Trivia & Facts

How to Advertise to Seniors and Baby Boomers in 2020

Selling to Senior Citizens

Seniors are pretty much invisible to advertisers in America. Have companies given up successfully advertising to seniors? We get weary of watching a TV world where you seldom see anyone over 50. And when you do, they’re most often ding-a-lings, duffers, or bores. Is there a secret to marketing to seniors? What is the best way to advertise to seniors?

Keep reading our guide to learn how to market to seniors today.

Invisible Seniors? Senior Advertising Gone Wrong

Consumers 18 to 49-years-old are who most advertisers want to reach. So that’s who we see on TV.

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Unfortunately, what we usually see brings with it reminders of our false teeth, arthritis, and incontinence problems. It’s a senior world from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every evening.

Then it becomes primetime when the only seniors you’ll ever see are fools and idiots.

Watch “Frasier’s” Martin Crane, permanently planted in his Barcalounger squatting in front of a television with his jumping dog, Eddie, by his side.

On “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Marie Barone is overbearing and meddling; husband Frank is long-suffering. Both are clichés older than I am.

As series star Doris Roberts, 71, says of the entertainment industry during testimony at a September 2002 Senate Committee, “They frequently show seniors in insulting and degrading ways, either mean or incompetent.”

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Advertisers Haven’t a Clue

It’s not that advertisers and TV producers want to insult us. They live in a world in which no one lives beyond 49. They know not, and actually think it’s humorous to stereotype a senior as a know-nothing goof.

Turn 50 and – Poof! – you’re a goner. While we as a nation see more gray every day – a boomer turns 50 every eight seconds, with 77 million approaching retirement age – advertisers believe the viewing world is forever young.

Advertisers still don’t get it. Especially the part where we geezers are rich and spending like crazy. A new research report by Epsilon revealed that baby boomers are the biggest spenders, with an average of $548.1 billion spent each year. They are followed by Gen X, those born between 1965 to 1980, who annually spend about $357 billion.

You can read more Senior Facts and Figures for additional metrics on the senior demographic.

The World’s 3rd Largest Economy

A new AARP study found that Americans over 50 constitute the world’s third-largest economy, and just in 2018, their economic contribution totaled $8.3 trillion. And that’s not all, this demographic is also very invested in giving back to the community and often donate and volunteer to support charities.

We earn more, spend more, give back, and create demand for new products and services, and yet advertisers seem to ignore us.

Even when they actually want to reach us, advertisers’ biggest blunder is thinking that old people are old. I’m sure by now you understand perfectly what I’m saying here.

Here’s another surprise. The same concepts that are important to you are important to us: respect, connectedness, independence, personal growth, and revitalization.

Senior Advertising & Personal Worth

We all want affirmation of personal worth. If advertisers want to capture our attention on the tube, older characters must embrace some of these aspects.

Above all, don’t talk down to us. We’re not dumb. Don’t consider us that way.

Remember the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial for an emergency communication device?

That spot almost killed that entire product category. Elders, even those who could have benefited from such a product, stayed away in droves.

Never base your sell on fear. Better to talk about maintaining independence.

A good place to start learning about how to advertise to seniors is my “10 Commandments for Successfully Selling to Seniors.”

From AARP’S Grandparent Information Center

  • Grandparents spend $179 billion each year on their grandchildren.
  • On average, this equals about $2,562 per grandparent.
  • Four in 10 grandparents are still working.
  • One-third of grandparents have grandchildren of a different race or ethnicity.
  • Grandparents often travel to and with their families to be able to spend more time together.
  • In order to feel closer to their families, grandparents are texting, video chatting and adopting new technologies.

The Biggest Myths About the Mature Market

The biggest hurdle for Madison Avenue is its belief in five key assumptions about mature consumers – some dating to the days of I Love Lucy – despite mounting research to the contrary:

Myth 1: Mature consumers are brand loyal.

This is the single biggest myth, experts say. Consumers 45 and over are just as likely as younger consumers to experiment with or switch brands, according to a study by AARP and RoperASW. “Marketers who abandon this stereotype will find themselves rewarded,” says Jim Fishman, publisher at AARP Publications.

Myth 2: Mature consumers care only about price.

Consumers 45 and up are more likely to buy higher-priced brands than people younger than 45, says Stephen Frost, research director of AARP Publications. “These consumers are not eating cat food on limited budgets.” More than 60% of them say “quality” is the most important factor in choosing a brand.

Myth 3: Mature consumers don’t shop the Web.

The image of technophobic old fogies dies hard. The numbers tell a different story: Roughly half of the 50-plus consumers own personal computers, and 70% have Internet access, according to the Senate committee. About 92% of those PC owners have shopped online; 78% have made purchases.

Myth 4: Mature consumers think alike.

AARP says marketers must speak to at least three groups: leading-edge boomers, 45 to 56, still in their peak earning years; the gap generation, 57 to 65, who are planning work and lifestyle changes; and consumers 66 and up, entering retirement years.

Myth 5: Marketers can reach mature consumers as “spillover” by advertising to younger consumers.

Marketing is becoming so segmented that mature consumers need their own messages, Frost says. “Very soon, the 45-plus market will represent half the population, and the traditional target of consumers aged 25 to 44 years old will shrink.”

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