Thriving on the vine: consumerism among ageing consumers

Late last year GMA (the Global Marketing Alliance) ran an article on an oft-mentioned and written topic: marketing to the ageing consumer. The author mentions the many truisms associated with the steadily changing demographic of the consumer particularly in the developed world and marketers' need to adapt and cater to the dynamic including, notably, an experience at a hotel "that had just completed a major refurbishment with no thought given to ensuring the new design was
age-friendly."  The GMA article did not spell out the lacunae in the hotel's efforts at catering to the chronologically advanced consumer.  It is safe to assume that the corridors deliberately sported a dimly lit look with the rooms adorned with minimalist lighting.

While the last instance may not be entirely anomalous, players in a variety of industries are paying more than lip service to the needs and aspirations of the mature consumer. A recent issue of the Financial Times reports on how the greatest
marketing challenge  "how to sell to older adults, whose number are growing while younger age groups contract." 

Early in the piece the FT article zeroes on the principal issue that affects all marketing efforts directed at ageing: older
consumers do not wish to be reminded of their age.  Exhibit A cited was the instance of
a mobile phone called Katharina developed by German company Fitage. It was marketed to older
users and featured big keys and simple signage. The phone was a bust with the company following suit a couple of years ago.

Among the nostrums suggested by experts cited in the Financial Times are some that are highly relevant if seemingly obvious. These include avoiding marketing
pitches that scream “designed for the old and frail”  while devising strategies that highlight the way their products and services
compensate for the physical deterioration of old age.  For example  "German seniors are
prepared to buy puréed baby food, for example, but not in larger jars because
that would draw attention to the fact that these are adult-sized portions."

Other equally obvious yet useful improvements include "building
age-friendly features such as louder, clearer call volume" by manufacturers of mobile
phones.  For hotels the subtle improvements could include switches that have a perpertual faint glow to enable easy spotting; beds that enable both relatively shorter and older people lay down without having to virtually launch themselves on; sockets that are at table top level and advertising outreach that features more than perfectly toned humans: preferably groups of couples in the "right" demographic.


Published by

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.