The mature market, which I define as people over the age of 55, is so large
that it can no longer be categorized as a niche market. This is an enormous
group–the fastest-growing group of potential customers in the world. And
they have incredible buying power.
Because seniors prefer to be regarded as individuals, direct marketing, by
its very nature, has an automatic advantage over other types of marketing.
Here are 20 special insights that will help you market more successfully to
this ever-increasing segment of the population.
1. Many market segments find a majority of their constituency to the
seniors. In fact, seniors account for 40% of total consumer demand. They
constitute the majority of mail-order buyers, contributors and subscribers.
2. Seniors are the most affluent segment of our society. Fifty-five percent
of all depositors in financial institutions, for example, and 77% of all
assets in the United States are owned by individuals over the age of 55.
Seniors have five times the net worth of the average American.
3. Seniors are savvy consumers, and they are just like every other human
being. They care about three things: Me, Myself and I.
4. The senior market is composed of many subgroups. They are identifiable by
age (under 65 or over 65), economic circumstances (working, fixed income
retired, comfortable or affluent retired), activity intensity (active or
sedentary, travel-eager or travel-indifferent) and so on. Your marketing will
5. Advertising must relate to the experiential background of the mature
market. A senior’s lifetime of experiences is an important element in
designing your offer. These experiences should be acknowledged, if you hope
to motivate the mature consumer to buy. Nostalgia and cliches can be utilized
profitably. Instead of modern jargon and images, use language and references
to fond memories with which seniors can identify.
6. Personalize the selling/buying process as much as possible and build
rapport. Be aware of the “senior ideal” as opposed to the mass market ideal.
Seniors prefer to be regarded as individuals. Their buying history began at a
time when merchants knew them personally. This is the last group of people in
our society to enjoy personalized relationships with the people who provided
them with goods and services. Unlike the generations that have followed, the
mature market is not a product of an impersonal, mass-produced world.
7. Use examples instead of statistics. Seniors are unimpressed with numbers.
They are, however, impressed by individuals with whom they can identify who
use a certain product or service. An example might be a celebrity or other
recognizable individual who shares that: “I use it,””I wear it,””I drive
it,” or “I drink it.”
8. Resistance to change and dedication to tradition are important
characteristics of the senior market. Avoid the suggestion of change and
newness as much as possible. For example, market products as simple to use,
nondisruptive to one’s lifestyle, and something that makes life more
9. The idea of exclusivity works well with seniors. Members of the mature
market are especially prone to buy products and services that aren’t
necessarily available to everyone.
10. Some seniors feel that their age gives them status, while others feel
crushed by the aging process. Be aware of these dichotomous perceptions as
you create your advertising.
11. Since their buying habits are conservative and they want to be in
control of the buying decision process, the mature market is more likely to
buy if you use powerful, specific “reason why” copy. Copy that helps them
make a decision will do better than copy that tries to hype itself or push
the mature consumer into buying.
12. Seniors have had years and years to acquire a high level of skepticism.
Prove your claim with endorsements and testimonials.
13. Members of the mature market are extremely cautious about the buying
process. As major targets of rip-off artists, seniors tend to be more
distrustful than other segments of the market. They don’t like to give out
their credit card number, many refuse to order by 800 number, and they are
wary of anything that looks like a rip-off.
14. Avoid any confusion. The wording of your mailing or advertisement must
be clear and straightforward.
15. Seniors like to receive mail. One of the major blunders direct mail
marketers make is thinking that members of the mature market aren’t willing
to read, or that they’re not able to understand or comprehend. In fact, they
are one of the most responsive groups to this marketing medium. They look
forward to receiving mail and read it carefully. Seniors are willing to read
longer letters, longer copy, and they are the best mail-order buyers in terms
of frequency, multiple purchases, and higher dollar amounts. That’s why an
informational approach can be so successful with seniors.
16. Use premiums in your advertising. Seniors appreciate added value, special
offers, coupons, free gifts, samples, and, of course, discounts. As in any
direct marketing campaign, the premium should be related to the primary
product being sold.
17. Seniors have problems with physical limitations to varying degrees. For
example, many have trouble with eyesight. But the answer isn’t to avoid
marketing to them. The answer is to adjust the marketing piece by avoiding
small type, crammed type, and crowded copy. You’ll increase your response if
you use 10, 11, 12 point type or larger in all communications. When designing
printed material for the mature market, keep in mind that turning pages can
be difficult. Don’t complicate the offer. Make the act of responding easy by
simplifying the response device and providing ample room to make entries.
18. The use of videos, in recent times, has been a real boon in marketing to
seniors. Seniors will watch videos and will respond very positively to them.
19. Seniors respond positively to direct response television and radio. This
is exemplified in the success being enjoyed by insurance companies and those
companies marketing “oldies, but goodies” record sets. One reason
infomercials are effective, when aimed at this group, is that the format is
both more leisurely and more step-by-step. This ties in with the eleventh
insight, reinforcing the fact that seniors want to feel that they are making
the decision to buy gradually and without coercion. Direct response radio,
primarily the talk and news genres, also produce good results.
20. The hot markets for the next 10 to 15 years for this segment of the
population are service-oriented. They consist of travel, health and fitness,
household services, family fun, convenience, information services, investment
and financial services, safety and security. Grandparenting represents an
enormous additional marketing opportunity.
The mature market is enormous and growing dramatically in size and affluence
each year. In fact, over the next 10 to 15 years, baby boomers (who are
quickly becoming seniors) will become “empty-nesters” as their children leave
home to start households of their own.
As a result, there will be a 20% increase in the number of homes without
children under 18 present, a jump from 35.8 million today to 45.7 million by
2010. This represents a profound shift in needs, wants and preferences as
baby boomers continue to be the center of attention in the marketplace as
empty-nesters and as they cause the senior segment of the marketplace to
swell even more.
Craig Huey is president of Creative Direct Marketing Group, Inc.,
1815 W. 213th St., Suite 210, Torrance, CA 90501, 310/212-5727, fax 310/212-5773 and
publishes a newsletter, Direct Response for Direct Marketers, from which this article