My grandmother is 67 years old, married, lives in Atlanta, Ga and likes to travel. She doesn’t mind me telling you this because it’s on Facebook. She’s on Facebook and she is an active member who chats, uploads photos, and writes “I love you” on my wall.
At first it skeeved me out a little bit, I must admit. My private life is well…private. However, once I thought about it and rationalized that my so-called private life was available to 600 other people, I kind of got used to the idea of sharing things with my “Mimi” online. Living 3000+ miles away from my family gives me the opportunity to communicate with them and not have to worry about time zones or calling too late. It also allows us to share our daily lives with each other,which helps me feel connected and able to keep up with my family.
Now that my Mimi and Papa are retired, they are busier than I am. They travel extensively, hold dinner parties, and attend concerts and plays. However, what excites me the most is that my grandparents include technology (particularly the internet) in their daily activities. She helps plan her 50th high school reunion through FaceBook, schedules her monthly Bunco games via Evite, and find objets de art to decorate their house on eBay. He shops for paint on HomeDepot.com, researches restaurants and buys tickets to ballgames.
About 5 years ago, my grandparents took a 12-day Mediterranean cruise, which they booked, online. “So what?” you say. “Everyone books through OLTAs (Online Travel Agencies - think Expedia or Travelocity).” Not my grandparents. They got their great deal on Overstock.com. Quite impressed, I told many of my friends in the digital industry and generally the response was “Overstock sells travel?” Not knowing Overstock.com sells travel and having ignorance confirmed by my digital peeps made me create an audience analysis of my grandparents and their peers. What allowed them the opportunity to become so active and engaged with the internet that they could find more information than me, a self-proclaimed digital geek?
I deduced that it was two things: time and money. The first reason, time is obvious. They are retired. They have time to surf the web, discover new sites, and try new things. They have more time to shop for the best deal and talk to friends on Facebook. The second reason, money is less obvious. If you ask my grandparents if they are affluent, they would immediately answer no. However, they live in a new house that’s paid for in an affluent suburb of Atlanta. They have no debt, and have been wise with their money. I tease my grandpa that he’s so thrifty he avoids the toll road. However, this abundance of money is what every marketer strives to get a piece of: disposable income, and you can find the people who have it on the net.
Many of the marketers I have worked with focus their social marketing campaigns on younger generations, thinking that 20 & 30-somethings are the only demographic that are involved on social communities. This is absolutely not true. There are a number of social communities that are especially targeted to mature demographics such as Eons.com and Gather.com. More and more self-created communities for boomers and seniors are popping up on Ning and Yahoo! Groups. Even on Facebook, the 50+ demographic is 15% of their audience, which is more than 13.1 million people. Brands marketers need to realize that if they want to tap into the Baby Boomer and Senior community, that they need to look further into social communities. However many media planners/buyers are unaware that they can use these communities to significantly target more mature audiences, and the audience’s likelihood to buy at any given time based on their Gross National Happiness (a measurement that Facebook uses to track positive and negative feelings based on status updates).
At an ad agency, the overall strategy is usually set by the Account Planning team, which allocates the amount of media dollars into buckets (TV, Radio, Print, Online, Experiential, etc). Generally the Account Director is less educated about online audiences than other mediums (especially Baby Boomer and Senior audiences), so digital groups are given very small, if any budget to target to this audience online and even less to market on social networks. This is a massive mistake on the part of the agency and the brand marketer (who should be holding their agency accountable).
With digital, we have the ability to hyper-target in a number of ways: demographically, geographically, contextual, behavioral, and via life-stage. I recently got engaged and have been bombarded with ads with wedding information. I have not signed up for anything, have not been to a wedding site, and I haven’t even thought about my wedding dress. What I did do was change my status on Facebook to “Engaged.” Wedding marketers now recognize me as someone who is potentially going to spend the average $25,000 cost of a wedding. Why aren’t brand marketers doing this to target Boomers and Seniors on social networks and online communities?
Brands need to take advantage of the registration data that publisher sites are collecting to target their audience in an efficient way, particularly with Boomers and Seniors. What I have experienced however is that neither agency Account Directors/Planners, nor their Brand Marketer counterparts understand the value of doing this. I once worked on a brand that wanted to target their fish product to “empty nesters” during the Lent season. One tactic I recommended that they use was to target self-identified Catholics, 35-55+ on Facebook. By the response I received, you would have thought that I recommended we run naked through the streets. Everyone on my digital team agreed with me, and I even ran it by a couple of digital counterparts who thought it was brilliant. We could have been efficient and eliminated a significant amount of waste. Instead, I was accused of trying to align the brand with a single religion (ironic since they were heavying up spend during Lent) and we ran the majority of the budget on cooking sites. A simple solution is to educate both internal agency teams and brand marketers about the use of registration data, and how consumers are interacting online, especially in social communities, but particularly when targeting Boomers and Seniors.
The value of utilizing registration data on social networks and online communities to target an audience, but particularly Boomers and Seniors, is that consumers are self-identifying themselves as THE target audience. How incredible would it be for a brand like Viagra to target active Seniors on a site like Match.com? Viagra would be able to reach their target demographic who are also engaging in ideal psychographic and life-stage behaviors. Brands also need to think about the word-of-mouth effect that marketing to Boomers and Seniors will have.
My Mimi is the first person I call when I need help or have a question about how to do something. I have learned from her that a true Southern belle only uses White Lily flour to bake and that Tide really does get out grass stains. I saw “Menopause the Musical” because she told me it was funny! My grandmother has been (and continues) to be a heavy influencer on my behavior and the brands I choose. Why? Because she has more life experience than me and I trust her. As I begin shopping for my wedding crystal and china, most likely I will choose Waterford and Lenox because that’s what she has. If I saw on Facebook that she was a fan of a brand, it would definitely influence my decision to buy.
It’s long been the opinion at LazBro, Inc. that Brands need to “pony up and be a friend” when it comes to marketing on social networks and communities. Now it’s time to take it to the next level with Baby Boomers and Seniors. Brands need to “pony up and be My GRANDMA’s friend.” She has more money and time than me.
Jen Samples is COO of LazBro, Inc., a full service digital marketing agency based in Los Angeles, CA