The baby boomers are getting older, which means that they are increasingly in need of hearing aids.
According to latest US census, 7,200 people turn 65 years old each day. They’re all Baby Boomers – a post-WWII generation that was one of the largest cohorts ever, and soon to be your largest demographic. According to a University of Wisconsin study, 36.4 percent of all baby boomers have hearing loss.

Still, while baby boomers are getting older, treating them like senior citizens isn’t the best approach. According to a study from Harvard University, baby boomers aren’t going to spend their time sitting in rocking chairs and playing bingo. They’re “reinventing ageing.”

“The advertising industry can play a key role by offering alternatives to the narrow set of existing images that reflect current social attitudes toward aging,” the report states.

So how do you walk the fine line between making boomers feel young and vibrant while not being too unrealistic? To start with, be careful what you call them.

“Euphemisms like ‘elder,’ ‘of a certain age’ or ‘senior’ may not go over well,” says Jim Gilmartin, owner of Coming of Age Incorporated. Gilmartin’s firm has specialised in boomer and coming of age marketing for over 20 years.  

Meaningful messages

Sending the right message is especially important when targeting thought-conscious baby boomers.

David Weigelt, author of Dot Boom: Marketing to Baby Boomers through Meaningful Online Engagement, says that narratives work best.

When his company redesigned a website for an in-home senior nursing care company, he wrote a long and detailed narrative about someone’s experience with in-home care. The approach defied the traditional online marketing advice that stresses the importance of bullet points and short descriptions, but it worked. The company received a 900 percent increase in the number of people visiting the site.

“It builds on the ability to make a connection,” he says. “By just striking an emotional core we can engage them physically that way. At that point you have their attention.”

Customer testimonials and case stories in your online and offline marketing materials are a great way to emotionally engage potential customers. These stories can be printed in brochures or sent to newspapers or TV stations for human interest stories. Your website should also be a storytelling tool.

  • Video testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Photo slide shows
-  all work to create narratives and further build emotional connections with potential customers.

Online engagement

Think that video and websites are too advanced for your older customers? They don’t think so. An American Association of Retired People study* showed that 93 percent of boomers and older customers regularly or occasionally use the internet to research products that they would like to purchase.

Weigelt says that eye-tracking studies show that the first thing boomers are drawn to on a website is video. But don’t worry about the budget – you don’t have to make a feature film.

“I wouldn’t think of video as something expensive to do,” he says. “Low-budget video offers an incredible opportunity for a mom and pop or a hyper-local business to differentiate itself from a large brand.”

Building a community

Starting an online community is another way to reach boomers. The AARP study* showed that 70 percent of members aged 50 and older said that their online community is very or extremely important to them. Online communities are free to start via Facebook and can lead to meaningful dialogue with customers.

Communities should be used to provide help and guidance for your customers, not for sales pitches.

“You need to be careful to understand the reason that people are in those communities and not to think that you can walk into that room and start hawking your wares,” says Weigelt.  “You need to invest on some level in understanding what that conversation is.”

It’s also important that your website is tablet-friendly. Weigelt says that he has seen a large increase in tablet use amongst baby boomers and seniors, probably due to ease of use. Websites using Flash and complex contact forms aren’t going to work on most tablets. Try out your website on a tablet to see where users might have problems.

Motivating boomers

Motivation is also important for baby boomers, says Weigelt. If you are going to convince them to buy a hearing aid, you need to show them how the product will improve their lives.

“Being able to hear well isn’t just about you but about how that connects with your grandchildren and with your kids,” he says.

While it’s important to motivate boomers, it’s also important to create realistic expectations. Showing a 64-year-old man surfing or climbing Mount Everest may make more practical baby boomers dismiss the ad as being ridiculous or improbable.

“There’s been a real desire and drive to make these (hearing loss) devices look hip and young and cool,” says Weigelt. “The pendulum has swung too far.”

Instead, he suggests showing more realistic images, like a man at a baseball game with his grandson or an older woman spending time with her husband.

Overall, Gilmartin says that it’s important to give boomers a compelling story and a reason to buy a great product.

“When selling to these markets, focusing on product features and benefits often results in a losing strategy, especially early on in the process,” he says. “Research has shown that customers’ final decisions are not the direct product of the reasoning process. In fact, emotions drive boomer and older customers in their purchase decisions.”

Booming facts:

Older boomers (born 1946-1954) are more likely to…

  • Remember John F. Kennedy's assassination and the Vietnam War
  • Have listened to Bob Dylan
  • Be empty nesters (86 percent)
  • Spend leisure time travelling and gardening

Younger boomers (born 1955-1964) are more likely to…

  • Remember Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis as significant events in their younger years
  • Have listened to Bruce Springsteen
  • Still have someone under 18 living at home (36 percent)
  • Participate, or have children who participate, in sports
  • Spend time on kid-focused activities
  • Say labels are more important to them while shopping (44 percent vs. 36 percent for older boomers)

* Source:

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