Marketing to those on the Ascent of Life

The Wall Street Journal has a story entitled "From Diapers to 'Depends': Marketers Discreetly Retool for Aging Boomers which mentions an unsurprising aspect of marketing to a "generation that sent diaper sales soaring in the 1960s, bought power suits in the 1980s and indulged in luxury cars in the 2000s": they "don't want anyone suggesting they're old." The Journal quotes a truly savvy aspect to the training imparted to operators of security company, ADT. They are "specially trained to be sensitive to their (boomers) needs. Top of the list: Don't remind them that they've aged." Another similarly savvy company targeting the boomers' needs for health conscious needs is Ocean Spray which takes particular to excise any reference to age and even has a "boomer" looking grower featured on the home page.

Among the measures being adopted by these avant-guarde firms is to "sureptitiously..making typefaces larger, lowering store shelves to make them more accessible and avoiding yellows and blues in packaging—two colors that don't appear as sharply distinct to older eyes."  Another idea is to "offer coffee cups with handles instead of Styrofoam (easier to hold), use lamps instead of overhead lights (less glare), and turn off the television when clients visit (background noise hampers hearing).

Arguably the most insightful observation, presumably based on empirical evidence, is that (in the past) "big consumer products companies didn't specifically target senior citizens, since people over 65 traditionally spent less and resisted trying new products. But many marketers believe the baby boom generation—born between 1946 and 1964—will turn that conventional wisdom upside down." Other ideas which avoid any explicit or even implicit allusion to age include a slight increase in font sizes on all print and even eliminating print wherever possible, carpeting instead of tile/marble floors to minimize the possibility of slips and falls and indentations on canisters for a better grip.

Boomers are unlike older folks from a previous genereation on another level – they want and are able to enjoy an active lifestyle and like to be seen in places with a diverse age demographic. Most hotels necessarily cater to them but many are yet to adapt service and decor to meet their needs. Happening bars tend to have the decibel level ratcheted up for the young, a disincentive for those with mild hearing problems and have ambient lighting that is reminiscent of the age of candles when clever spot lighting can achieve a happy medium. Most importantly catering to those on the ascent of life, clearly requires a balance so as to not turn off the sufficiently lucrative younger market as this review of a casino in Las Vegas by three young women showed. In their zeal to ensure that the "wrong" folks do not enter their facility they lost the younger clientele.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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