I am learning new stuff about the brain all the time, and since I have one myself, older brains are particularly interesting to me.
If marketers don’t get wise to the way seniors perceive their marketing messages they are are in for a rude awakening. Marketing to the older brain isn’t done by showing pictures of frail people, confused people, or trying to frighten them into buying stuff.
Wake up, folks. “Seniors,” doesn’t mean senile. Older people aren’t all decrepit and stupid. Not only that, but we’ve got more of the money, honey.
Let’s just take the young seniors, those Baby Boomers who are just coming of age now. The 44 million baby boomers are maturing rapidly, and represent the richest generational cohort in history. In the US, they control 77% of all financial assets. They use ½ of all credit cards, and spend 2½ times the per capita average on discretionary purchases.
The level of spending by those over 45 will soon exceed that of people between 18 and 39 by $1 trillion US. Yet, despite these statistics, only 10 percent of all branded marketing target older consumers (Wolfe and Snyder, 2003).
I know that neither myself, my husband or any of my friends of similar ages are attracted to the way seniors are depicted in marketing messages.
Some of us don’t use a cane or a walker. We actually play sports and even dress like younger peeps.
Here are a few facts about the older brain and how it likes to be marketed to.
As we age, the word-oriented left hemisphere of the brain overloads more easily. But the right brain’s ability to process visual images holds steady.
So companies should find that seniors are less attuned to rational, persuasive arguments and more influenced by an emotional, visual approach. Marketers would be wise to appeal to older consumers’ rich networks of long-term memories and associations.
Memory: the ability for older brains to suppress distractions declines with age. It is this factor that contributes to poorer memories in older people. They are more overwhelmed by distractions.
What does this mean for marketing messages?
- Keep your messages obvious, direct, clean and uncluttered.
- Avoid multiple sensory stimulation and quick-time animations.
- Unlike their younger peers, older adults do not require quick flash snippets of material.
Older brains have better emotional thermostats.
- It’s effective to accentuate the positive instead of trying to get their attention with doom and gloom.
- Reinforce positive images of themselves and pleasant feelings.
Older brains are resilient. Be broad and positive in your presentation of information. Resilient brains do not respond to scare tactics of scarcity or urgency.
What has been your experience with appealing to the mature consumer? … I’m talking about mature in the sense of years, not personalities. As I always say, you can’t help getting older, but you can remain immature forever.