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6 Ways to Effectively Communicate with the 50+

6 Ways to Effectively Communicate with the 50+

Andrew Hutchinson writes in 3 Notes on Being More Human and Building Your Brand in Social Media: “Whilst more people are embracing creativity and experimentation, there are some things that we’ve learned that are universally true, some aspects that, regardless of the medium, will remain influential in success. Those elements are human factors.”

“You can’t do business without people,” he goes on to say “It’s people who purchase your products, people who spread your brand message.You can’t succeed in social media [or any media] without understanding the importance of building and maintaining human relationships. Whilst social media is technology based, it’s people who drive it, and we don’t build relationships with avatars and user names alone.”

Differentiating online and offline behaviors in 50+ marketing is often unproductive. You need to accept that the real world deals in multiple media (traditional and digital) and marketing focus should be on core human values.

Humanizing brands is also popular topic, but people mean different things when they use this phrase, both in terms of what it means and why you should care.

The reason to humanize your brand is quite simple – we all relate to other humans, not companies (there are exceptions). We get angry at humans who we consider unfair, and we go out of way to help other humans. We don’t really have those same feelings for companies.

So how do we make our brands reflect human values and needs when communicating to customers in the fall and winter of life – Gen X, Baby Boomers and seniors?

1. Focus on Intuition

50+ customers’ intuitions may enable them to size up a situation more quickly than young customers might, but their cognitive or reasoning processes tends to be slower. For example, a website with fast moving and frenetic visuals and brassy music can appeal to younger customers, while Baby Boomers and seniors may react negatively.

2. Favor Conditional Positioning over Absolutism

50+ customers are also more resistant to absolutism. Hyperbole or strongly worded and delivered claims about a product’s features and benefits usually doesn’t sit well. Baby Boomers tend to have greater appreciation for the finer definition that nuance and subtlety give a matter. The predisposition means that online marketing communications intended for them should generally reflect a conditional tone. Say less and let the customer interpret your communications based upon their internal values, motivators, needs and related perception of your message.

3. Create an Emotional Reaction

50+ customers rely more on emotional reactions than younger customers to determine if they should think about a matter. They do so because they have a richer database of emotionally coded knowledge on how to manage situations. When asked why they act as they do, they might respond “Just intuition” or “Just a gut feeling.”

4. Make a Good First Impression

50+ customers’ first impressions tend to be more durable and difficult to reverse than those of younger customers. When something feels right or wrong, they likely will be less inclined than a young customer experiencing the same thing to second guess those feelings. If an ad headline or image generates a negative first impression (or none at all), a 50+ Gen Xer is less likely to plunge further into the ad.

5. Tell Stories

Stories work better for getting 50+ customers’ attention than expository copy. Stories generally arouse emotions more readily than emotionally neutral expository. Research shows that the more emotionally neutral information is, the less likely the older mind will give it attention.

6. Focus on the Big Picture

50+ customers tend to be more holistic in perceptions and thinking. They tend to be better at seeing “the big picture”. The majority of Baby Boomers are in the time of life when mental activities are increasingly subject to the right brain’s relationships-based view of reality. That suggests that all the supposedly new ideas in marketing that can be lumped under the term “relationship marketing” originated not in academe or business, but in the collective mind of consumers.

These are but a few differences in mental processes in the first and second halves of life and are clearly generalities, but generalities can have value when they express verifiable central themes. The theme here is that marketing needs to be adjusted to the fact that in the fall and winter of life our core human values and motivators are consistently manifested or driven by the need:

  • To maintain our independence
  • To develop and maintain stronger relationships
  • To achieve meaningful experiences
  • To continually grow and share our wisdom
  • To seek mental and physical rejuvenation

Online or offline, creating messages reflecting an understanding of later life the values and motivators will result in human linkages with your customers and an increased bottom line.

Finally, Hutchinson also quotes Barry Judge, former CMO at Best Buy, “To the extent that we can be ‘human’ with what we know — and share it as freely as we possibly can — we’ll go a long way toward fostering a deeper level of trust with consumers.”

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