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Reaching an older audience -- indirectly but effectively

Simplicity. Recently I ranted about Apple and their non-recognition of the age 50+ market. And of course, Amazon doesn't really acknowledge how much boomers and seniors love the Kindle. So today I listened to Arlene Harris describe Jitterbug's long-standing brand message, that Jitterbug was never explicitly targeting seniors. Instead, its intent was to brand a message of 'simplicity'. She noted that preferences among market audiences would enable the marketplace to figure out if seniors might like it.

Generality. Let's augment that observation with the fact that Verizon has now renamed its Chaperone service offering to 'Family Locator' -- with the same (Chaperone) ability to locate up to four cell phones of family members. That's right, it's not just to keep track of teenagers anymore (which I ranted about in numerous blog entries that now, of course, have broken Verizon page links). They have broadened the description to include family members, homes, and even reminder services -- the tent is now big enough to offer multi-generational usefulness.  Even if they had the idea without listening to me, this is great!

Applicability. Finally, let's note that seniors accessing the web through a mobile device surged 67% in the past year. So let's say you have this data and you also have a product that could be useful to seniors -- maybe even a mobile web access device. But you don't want to dilute your brand.  And you certainly don't want to use the term 'senior' or say the word 'aging'. Seems like there are permutations of strategy which may come as no surprise, but let's spell them out:

1) Let media and sales channels do the targeting.  Jitterbug cell phones have found their way into the content and advertising pages of AARP as well as the NY Times -- just search for the term on AARP's website -- as well as boomer/senior distribution channels like FirstSTREET.  Jitterbug.com can steer clear of defining its boomer/senior market, now that it is defined by others.

2) Generalize the product's purpose. The Verizon tactic makes sense -- enable a general-purpose product to appear useful with an eye to an aging demographic. It's website does not mention seniors or use the word aging, but it has nicely redefined 'chaperone' to 'locator' -- the product's function.  For those who make products that target communications to/from seniors -- even as part of safety-oriented strategies -- 'strengthening generational or family ties' may be that generalization that broadens awareness and, as Arlene observed, 'avoids stigma' in a youth-oriented culture.

3) Let the customer tell you how old they are. An Amazon user opened a forum question and asked Kindle enthusiasts to state their age.  I haven't found any Apple forum that did likewise -- but that's a pretty appealing strategy for those with new products/devices. Too bad Clarity didn't create such a forum for its C900 amplified phone, remembering that there are 31 million people in the US who are hearing-impaired. Instead of the customer self-classifying their age, they let reviewers like Engadget narrow-cast it as a product for seniors, without seniors classifying it as a product for themselves.

4) Finally, look the 'age' word right in the eye -- and call it health care.  If the market is exclusively for age 65+, or even well beyond, then health care is what it facilitates, no matter what the product does. Aging is so yesterday. With grants, stimulus funds, and demographics of disease -- it's all health care, all the time, whether it's mental stimulation, wellness, disease management, or risk mitigation.  My favorite example of this is from on a conversation with execs of Intel's Digital Health Group. So, say I, is Intel targeting health or aging? Say they: aging.  My point, exactly.

Thoughts welcome.

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"Many of us do, and boomers especially, reject the notion of needing a little help.   But just a little consideration about style that doesn't hit us over the head and say "you're failing" would be so refreshing.  I point to the segment in a movie I think was called Grand Torino  when Clint Eastwood is given a really ugly, medicinal, "big button" phone.  WHAT?!!!  Clint Eastwood.    I KNOW we can make "universal" solutions that delight a broad range of sensibilities - yes, and are even cool. "


Arlene Harris

I want to encourage everyone to take a listen to last week's Aging and Technology Industry web call. Arlene from Jitterbug spoke, very interesting!

You may listen to the call here:


As the former Chairman of the Maui County Council on Aging I met many many older adults who utterly reject "ageist" words and phrases.

www.huladog.biz was set up to help busy baby boomer caregivers and adults without describing or inferring that some of our members may be older adults.

You're reflections on the semantic trap of "age labeling" is right on!