Written by Patricia A. Patton
I am that older blogger you may have seen at social or entrepreneurial gatherings who continues to find joy in life, innovation, entrepreneurship, social media and creativity. I am often asked, “What brings you here?” I usually answer with some version of the following: “I am an early adapter, entrepreneur, and social media disrupter. What about you?” Sometimes there is surprise to learn that I am not accompanying my son. They have no idea that when it comes to social media, I am miles ahead of my 34-year-old college professor son. To some extent, this line of thinking is a reflection of what brands don’t know about marketing to the new midlife in the digital age.
WHY BRANDS ARE CONFUSED ABOUT HOW TO MARKET TO THE NEW MIDLIFE
Brands’ generational marketing confusion is supported by a recent Contently article. A millennial writer laughingly states that marketers are more obsessed with marketing to people like her than to people with real money to blow, like midlifers. She quoted Ann Fishman, founder of Generational Targeted Marketing, on why and how marketers should shape content to captivate one of the most lucrative generations in America.
In order to successfully market to the new midlife, the writer claimed that a brand’s focus should:
1) avoid what not to call midlifers
2) include aesthetics that appeal to a mid lifer with aging eyes by using larger typefaces
3) acknowledge that new midlifes need to be waited upon as members of the “Me” generation
4) always deliver on the product’s customer service promise.
WHAT MISTAKES BRANDS ARE MAKING IN GENERATIONAL MARKETING
Contrary to the above claims, everyone wants to be marketed to in a personal sense. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t appreciate a print size they can read versus the mice print often found in product instructions. Think about it. Most TV messaging dealing with consumer satisfaction has primarily included males who are ‘smart’ enough to know that their product is not delivering on its promise. So it’s not just members of the new midlife that have an issue with this practice. Women in general might also have problems with messaging that silently promotes male intelligence. I suggest that if a brand follows these suggestions, they might not meet with success in marketing to the new midlife in the digital age.
WHAT BRANDS CAN DO TO MARKET BETTER TO NEW MIDLIFE
As a representative of the new midlife buyer, I am not going to pretend that it isn’t a mistake to designate a mid lifer inappropriately. You could get into trouble calling a midlifer a senior to their face if that is not how they view themselves. But no matter what you call us, be assured we are not spending our time talking about the fear of failure, saving money for our child’s college tuition or parsing the best ways to talk to a temperamental youth who is beginning to make decisions that runs counter clockwise to our own. However, if one of these scenarios depicted a midlife as a mentor to a daughter, son-in-love or younger friend engaged in one of these problems, that would be a different story. Because that is what we really do. Broadening the understanding of who we are and what our roles are in society could give brands the opportunity to show the value of aging in real life conversations and allow them to promote a product intergenerationally. This action supersedes a depiction the midlife buyer as dependent or a burdens who have fallen down and can’t get up.
A brand can market more easily to people whose pain points deal more with symbols of achievement, self-improvement, celebrity-dom or buying and finding items to fill up holes in their lives. Millennials are in the building stage of their lives so this is natural but it is not all encompassing. Likewise, the midlife buyer is more concerned with the quality of life experiences, vitality in time spent, lifelong learning that crosses disciplinary boundaries and maintaining good health.
Quality storytelling by a new midlife buyer that resonates with the lives of other midlifers will yield positive results for brands. In addition to gearing the predominant marketing conversation to the aspirational life of millennials, consider integrating healthy mid lifers who choose to age in place, who are active travelers, who are completing triathlons in addition to caring for their grandchildren and their aging parents into this picture. Brands will then be rewarded with loyalty that the new midlife buyers have historically been known for giving.
Patricia A. Patton is the Publisher of BoomerWizdom, a blog focusing on health, travel, and technology. On the website PatriciaAPatton.com she coaches individuals and conducts group classes for older adults who are reimagining their lives in meaningful and entrepreneurial ways.