrases like ‘Why wait!’ or ‘Call now!’ may do more harm than good.

Now that we have an idea of the segments, what do we need to keep in mind when initiating a direct marketing campaign?

6 things to remember:

  1. Use contrasting colours which are easier to see with aging eyes.
  2. Don’t put copy over top of images that makes reading difficult.
  3. You must have some single women in your images - not just happy couples. There are many widows in this group (and other single women) who want to see more representations of their lifestyle.
  4. And when you do feature the happy couple, make sure the woman is age appropriate - avoid the mature gentleman and the much younger wife (you can, however, probably get away with that couple if you are targeting products for men only).
  5. Use icons – they are better remembered than verbal cues (i.e. the dotted line coupon for scissor cutting).
  6. Use closed envelopes with a letter inside – people writing people = humanity.

And for DRTV, here are 5 more to do’s:

  1. For the first 2-4 seconds of the ad, keep it clean and message free.
  2. Use graphics.
  3. No fast cuts, which make it too hard to follow.
  4. Feature your 1- 800 number at least three times on screen in a 120 second spot.
  5. Follow-up all responses by mail.

David Thompson

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Tags: Direct Marketing, Customer Insights, Advertising, Strategy