When we saw this story from Australia, we liked it … because it says what we’ve long preached ourselves at BoomerCafé: if you’re selling something, don’t sell baby boomers short!
Call them mature or older consumers, but if you want to make it big in the senior market don’t call them elderly citizens or worse still, golden oldies.
With half of total consumer buying power being controlled by those aged 50 and older, small businesses cannot afford to offend Australia’s older generation.
Graeme Smith says there are huge opportunities to market to baby boomers.
“Baby-boomers are inheriting a lot of money at the moment and don’t have the same inkling as their parents to pass on their wealth,” he says.
“They want to spend their money and enjoy it with their children and grandchildren while they can still participate.”
The desire to spend their kids’ inheritance makes the older consumer a very attractive target for a wide variety of products.
And it’s not just retirement villages and incontinence pads. Think everything from luxury holiday packages to baby products for grandkids.
With Australia’s ageing population steadily increasing, Smith says all businesses should aim to take a slice of the mature market pie.
“Regardless of what business you are in, you need a marketing strategy that targets mature age consumers,” Smith says. “If you’re not addressing this market you’re enormously disadvantaged today.”
But beware – this market is older and wiser than any other.
Smith says using the right language to describe the older consumer is essential.
“Calling them things like golden oldies is patronising and if you say elderly citizens, it sounds like someone on a walking frame,” he says.
“Mature age seems to be the least offensive.”
The trick to marketing to the mature age demographic is to keep it simple without being condescending, says Sandra O’Neill, founder of the Marketing Division Australia.
“The older demographic can be tricky because some users are taking on new technology and some aren’t,” she says. “Either way, you have to make it nice and simple.”
O’Neill says older consumers respond well to light-hearted or humorous ad campaigns, but object to clichéd advertising featured younger people.
Mature age consumers are similarly sensitive to being stereotyped as invalid, retired and technophobic.
In fact, older consumers are anything but luddites.
They are almost as engaged as their younger cohorts, spending 95 hours a month online and representing 20 per cent of all online traffic, according to 2012 research by AIMIA, the Digital Industry Association for Australia.
The same research shows 94 per cent own a mobile phone and 42 per cent own a smartphone.
It was this evidence combined with solving a family problem that led Jo Siggins to venture into the mature age market.
When Siggins’ nan began suffering early symptoms of dementia and was unable to distinguish night from day, the Tasmanian got together with her parents Karen and Gary Hutchison to form a solution.
The family team devised Zeezap, a clock app that shows the time with an accompanying photo of a day or night scene to reduce day/night confusion. The app can be programmed by a carer to switch to day or night images that match the user’s wake and sleep times.
It sounds like a simple business idea, but Siggins said she was conscious of the specific needs of older consumers and their carers.
“Marketing to this group was difficult because many are tech savvy but many prefer traditional TV and press,” she says.
Siggins and her parents, who formed a company called Gazwire, worked with Alzheimer’s Australia and Independent Living Australia to target their user base.
Learning how to market to the mature age demographic has taught Siggins a thing or two that could be passed on to other companies.
“I think there are a lot of businesses out there that aren’t considering the ageing demographic,” she says.
“For example, there are a lot of high-end cars marketed to the 50-plus demographic, but the dashboard displays are so small they can’t be read without reading glasses.
“Market research and consideration of consumers’ needs as they age is crucial. The population is not just ageing, we are living longer.
“We need to consider what new products and services are necessary to support the ageing and their caregivers and how we can integrate new technologies to meet demographic expectations.”