Reprinted from Strategies newsletter, 3rd Quarter © July 2002 by First Marketing, 3300 Gateway Drive, Pompano Beach, FL 33069.

Marketing to seniors: How to attract this lucrative audience

Get more from demographic segments

It’s no secret why many companies have made a special effort to target seniors. There are lots of them (78 million) and they have most of the money ($20 trillion in assets). Because Americans are living longer and the baby boomers have begun turning 50, the elderly population is growing faster than any other demographic segment. So, as critical as this segment is right now, it will become progressively more important.

“First Marketing is tuned in to this market and has been for years,” says Rob Arriola, Creative Director, and a member of First Marketing’s Seniors Task Force. “Many of our clients, especially health and financial, have been segmenting this audience and sending them targeted messages since the 1980s.” First Marketing began a formal Seniors Task Force in 1991. “The idea is to identify trends and opportunities in order to better serve our clients and their customers,” Arriola says.

What we’ve found out

First off, seniors are not one homogeneous group. “Since 1996, when they began turning 50, baby boomers have been changing all preconceived notions of the word senior,” Arriola says. “These are some of the same people who were at Woodstock.” Some demographers divide seniors into three age groups: 50 to 62, 62 to 75, and 75+.

The task force researches dozens of topic areas — seniors’ needs, interests, motivations, peculiarities, favorite activities, purchasing habits, health concerns and travel preferences. “One area where we’ve really been able to apply what we’ve learned over the years is with design,” Arriola says. “Legibility is key with this group.” The first rule: Use a type size that’s a minimum of 11 or 12 points, with a leading (the space between lines) of 12 or 13. Designers of seniors’ publications also keep type styles simple, use shorter columns (usually 40 characters wide), avoid glossy paper (because of glare) and screened images behind type (competes with the copy), and are careful about choice of colors.

Art with appeal

When it comes to selecting photos, art directors make sure to avoid stereotypes such as seniors in rocking chairs. Seniors are portrayed socializing with all age groups — not just other seniors. “People see themselves as much younger than they really are,” Arriola says. “So we try to show seniors who are 10 to 15 years younger than the target audience. We also choose images that show seniors engaged in activities — shopping, playing sports, gardening, using computers and traveling.”

More intelligence on seniors

First Marketing’s Senior Task Force recently published a white paper on marketing to seniors. Among other issues, it addresses seniors’ psychographics, and seniors and the Internet. Contact us to request this free publication.

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