We know customers control markets. They do so by zapping commercials and freely choosing on and off line what they will buy and from whom they will buy it. Also, most astute marketers understand that younger markets receive, perceive and dissect their messages differently. What many are not aware of is the differences crop up because of age-related changes in brain functions. As online marketers’ increase their insights into the aging mind and understand the age-related differences between customers in the first and second halves of life their ability to selectively connect will improve.
Consider “younger customers” as customers’ between18 -49, and “older customers” as 50 and older.
Older customers may have slower cognitive processes and less stable attention spans. Although their intuition may enable them to size up a situation more quickly than young customers might their cognitive or reasoning processes tend to be slower. They are also more distracted by certain online creative techniques that work just the opposite for younger consumers. For example, a website with fast moving and frenetic visuals and brassy music can appeal to younger customers while older customers will react negatively.
Older customers are also more resistant to absolutism. Hyperbole or strongly worded and delivered claims about a product’s features and benefits usually work better with younger, more literal-minded customers. The young mind tends to see reality in absolute states or conditions: something either is or it is not. However, older customers 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 needs and related perception of your message.
Older 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 we experience something in the present, the brain scans its memory banks to see if what we are currently experiencing are like anything we have experienced before. When asked why we acted as we did, we might respond “Just intuition” or “Just a gut feeling.”
Older customers’ first impressions tend to be more durable and difficult to reverse than those of younger customers. This is not because older customers are more stubborn but because they have more confidence in their gut feelings. When something feels right or wrong to an older customer, they likely will be less inclined than a young customer experiencing the same thing to second guess those feelings. If an ad headline generates a negative first impression (or none at all) the older person is less likely than a younger consumer to plunge further into the ad.
Stories work better for getting older customers’ attention than expository. Older minds work more out of the brain’s right hemisphere where engaging stories are mostly processed, so it makes sense that storytelling is especially effective in marketing to older customers. 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. The younger mind is less discriminating in this regard and may give emotionally neutral information as much attention as emotionally enriched information.
Older customers tend to be more holistic in perceptions and thinking. They tend to be better at seeing “the big picture”. The right brain sees reality in terms of relationships. The identity of parties to a relationship is dependent on the relationship. The left-brain, in contrast, sees reality as a mosaic of isolated pieces in which each piece has a distinctly autonomous identity. The majority of adults 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 no two people perceive anything exactly the same way, and that genetic inheritance, experience and processes of maturation contribute to the differing perceptions that exist between people.