It’s no secret that baby boomers are one of the most powerful consumer groups in the world. As a result, marketers are constantly looking for ways to sell to us. Right about now, I can probably hear you saying, “Who cares?” As Seth Godin’s book says, “All Marketers Are Liars.” Why should we care if they know how to market to us?

Actually, there are several reasons.

First, we all deserve to know about products and services that can genuinely make our lives better. There is absolutely no point in trying to sell me a face cream that will make me “look 20-years younger.”

 
 

Second, bad marketing reinforces stereotypes. It’s bad enough that Hollywood always portrays older adults as slow, behind the times and inactive. We don’t need marketers pushing flip phones at us in TV commercials, just because they think that’s “all we need.”

So, to help our friends in the marketing world to understand us better, I recently asked the women in the Sixty and Me community to discuss their advertising pet peeves. Here are a few of their boomer marketing tips.

Use Realistic Models – Especially When it Comes to Couples

By the time we reach our 60s, most of us have come to terms with our aging bodies. We still want to look our best, but, for the most part, we are done comparing ourselves to others.

If you are a cosmetics company you should, at the very least, use models our age. People like Cindy Joseph, who I have interviewed previously, are fabulous. But, why not go a step further? Why not feature actual women, wrinkles and all, using your products? If they are as good as you say they are, they should show results on normal women too, right?

While we’re on the topic of models, older women hate seeing ads with older men dating people 20 years their junior.

Ok, maybe you are trying to be aspirational. Perhaps you think that older men will buy Viagra if they imagine that it will make them successful with younger women. But, let’s be realistic. The majority of older men who use products like this are in relationships with us, 60-year-old women. We know exactly what they are buying and why. Don’t you want us on your side?

As community member Theresa said, “I dislike ads for improving your ‘intimate’ life that show 60-year-old men in comfy casual clothes with women who look 20-years younger, dressed in short dresses and high heels.”

Vanda added that she dislikes, “25-30-ish girls with no wrinkles and perfect skin, modelling anti-aging products as if they made her that way. I want 60-year-old women to model products so that I can see if it really works.”

The Same Goes for Voice-Overs

Have you ever listened to the voices that are used in advertisements for senior homes, health products and cruises? They are meant to sound comforting and familiar, but, in reality, they just sounds boring and uninspiring.

As Jenny said on our Facebook page, “I hate the gravelly grandma/grandpa voices that they use, the clothes that older actors wear and even the often used retirement home setting. I also hate the ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ ads. They’re just insulting.”

Stop Pushing Products Just Because of Our Age

Just because we are in our 60s and better, doesn’t mean that we all need funeral services and hearing aids. Seriously, in this age of interest-based Facebook targeting and Google ads, surely you can do better than marketing something to us just because we’re getting older.

Statistically, we probably need certain services more than other groups, but, is this a valid reason to take a shotgun approach?

As community member Marcia said, sarcastically, “I just love the constant offers for funeral homes, funeral services and hearing aids.”

Stop Making Costly Product Targeting Assumptions

All older consumers want from their mobile phone is to be able to make calls, right? Wrong! Maybe this was true a decade ago! Now, the majority of older adults are using their phones to connect to Facebook, stay connected via Skype or watch YouTube videos.

So, why do so many mobile phone commercials still show older adults using crappy feature phones?

As Carol said, “I dislike a certain cell phone commercial. I think its Consumer Cellular, or, something like that. They say that you get a discount on a crappy flip phone if you’re an AARP member – because ‘seniors’ can’t possibly understand how to use anything else.”

Don’t Tell Us What’s “Age Appropriate”

Of course, marketing is not just about advertising; it also extends to the retail experience too. Several members of the community pointed out that sales staff need to understand that women over 60 are no longer happy “accepting invisibility.”

We want to wear clothes that make us look and feel amazing, even if they don’t fit your conception of “what a grandma should wear.”

As Tobi said, “I tried to buy a peasant blouse at the mall. The sales lady told me that I should look for something more ‘age appropriate.’ I wanted to kick her with my ‘comfort casual’ shoe!”

Don’t Challenge Our Feelings of Independence

The great majority of people in their 60s and 70s are completely independent. We live in our own homes. We drive ourselves around town. We make our own purchase decisions. Some of us, like myself, travel the world, even if we are single women. In short, we are independent.

So, why is it that so many commercials show us being led around or supported by younger adults? If I can’t figure out how something works on my computer, I don’t call my kids… I look for tutorial on YouTube! I certainly don’t need to be taken care of.

If someone calls me to try to sell something, I don’t call my son, or ask for my lawyer’s advice! I make my own decision.

As Sherri said, “I dislike how we are often portrayed as being not very bright and completely dependent on younger people. The Met Life ads are a good example of this.”

We’re Different than Our Grandparents

There was a time when turning 60 was “the beginning of the end.” It was a time for “aging gracefully” and, hopefully, enjoying a few years with your grandkids before the whole thing was over.

Now, most of us don’t dream of sitting on our porch, knitting and talking to our cats. With 20-30 more years on this amazing planet, we have dreams, just like every other age group. We are painting and playing tennis, going to the park with our grandkids and traveling.

Of course, our finances don’t always allow us to pursue all of our dreams, but, we are interested in a much broader range of products than those typically targeted at “seniors.”

I’m not saying that you should talk to us in exactly the same way as you would to other demographics. Like Gen Xers, Millennials and every other group, we have a unique history and culture.

I’m simply pointing out that you shouldn’t assume that we are (or are not) interested in your product just because of our age.

Are you in your 60s or 70s? What baby boomer marketing tips would you give to agencies who want to reach you? Are there any specific commercials that upset you? Please join the conversation.

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