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“As soon as our design team found out the product would be marketed to the 50+ market, the room began brainstorming a digital campaign aimed at ‘seniors,’” an advertising friend recently confided in frustration. Evidently the advertising firm where she works has an archaic view of the demographic. And they’re not the only ones. Long snubbed by advertisers, businesses are just beginning to wake up to the enormous influence (and spending power) held by those in their 50s. Here we give you some tips on how to successfully advertise online to the 50-something demographic, and tap into one of our country’s most overlooked markets.

BUMP THE LUMP

A few days ago I found myself enjoying lunch with a close friend and his soon-to-be 21 year-old daughter. When she brought up the French immersion program she had enrolled in for the summer, I was curious to learn more. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: So, do you think you would hang out with any of the other students outside class?
Her: Totally. I mean, maybe not everyone but mostly they’re really nice.
Me: Are the other students about your age?
Her: Mostly, yeah. Except for one old lady.
Me: How old is she?
Her: I don’t know, like thirty-seven.
Me: (Eyes bulging) Thirty-seven is an old lady?
Her: Well, to me it is.
Once the shock of this conversation wore off, I began to realize how much we all (regardless of what age we’re at) identify with others our same age. My 70 year-old aunt calls her 80 year-old friends “old-timers,” while another friend in his early 50s thinks of his business partner, just 12 years older, as “much more mature and experienced.” We can’t help it; it’s been programmed into us. But for some reason, the marketing and advertising worlds haven’t always made this connection.
For those entering their 50s, the practice of being identified with those 20, 25, or even 30 years their elder is a frustrating reality. Businesses and services frequently market themselves as “senior products” for the 50+ crowd, but it’s a practice both outdated and inadequate. So if you’re trying to woo the older Gen Xers and the youngest Boomers, do your homework and find out what makes them different, not the same, from everyone else.

TIMES ARE CHANGING, BABY.

We mean that literally, too. What many 50 year-olds are doing today, they weren’t doing 40 years ago. In 1976, the average age of a Canadian woman when she had her first child was 23.4 years. Today, almost one-third of first-time Canadian mothers’ are over the age of 35. What does that mean for you? That it’s important to reflect what a typical 50 year-old looks like these days. Once the domain of retirement ads on golf courses, today a woman in her 50s is a lot more likely to be changing diapers than wearing them. Reflecting reality back at your audience is important in building confidence, trust and a feeling of solidarity. Your audience wants to know that you get them, so ditch the stereotypes and patronizing language. Not only do those in their 50s use Facebook, Instagram and other forms of social media, they’re often more likely to use these platforms as a sold base for researching products using photos and video.

REACH OUT TO YOUR AUDIENCE

There is little else most of us want more than to be listened to and understood. If you have a product or service you would like to target to those in their 50s but aren’t sure how to do it, reach out. Use your current website or social media to get a feel for how this group sees themselves and would like to be portrayed and interacted with. It can be as simple as holding a Q & A on your Twitter account or Facebook page, to more in-depth research. You would be surprised how many people are willing to reach out for no other reason than the fact that someone cares. Taking the time to do this shows that you care about your audience and respect their feeling. Even more, it shows you have respect for yourself and all the time and energy you’ve spent building your business.

An article recently published in MarketingWeek sent a message to advertisers: marketing aimed at an older demographic should stop focusing on age. In it, they spoke with Rama Gheerawo, director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art. Gheerawo remarked that, “One of the ways of looking at diversity is, ironically, to unhitch it from age.” He also noted the college does not “data mine hundreds or thousands of people but instead…works with six to 20 people are ‘very different.’”

STOP FOCUSING ON AGE!!!

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses marketing to older demographics continue to make is focusing on age. People do not want to be consumed with growing older or constantly be reminded about their next birthday. What people want is to be seen as vibrant and interesting and to know they are contributing something at every stage of their lives.

Matt Atkinson, CMO of Saga—a business that has a number of products and services for the 50+ markets had this to say at the Mature Marketing Association last year. “We have homogenised this customer group by using a language that constantly makes them reject us as a result. They are on alert – that status of alert is ‘please do not tell me that I am old’.”

WORDS OF WISDOM

When drawing up your digital marketing plan here’s a few tips:

• Forget tired clichés
• Refrain from language that equates growing older with growing inferior
• Use realistic models and/or hosts
• Ditch patronizing language
• Stop focusing on age!
• Ask your audience what they want

TALK TO THE PROFESSIONALS
At Media Button, we have designed digital campaigns and videos for businesses reaching out to all ages and walks of life. If you would like some professional advice on an upcoming project, feel free to contact us. We love meeting new people!

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