On Wednesday, November 18th, I had the honor of hosting a Silver Economy edition of our Future of Branding virtual roundtable. Together with five CMOs and their parents, we explored how brands impress (or alienate) the baby boomer generation.
Our multigenerational conversation squashed myths, such as the uninformed senior consumer; it shone a light on the influence of traditional media and highlighted the enduring need for simplicity in brand experience. We were reminded that this age group is a diverse tapestry, consisting of different kinds of passionate, ambitious and active adults.
My hope for our audience is that this conversation provokes us to exercise the curiosity to challenge assumptions, push the frontiers to address the unmet needs, and, ultimately, ignite the creativity to unlock the possibilities presented by this generation.
As marketers, our concept of older consumers must be ambitious enough to reveal all the facets and flexible enough for this generation to feel seen, heard, and valued.
In closing, I asked the five marketing leaders: What were your takeaways, and what is your commitment as a marketer now to appeal to this generation? Here’s what they had to say.
What I found interesting was that this is an incredibly savvy audience. When engaging with this demographic, marketers need to be respectful and not make too many assumptions. Unfortunately, seniors tend to be lumped into one group, but they’re actually very different. There’s a lot of spending power and a lot of loyalty. That stood out for me.
OkCupid is one of the biggest dating apps in the world, and one of our fastest-growing segments is the 50+ audience. Sometimes they are widows; sometimes, they have been single for a very long time. Dating apps enable them to get to know people and date safely. We need to commit to being engaging, exciting when creating experiences for this audience and not make assumptions. It starts with listening to that audience and understanding what are they looking for? What will speak to them? And then use that knowledge to create messages and get to the benefit.
—Melissa Hobley, CMO, OkCupid
The thing that was consistent with all the parents was that this is a generation that reads. The number of people who mentioned newspapers and magazines was so insightful. As marketers, we often view those channels as a dying breed and that everything is going digital. It’s a good reminder that the whole marketing mix is crucial for this audience. Being reminded of how they live and how they consume information, and who they connect with is important for the market in general, but it was just such an a-ha moment for me.
In terms of commitments, it’s crucial is to listen to them—not to talk at them. We need to listen to this group, not only during the product development phase but also during the delivery. Often, they are treated as an afterthought. For example, an entire campaign will be created, and at the end, models will be swapped out so they look older, and that’s considered sufficient. It was a good reminder today to think about how they live and to remember that they do a lot of research. What we put out in terms of reviews and recommendations and how we foster word of mouth is going to be super important.
—Katrina McGhee, EVP, Marketing & Communications, American Heart Association
For me, a key theme is that this generation values the research process. What’s interesting is that this generation grew up at a time when mass advertising and marketing meant putting on a lot of TV ads that tell you to buy. Over the years, and perhaps as a reaction to that, this group has become savvier about their purchases. It’s more about providing the right information and sharing that you’re not selling at them and you are not trying to push a sale. Don’t think these consumers are dumb and don’t tell them to buy; they’ll make my own decision.
My commitment for all of us marketing brands is not to be shy about this generation being part of our audience and openly talk to them, engage them and market to them. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and it’s just a remarkable generation with strong opinions, passions and aspirations.
—Mai Fenton, CMO, Superscript
Even though this is a generation, its members are not all the same. While age is a convenient way to think about segments, the parents here reminded us that the people within those segments have unique thoughts, minds, etc. I also heard today just the range of things that they think about and purchase. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that that’s not the case with this generation. But the breadth was huge. And that’s a key thing for us to keep in mind. We need to consider their experiences and all their needs because they’re still very active, living individuals.
In my role at Pfizer, I spend time collaborating and, to some degree, interrogating plans for the products that we bring to the marketplace and customers and, in our case, to patient. My commitment is to ensure that when we’re looking at those and discussing them, we’re truly asking ourselves and making sure we have a clear communication plan for this generation where the product is applicable. And we need to ensure it’s not just an afterthought, that it’s a proactive part and that we genuinely understand the why and the rationale behind what we’re saying.
—Deborah Scarano, VP, Senior Launch Navigator, Pfizer
Three things stood out for me. One, I love the comment that aspirations don’t expire at a certain age. I thought that was well done and well stated. The panelists brought up the value of dedicated customer service, that’s knowledgeable but also patient. That’s something that struck a chord with me in terms of not just being there but also being patient, especially for the group that we’re lucky to talk with today. The third takeaway was how incredibly influential the parents are. An influencer doesn’t necessarily have to be what I think our current definition is. Especially if you think about when you’re making a big purchase, you’re making a significant decision and you’re going to talk to your parents. It’s essential to make sure as a marketer that you understand how those decisions get made.
The big thing that resonated for me was to keep it simple, be inclusive and be persuasive. For Booz Allen, what I do every single day is cybersecurity. It’s nebulous, it’s incredibly technical and can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Keeping it simple is going to be a very effective and persuasive strategy.
—Brendan Delaney, CMO, Booz Allen Commercial Business