Tech marketing must now play well to the 50-and-older crowd

At a recent AARP exposition, Nintendo set up a booth, displaying the many Wii games, such as tennis, popular with the 50-and-older demographic. The booth's presence reflects a real change in technology use and consumption by this age group.

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At a recent AARP exposition, Nintendo set up a booth, displaying the many Wii games, such as tennis, popular with the 50-and-older demographic. The booth's presence reflects a real change in technology use and consumption by this age group.

Myths about "older" consumers should be dispelled by the fact that the 91-million-sized group has trillions in spending power, much going to products not traditionally targeted to them.

Today's seniors are baby boomers, and many of them have been using tech gadgets like computers and Walkmans for some time.

Boomers are buying things like GPS systems and video games. They're also tapping into online job sites and joining social networking sites to create user profiles. The site Eons.com, dedicated to users 50 and up, boasts 600,000 member profiles.

Why does it matter?

Marketing to this demographic requires relevance and care, as advancing age often becomes fertile ground for false stereotypes. While most seniors do look for products that are specifically tailored to their needs and conditions, communications should balance the concern, but not be so general.

"This generation of seniors is totally different from before," says Jerry Shereshewsky, CEO of Grandparents.com. "They are not so senior, especially from a tech standpoint."
They have been tech users for most of their adult lives, as things like e-mail allow them to keep in touch with their children and grandchildren. Even people in their 70s now use IM and e-mail, he notes.

Brands must tailor their messages to seniors by understanding who they are. "Be relevant to them and talk to them in their own language," Shereshewsky advises. It also helps to highlight seniors themselves in PR efforts, not younger people. "And understand that motivations of this generation are different from those who are younger." Seniors are much more interested in family connections and in their personal legacies.

Five facts:

1. According to Grandparents.com, 71% of female and 51% of male seniors tell others about items that excite them, proving that word of mouth is effective with this group.

2. Adults 50 and older spend nearly $2 trillion a year on goods and services, according to the book Sold on Seniors by Gary Onk.

3. About 32% of computer and 31% of digital-camera purchases from January-August 2007 were made by those 50 and older, according to market tracker NPD Group.

4. Nintendo donates Wii game consoles to retirement community recreation centers around the US, allowing seniors to experience the games and make purchasing decisions for themselves, or for their grandchildren.

5. AOL is testing a social site dedicated to the 50-and-up audience, goodlife.aol.com. It offers easier navigation and uses larger font sizes as compared to other AOL pages.


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