Market to baby boomers or appeal to all ages

Oops, according to the Wall Street Journal - did I say the word aging? Ugh, that's so yesterday. This was a spectacular and sometimes hilarious weekend of coverage -- we were treated to a full page on the marketing struggle to be subtle and euphemistic about this mind-boggling trend. We will for the rest of this post put a euphemism whenever we want to think about it. Why do we want to read so much about this phenomenon?  Well, silly, because baby boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day (3.65 million this year and for the next 19 years). Never you mind that 1.7 million in the 65+ age range died last year, so in the near term that's a smaller gain than it looks -- and let's not forget that a few weeks ago, life expectancy shrank slightly. With the 'tsunami' of uh, living a long time having fun (see, there's a euphemism!), marketers have got to cash in.

Apparently as the 'tsunami' approaches, products targeting 82-year-olds need new messaging.  Never mind that the target customer isn't part of the 2011 boomer-turns-65 crowd. ADT Security Systems -- which sells medical alert alarms -- average age of user of these, according to Philips Lifeline, is an 82-year-old woman -- makes sure that these boomer-seniors-whatever are not reminded that they've uh, lived longer, by speaking quickly to callers. "They get agitated if you're talking too slowly." Really? No wonder Philips has a greater medical alarm market share. Ah-me, what's a boomer anyway?  Are they buying Depends? It depends on what you mean by boomer -- age 46 until death? "By 2020, Kimberly-Clark expects 45 million boomers will need incontinence products, up from 38 million currently." Really?

Make the containers easy to open for those blankety-blank baby boomers.  Apparently younger people like taking a hatchet to containers to pry them open, but who knew, boomers don't. So Diamond Foods 'carefully' designed its nut line to accommodate the 'declining agility of baby boomer hands.' You do have to acknowledge their differentiating strategy of trying to make their packages 'easy to use' if you have tried to pry open 90% of the vacuum-sealed containers in the supermarket.  And CVS and Sherwin-Williams are so nice, they have added better lighting and easy-to-reach shelving and floor carpets, while Arm & Hammer, bless their hearts, has increased the font size on cat litter (note to Arm & Hammer -- the website needs to be fixed too).

Design for blankety-blank baby boomers -- or be kinder to all people? What's really happening here (besides the confusion over what people are at which age and may buy what products by when?) It's all good news! Consumer-hostile environments are going to become friendlier -- and designed for all who come in the store -- and impenetrable packaging just might become easy to open. You think a 23-year-old cat litter purchaser is going to object when presented with larger lettering? And a high-school kid will insist that the nut container return to being difficult to open?  Did anyone like dim lighting and uncarpeted floors at CVS and believes their needs are being ignored now? What the WSJ article highlights is not about baby boomers at all. It's that packaging should be less of a barrier, environments should be inviting, and that all age ranges might want to buy their products. Duh.

 


 

Great article, Laurie! Not

Great article, Laurie! Not to mention the fact that a lot of these efforts are, well, terribly patronizing...

Anyways, as I've always said, universal design is just plain *good* design - whether interiors or packaging.

Wendy Hoechstetter, CAPS

thank goodness for humor!

Laurie, Your humor put just the right spin on the WSJ article. Maybe the real problem is the media- not just WSJ but the Madison Avenue folks they write about just cannot get it. We know mainstream TV is ignoring all of this. Maybe they are just so simple they cannot get it!
I often refer to this as the "consistent paradox'- see- http://www.louistenenbaum.com/1-mature-marketingboomers/. "One" starts out talking about boomers, or seniors, and then crosses back and forth confusing targeted audiences, targeted products and targeting approaches until...only humor like yours is able to make things clear. Thanks goodness for humor. You are our star!

Great Article

Your use of euphemisms are splendid. The article is on point.
Have you tried opening a DVD or CD, it's ridiculous. Everyone will benefit!

Thanks, I now have a Google Alert on you because I love your Blog writing and content.

You're funny.

Good piece, Laurie. You're crackin' me up.

Everybody over 45 is a Baby Boomer - I've laughed about this for years. I've always assumed that everybody under 45 is a toddler.

An editor for a trade mag piece I wrote came up with this headline: Don't Talk So Fast To Baby Boomers. I was pissed, and said nothing like that in the article.

My takes on a few of your other subjects:

Wrap Rage (2005): http://bit.ly/i71XWy

Boomer Backlash II (2009): http://bit.ly/dzeHX1

Is WSJ stoking generational resentment?

There is a resentment and condescension through not only this article, but the online video too.

It gets worse. In the WSJ comments there's a 'bare knucks' generational spat going on. Quite a few border on 'boomers, you screwed it up, die fast and get out of the way' with somewhat more polite rejoinders from those clearly in the boomer age group. In that case, is the WSJ now favoring its online demographic (Gen X) with articles like this?

BTW the print headline--I guess for the 'oldsters' (see the caption under the video)--was even more offensive: "How to Market to an Aging Boomer: Flattery, Subterfuge and Euphemism". Rupert Murdoch, try not to offend your readership!

WSJ patronizing little buzz ...

You are something else, Sparky: keep it up!

Deja vue..all over again!

Devotees of Universal Design have been advocating - for decades- the design of "lifespan" products for people of all ages and abilities.

While their focus has been primarily on building design, their insistence on "easier use by all" is a principle whose time has come. Universal Design deserves to be better understood and adopted by anyone truly interested in offering technology intended to help people age better.

Great added insights

Laurie, thanks for bringing out the wider points in this snarkfest article.

Universal GOOD design, readability and decent lighting! Works no matter the age or ability. How many times have we hurt our (younger) hands on jars and containers, or seen a young person with a broken limb or disability struggle to open a door, climb out of a tub or negotiate a store?

And thank you for shredding the opening re ADT. Home Companion's been that for years. And yes, boomers have been calling to get the ADT PERS since before 2006--which is why ADT distributed QuietCare for three years. It wasn't for the callers, 9 times out of 10!

On Telecare Aware, I contrasted this snarky article (and video--it's even worse) with a far wiser one on the same subject, published also this weekend, on nytimes.com. In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/business/06aging.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Notice there wasn't anything (beyond ADT) on technology?

http://www.telecareaware.com/index.php/two-mainstream-media-views-of-mar...

From Laura Mitchell

Hey Laurie, funny post!!

I had just written a similar post on our blog titled: Gen X-ers Show
the Way in Aging/Technology Services? Perhaps we are looking to the
wrong generation to lead the way...
The thought I had was that maybe if we start designing products that
are appealing to all generations, then the "aging" population will
feel better about using it, there would be no stigmas attached as the
"scarlet letter of aging"...http://grandcare.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/perhaps-we-are-looking-to-the-wrong-generation-to-lead-the-way/
Thanks for putting a smile on my face...although... after the packer
win yesterday, I don't think the smile ever left :)

--
Laura Mitchell
VP of Marketing
GrandCare Systems
laura@grandcare.com
www.grandcare.com

Also -- people of age?

Received an e-mail that suggested as another euphemism for elderly, old.  Thoughts?

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