Marketing Respect for the California Senior


If seniors are shown respect and attention, they’ll reward marketers with their wallet—a wallet that is bursting at the seams.

“Respect your elders.” We’ve all heard those words since we were young children. And not only did we hear it, it became part of our belief system for our whole lives. Unfortunately, younger generations don’t seem to embrace it quite like we did, and apparently, neither do many of today’s marketers.

Here in California, 7 million seniors, or should I say consumers, are being largely disrespected or ignored. Sure, we see our share of erectile dysfunction commercials, ads for all kinds of diseases we hope we’ll never get, commercials for romantic cruises on European rivers, retirement plans, and we can’t avoid the king of them all, the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” commercial for Life Call. Ugh. But where is the advertising for all the products and services with broad appeal across all age groups? In other words, where are the marketing dollars for the appropriate sales levels for seniors?

In California and nationally, seniors account for nearly half of all consumer spending, but are targeted with just 10% of marketing dollars. (AARP) Retail sales in California in 2017 totaled nearly $667B. Yes, they’re buying, but like any other target audience, imagine what they would be spending (on your product in particularly) if they received a proportionate marketing spend.

There are a couple of reasons why seniors aren’t being marketed to sufficiently. In most cases, marketers simply are not aware of the size and potential of the opportunity. Others believe that marketing only to their core or “heavy user” is the smartest strategy. But clearly, young men aren’t the only people consuming fast food, soft drinks, beer, and potato chips. And millennials aren’t the only people buying cell phones, computers, running shoes, cars, movie tickets, and cosmetics. So if a marketer sees 15% or more of their products’ sales going to consumers aged 55+, what’s the right strategy? Here are a few tips:

  1. Realize that right now is the time to establish a competitive advantage. The numbers are too big and the opportunity is becoming too obvious to wait.
  2. Consider testing on a limited scale. Pick a few markets to test an ROI that can be scaled up if successful. Since many trends begin in California, consider California seniors as a place to start.
  3. Develop product, pricing, messaging, media and marketing plans specifically with the senior in mind. Recycling existing pieces of the marketing mix is not usually effective.
  4. Commit to a budget that has a good chance of succeeding
  5. Production values, tonality, casting, lighting, direction, etc. matter. Don’t insult the target by looking like you don’t mean it.
  6. Consider an appropriate/different resource for your senior strategy. The average age of a “creative” in U.S. agencies is 28 years old. Do they really “get” the senior target?

Seniors were once in charge. They’re baffled that they’ve been abandoned as desirable consumers. It’s a perfect time to show them the attention and respect they deserve.

Photo by Benjamin Morris

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