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Fascinating story from Bloomberg the other day about something called the Live Well Collaborative, which is made up of about a dozen companies including Procter & Gamble, Boeing and Mondelez International, aimed at developing both products and marketing approaches to appeal to the over 50 crowd.
This demographic group has a lot of money to spend - about $3 trillion a year in the US alone. So the Collaborative is motivated.
The group, working with the University of Cincinnati, has come up a sense of how to market to these aging consumers, and what their priorities are:
"They’ve discovered that seniors treat their pets more like grandchildren than children, and spoil them accordingly," the story says. "They’ve created biomechanical models of the human hand to understand how hard it is for arthritic consumers to open bottles of P&G’s Tide. And they’ve thought long and hard about how to ease Grandma’s journey through the airport."
But the problem is that there seems to be a gap between what these consumers need and what they seem to want:
"What existing products haven’t yet done is create a lasting emotional connection with older consumers, which is the true litmus test of a brand. Nobody aspires to own adult diapers. Boomers don’t want to just spend money on the things they need; they have the dollars and the desire to splurge on the things they truly want."
The bigger problem is one that, I think, can be ascribed to pretty much every demographic group - there's very little homogeneous about any of them.
When it comes to the over 50 crowd, which is the one I can speak of with the most personal experience, the simple fact is that we are all very different. I'm 58, and my dad is 87 ... but heaven knows that we have very different needs, interests, desires and issues. You can't speak to us the same way, which means if you want to create an emotional connection to us, or just sell us something, you have to drill down to see where the differences are, not the similarities.
That's the mark of all smart marketing, isn't it?
I also think that the challenge will only be greater as time goes on, because while we're getting older, we're resisting being defined that way. Many of us think in terms of plans and goals - not in terms of having "bucket lists" that we need to achieve before we die, but in terms of things that will help define how we live. I know for me, there are only four major league ballparks I haven't been to (in Miami, Tampa, Houston and, go figure, the Bronx), three states I haven't been to (Alaska, Montana and North Dakota), and only one continent - Antarctica. My intention is to do all of those things ... because doing all those things is how I define myself actively in the present, not because I want them listed in my obituary.
Needless to say, sometimes you have to face reality - we spent some time the other evening with a fellow helping us to figure out long term care insurance, just to make sure that we don't become a burden on our kids when we get older. Of course, I cracked jokes through the whole interview ... even though the guy we were talking to seemed to find it mildly unusual.
It's no wonder we are hard to market to. But I fully expect that the Live Well Collaborative will keep trying to figure out how to market to the 50+ group, while many of us in that group will keep seeking ways to avoid being defined as being part of that demographic.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: