A note from David on the tragedy in Japan and our own “tsunami”

March 15, 2011

By David Weigelt

It’s 2 am and I can’t sleep. Upon leaving work yesterday, Immersion Active’s social media guru, Ross Hollebon, suggested that I might want to address the inconvenient truth about the name of our weekly ebrief, Silver Tsunami, in light of the tragedy still unfolding in Japan.

But that’s not what has me awake.  I’m up because my phone has been vibrating throughout the night with updates and information from various colleagues from around the globe. Each time, I’m hopeful that I’ll see an update from Immersion Active’s friends, Hiro Murata and Florian Kohlbacher, in Japan, but, as of this posting, nothing yet.

So let me take this opportunity to explain the name of our newsletter.  Read the rest of this entry »


Marketing to Older Adults: More Than a Cheap Laugh and a Fast Buck

November 4, 2009

by David Weigelt

“Switzerland Named Most Competitive Economy, Topping U.S.” This was a headline on the front page of the Wall Street Journal International Edition a few weeks ago. Having recently spent a week in Switzerland, this didn’t surprise me, even in a time when the rest of the world is wrestling with the economy. They have their challenges, but there is an obvious difference in consumer confidence among the Swiss. And why not, with a 4% unemployment rate, a relatively low tax rate and, dare I say it, health care for everyone (without a government option)? They have a lot to be confident about.

It should have come as no surprise that Switzerland, St. Gallen University to be specific, hosted the World Aging and Demographic Forum I attended. This event addressed “important topics related to demographic change and its effect on the labor market and social security, on health issues, on the development of new products and markets, and on changing lifestyles in society.”

It was an enlightening mix of thinkers and doers. There were members of parliament from Canada, Lords from the U.K., ministers of health from Africa, and the United States’ leading economist on demography, David Bloom. As a marketer, I was both humbled and inspired to be among such a group.

I attended sessions with topics such as work and welfare, health, and innovation and markets. As the conference progressed, it became clear to me that I, as “just” a marketer, played a critical role in the mission of this group. Without intelligent and consumer-specific communications strategies, these academics, policy makers, and executives would never realize success.

When the time came for us marketers to speak, I was in the good company of 50-plus marketing icons like Dick Stroud, from 20 plus 30 Consulting, Kevin Lavery, from Millennium, and Florian Kohlbacher, from the German Institute on Japanese. To a packed room, we shared stats on why the mature markets were important and the effect the economy was having on them. But these people didn’t need to know why; they wanted to know how.

  • How do we segment the most diverse set of older adults in history?
  • How do we connect with them via the Internet and social media?
  • How do we cost effectively reach them in large numbers?

As we answered their questions, something dawned on me. As someone who looks to market to boomers and seniors for non-altruistic reasons, I had better help these people meet their goal of advancing the state aging if I ever expect you – the marketer of a product or service that could benefit from the increasing needs and wealth of the mature markets – to do the same.

You see, a culture of ageism still dominates most societies (certainly in the United States, even in places you wouldn’t expect, like Japan). But the zeitgeist is changing. For the first time in history, adults over the age of 40 are the consumer majority. What countries like Singapore, Sweden, and Denmark, (ranked among the top five for Global Competitiveness and also countries with an aging population) know is that (to steal the words of Auguste Comte, the founder of sociology) “demography is destiny.”

We have a responsibility as marketers. As targeting boomers and seniors becomes increasing popular, it is imperative that we don’t screw it up. There are all kinds of stereotypes that surround the elderly. Frankly, some of them are funny (and I’ll be the first to acknowledge the value of being able to laugh at ourselves). However, adults in the second half of life are more than a cheap laugh or a fast buck. There are many layers of wealth (beyond financial) that our country’s mature population possesses – something we need to keep this in mind as we increasingly focus our marketing dollars on them.

Boomers Are Talking, and Their Friends Are Listening

May 31, 2007

A new study of 502 U.S. baby boomers, titled “B2F Connections,” found that boomers serve as important information sources for fellow boomers when making purchasing decisions. Read complete article.

The study, conducted by Weber Shandwick, said that most boomer to friend conversations and word-of-mouth recommendations are very personal in nature and rich with personal opinion. So you’d think that no topic would be off-limits. Au contraire, as boomers follow a strict “code of silence” when it comes to financial services.

Contrary indeed, since they are the ones that seem to need it the most.

Is Visa Hearing an ‘Echo’ too Soon?

May 29, 2007

Visa just commissioned a study on echo boomers (those born between 1979 to 1989) and baby boomers to compare spending habits, as told by MediaPost. The only true similarity between the groups is that both are concerned about saving for retirement. They concluded that echo boomers are being more frugal in their younger years than the baby boomers were, which will eventually lead to more discretionary income than the baby boomers currently have.

Read the rest of this entry »

Is the Internet Like a Blender to Boomers?

May 21, 2007

In a recent iMedia Connection article titled “Give boomers what they want,” Michael Leis compares baby boomers’ view of computers and the Internet to household appliances. As boomers grew up, he says, appliances became more technologically advanced, but few grew beyond original functionality. Since computers have progressed far beyond word processing, he concludes that boomers do little beyond the basics.

Once again, we see that it’s dangerous to put all boomers in one bucket. While this article draws on an interesting parallel, it shortchanges the entire demographic.

Read the rest of this entry »

NCOA Aging Conference (Part 2): My “Senior” Moments with Walter

March 20, 2007

In my recent attendance of the “What’s Next: Boomer Business Summit” in Chicago I decided to spend a couple of days at the NCOA/ASA Aging Conference that followed. As this conference is geared more to educating senior care givers, I found myself observing the business of aging from a different perspective.

One of things that struck me was the use of senior volunteers to assist the largely baby boomer-aged attendees in going from session to session. They (the senior volunteers) were unmistakably deputized with over-sized green sashes prompting attendees to “Ask Me”. Ultimately, they were very helpful (to the extent that they were familiar with the contents of the 300-page phone book that was the conference directory).

My most valuable experience of the conference, though, came over lunch on my last day. While waiting to be served my overpriced hamburger I met one of the volunteers — 81 year old, Walter. Walter and I initially bonded in our frustration over the service and quickly found ourselves in an unexpected discussion over, as he put it, “conferences like these”.

Read the rest of this entry »

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