Radio is an effective medium to reach older buyers. Formats such as all news, talk shows, beautiful music, and sports are traditionally strong among those over 55. Nostalgic approaches are also useful for finding success, with formats such as big band music and radio drama.
With regard to print media aimed directly at this market, the choices were, until recently, rather limited. Now, however, there are several specialty magazines for older people,, in addition to the general audience magazines (such as reader’s Digest and TV Guide, which historically have found a large market among this segment). Magazines such as Prime Time, 50 Plus, and Modern Maturity are useful vehicles for aiming messages at those over 45. In addition, many newspapers around the United States aimed at older consumers allow the marketer to more effectively reach this group. It should also be noted that newspapers may be the most appropriate media if the objective is to have older consumers learn new information. They are frequent users of this medium and they consider it their most important mass media source of information. Because their information processing with print media is self paced there are liable to be fewer difficulties in learning new information.
Effective messages: Poor promotion, especially advertising appears to have contributed to the alienation of older consumers. Much advertising today stereo types older Americans (often negatively) and there by insults them. For example, The Walls Street Journal states that Older people in TV ads are recognizable most often by their stereotypes: half deaf codgers, meddling biddies, grandfatherly authority figures or nostalgic endorses of products that claim to be just as high quality as they were in the good old days. Rarely are older people shown just as ordinary consumers. Although those over age 55 comprise approximately 29 percent of US adults, several studies have shown that they account for only about 10 percent of TV commercial characters – usually those in need of laxative, denture adhesives and sleeping pills but are significantly used in magazine ads.
Advertisements which are not sensitive to older consumers may be perceived as offensive. For example, a denture adhesive ad once showed an older couple perched in infant high chairs to indicate that people with loose dentures need easy to chew food. On the other hand advertisements such as Clairol’s ‘You’re not getting older, you’re getting better’ can be very useful in building older consumer self esteem.
As indicated previously, older citizens are a prime market and thus promotions should be directed to them in a way commensurate with their value. Many business people, however, are reluctant to solicit trade from the elderly. A study by the National Council on Aging found that local store managers, even when convinced that elderly consumers represented a sizable market, refused to direct any advertising or promotion efforts toward the aged for fear it would hurt their public image and tend to keep away their most desirable age group – the youth.
On the other hand, companies should be careful about blatantly singling out senior citizens as the target. Many older consumers do not want to be reminded that they are old, and therefore they tend to react against advertising and marketing programs that separate them from the rest of the population, nor do they want to be treated as kids. An approach which works for many companies is the trans-generational strategy or fence straddling. In this case, ads feature both youngsters and oldsters using and enjoying the product. The key is to present older characters in a matter of fact realistic way. Advertisements for Quaker, Geryhound, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, AT&T, and Kellogg are examples of this strategy. Thus, the marketer must be careful not to alienate any age group. Other marketers catering to the senior market have found success by using well known senior citizens as spokesperson for their products. For examples, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Stewart, Eddie Albert and Andy Griffith have been particularly effective in this role.
The following list summarizes many of the suggestions for developing effective themes in promotional messages aimed at older consumers:
1. Focus on the solution, not the problem
2. Don’t portray age per se – appeal to the issue
3. Avoid stereotypes and ageism
4. Use appropriate semantics, actors and spokespersons
5. Portray intergenerational decision making and interaction.
6. Portray experiences rather than things
7. Use self perception an cognitive age
8. Portray older consumers as dynamics and vigorous
9. Portray older consumers as part of the mainstreams
10. Stress quality, reliability, and value.
11. Stress comfort, security and dependability.
12. Stress independence and being in control.