Why brands shouldn't forget seniors

While the direction ahead leans increasingly toward digital, the aging group of consumers are mostly alienated by it.

Wang Li-Na, StarHub's head of consumer marketing said that marketers need to recognise that technological advances have alienated some senior customers who want to learn but are unsure as to where or how to start.

According to Bloomberg, by 2053, the number of Chinese people above the age of 60 is set to double. This means the global spending power of consumers over 60 will hit US$15 trillion by the end of this decade, said research by Euromonitor.

Meanwhile in the US, by 2017, half of the adult population will be above 50. By 2050, there will be 161 million consumers above the age of 50. Research from Microsoft Advertising shows that seniors are 70% more likely to have made online purchase in the last 30 days and that they are spending an average of US$342 per person, in the last 3 months. These figures were for the US market.

Obviously, this is a group brands shouldn't ignore. Marketing spoke to brands who were making an active effort to reach seniors.

StarHub is one of these brands. Last year, it launched a campaign titled Golden Gurus to enable senior customers to learn about technology from fellow senior citizens in an attempt to bridge the learning gap and make every body feel more comfortable. More than 200 seniors responded to StarHub's Golden Gurus campaign, with eight being selected to teach IT through a workshop attended by fellow seniors.

Wang added because the lessons were taught by fellow seniors, those attending the lessons were also more comfortable with the pace and asking questions.

Meanwhile Bruno Fiorentini Jr., general manager for Asia Pacific and India, Microsoft Advertising, said that to engage this age group, marketers need to understand their community, content and channels.

"While not perceived as early adopters of new technology, the ‘grey' group is motivated in response to people within their social communities or recommendations from friends," Fiorentini said.

Skype for example, has been one of Microsoft's most successful products in targeting the grey group because of its ability to compel and connect. This emotional connection Skype can provide drives the older generations to adopt it into their lifestyle.

"Interactive, online formats like video and rich media can be an effective choice for marketers targeting the ‘grey' group. These formats provide information, drive consideration and can even enable purchase through e-commerce platforms."

Another point marketers need to remember, said Fiorentini, is that this generation "might also be more open to natural ways of interacting with technology - such as touch and voice in easy to navigate environments."

Given these insights, marketers should look at brand experiences that are immersive and incorporate voice, gesture or touch environments along with delivering relevant content that appeals to the lifestyle of this generation.

Traditional media still has a hold

However, both marketers agreed traditional media is still of vital importance for this generation. On-ground engagement and events are effective when targeting senior customers, Wang added.

"These engagement means can be tailored to suit their interests such as cooking demos, karaoke get-togethers and health workshops, hence allowing marketers to build deeper brand relationship with this group of customers," Wang said.

She added that this is also a good way to encourage active social interactions which seniors appreciate.

When it comes to television, Fiorentini added that this older generation still consumes television programming in a relatively traditional manner.

"Often people in this age group will simply adjust their schedule to watch the show live, rather than using DVR or Catch Up TV online," he said.

Interestingly though, while TV is still the most established screen, it is also the most popular device promoting multi-screening behaviour. This means that while watching TV, consumers are very likely to use more than one device simultaneously. And the usual culprit is the smartphone.

"As smartphones continue to gain traction with this generation, it is critical that marketers take a holistic view of their content strategy. Brands might use it to drive ‘lead-ins' to traditional TV viewership through social media apps or SMS messaging, but most importantly, the strategy must provide value back to this generation in order to be effective," Fiorentini added.

There is no ‘one size fits all' model for any campaign or target audience and brands needs to connect with their target audiences emotionally.