Reverse Mortgage Marketing Falls Short if Aimed at ‘Average Senior’

Just as reverse mortgages are not a one-size-fits-all solution, there is a danger to marketing these products to “the average consumer” that could cause messaging to fall short when trying to reach more potential borrowers.

In marketing to Baby Boomers (Americans born between 1946-1964) along with older customer populations, the idea of “the average customer” does not exist, says Jim Gilmartin, principal of Coming of Age—The Baby Boomer & Senior Marketing Agency based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

Like its name implies, the full-service agency specializes specifically in marketing and advertising to Baby Boomer and senior customers. Through the lense of behavioral research, Coming of Age identifies the needs, values and purchase motivators of its customers.

When targeting Boomers and older customers, marketers may tend to group these demographics into “the Boomer market” or “the senior market,” however, by doing so companies could be missing significant opportunities to engage consumers who don’t fit necessarily fit the generic mold.

“The danger is this approach creates a herd marketing mentality when attempting to connect with these very diverse populations,” says Gilmartin. “In Boomer and older customer populations the average customer does not exist.”

For one, the age 51 and older crowd is not all alike, Gilmartin says, adding that this diverse market segment spans individuals at the peak of their careers, to active, independent Baby Boomers and populations, to the elderly in need of care.

“It really doesn’t matter what product or service is being marketed,” he says. “Effectively approaching Baby Boomers and older customers demands knowledge of their values and purchase motivators, and converting that knowledge into images and copy that connects with them.”

The object is to get Boomers’ and older consumers’ attention through all the “marketing clutter,” Gilmartin says. And this means taking a closer look at how consumers in different demographics process information.

“The key to the Baby Boomer and older customer’s pocketbook is in a better understanding of their minds,” Gilmartin says.

Compared to younger consumers, older adults are more likely motivated by emotional experiences, whereas the young mind tends to see things in terms of absolute states or conditions. This bias results from a combination of experience and age-related changes in how the brain processes information.

“The predisposition of Baby Boomer and older customers to reject absolutism means that marketing communications intended for them should generally reflect a conditional tone allowing each reader or viewer to interpret the message based upon their needs and desires,” he says.

Overloading older customers with too many facts, Gilmartin says, may “dampen feelings” toward the product or service being touted. Because people process emotional material more deeply than non-emotional material, this suggests that often the best way to transmit objective information is to “piggyback it on,” or “sandwich it between” emotionally enriched information, he says.

“Weaving information into an attractive tapestry that integrates ‘facts’ into an emotionalizing matrix can satisfy the need of Boomer customers to gauge the potential emotional quality of the relationship before considering the product,” Gilmartin says.

Emotional information is also more easily retained and memorable in detail.

“This observation is the crux of the matter,” Gilmartin says. “It suggests that the traditional focus of marketing communications and sales presentations on product features and benefits and other objective information reaches a point of diminishing returns more quickly among Baby Boomers.”

Written by Jason Oliva

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