Consumer Behavior and Marketing Implications

The lack of attention by marketers to the senior market shows in the dearth of research findings on this group’s behavior as consumers. The section distills some of the most important and presents some useful insights for the marketer.

Product Purchase Patterns: Significant marketing potential appears to be available to those who provide the proper kinds of products to meet the needs of the senior market. Some have ventured into this market to sell specially designed product more attuned to elderly needs. The following examples illustrate the awakening of the new world of the older consumer by marketers:

Food: Coca-Cola concerned that the 13 to 24 age group which accounts for such an important part of its soda market (consuming 1 ½ times as much per capita as the general public) shrank in the 1980s, has moved more heavily into wine, orange juice, coffee, and tea beverages more popular with older consumers. In addition, a reduced orange juice has been marketed. Procter & Gamble has offered High Point, a decaffeinated coffee, which is product older consumers buy much more than regular coffee. Kellogg markets Special K, Product 19, and Just Right to provide more vitamins for older consumers (who are the second highest group in consumptions of cereal, behind only the under 12 market).

Cosmetics: Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Revlon, Helena Rubentein, Oil of Olay and others are now marketing skin care products which are designed to appeal to older women. Other companies are offering air care products designed to meet the special needs of consumers over 40 or 50. The approach is a delicate one from an industry that ahs long been based strictly on its youth image. Companies are searching for ways to overcome the age taboo by referring only to maturing skin and the like everything but age.

Services: Airlines such as American and United lodging chains such as Ramada have offered discounts to older travelers. Southwestern Bell Corp is publishing a successful series of telephone directories aimed at senior citizens with ads offering them discounts. Sears Roebuck & Co formed the Mature Outlook Club to woo customers over 50 ARA Services and Mariott have opened life care nursing facilities. Colonial Penn Group aims life insurance at the elderly.

Older consumers appear to place great importance on manufacturer’s brand names. They tend to buy fewer private labels and appear to demand guarantees and warranties more often than do average consumers. Because many over 65 shoppers are on fixed or low incomes items among this shoppers group.

There is also an impression that older buyers are generally less inclined to try new products, especially those that involve adopting new technologies. One study, however, found that the group aged 65 and over was more inclined than the middle aged 55 to 64 years old to say that they buy products for the fun of it or just to try them once. It was also found that there is little self initiated experimenting; instead new product and service acceptance often comes as a response to a recommendation by others. This has important promotional implications for the marketer, and it means that messages must be well planned to take advantage of this word of mouth communication. Another study among the elderly found strong interest in new generic products. However, given the apparent high brand loyalty of this group manufacturers and retailers who properly serve those in this group can expect tem to be loyal, dependable customers.