Online Exclusives

Marketing to the Mature Consumer

By Joanna Cosgrove, Online Editor | September 24, 2012

In part one of a two part series focused on generational marketing, this article will look at the diverse consumer segments associated with “the aging population” and what marketers can do to best meet their needs.

While many marketers are content to cater to younger consumers who tend to be easily impressed by the latest and greatest technologies, savvy marketers know that connecting with the over-50 crowd is critical, especially given that half of the planet will be over the age of 50 by 2030. But the just as younger generations are broken out into specific and significant categories such as Gen X, Gen Y and Tweeners, so too is the mature segment, though the group is more aptly segmented according to needs that extend well beyond Boomer and Greatest Generation designations.
“It’s necessary to recognize that aging is a multidimensional experience, defined by a full range of lifestyle factors and emotions that transcend even the state of one’s physical health,” stated Maryellen Molyneaux, president of the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), located in Harleysville, PA. According to the firm, these health adjacencies can include community, nutrition, fitness, healthcare, finances, retirement and lifestyle among many others. “They are keys to truly understanding the vast and customized market opportunities within healthy aging,” she said. 
In a recent Trend Release titled “Dimensions of Aging,” NMI said the process of aging is “defined by how one perceives the experience and reacts to it, rather than the experience itself.” For many, growing older can be a time of great personal expansion and growth, and for others, it can be a period of uncertainty and decline. Thus, the aging produces unique need states, which NMI broke out into six Healthy Aging Segmentation categories that can offer deeper insight into how consumers deal with the issues associated with aging:
  1.  Traditionalists: Have financial stability and a proactive health perspective that makes them “an attractive segment for products and services that complement independence, disease prevention, and connections to family and home.”
  2. Help Seekers: Are most attracted to affordable products and services that offer a sense of control and peace of mind.
  3. Que Sera, Seras: Are a “little out of control,” skeptical, and financially ambivalent. They are the least concerned with matters related to their health and are find indulgent products most appealing.
  4. Balancers: This group yearns for products and services (i.e. anti-aging) that help them maintain a sense of control in maintaining the balance of their finances and health.
  5. Active Agers: Are financially sound and highly educated. They seek products and services that not only enhance their health and active lifestyles, but also products that afford them independence and self-direction.
  6. First Adopters: The most trendy and experimental group, they are most interested in youth-oriented product and services geared toward health and vitality.
NMI said the thread that ties all six segments together was the desire to maintain independence. “The majority of consumers are ‘very concerned’ about losing the ability to take care of themselves as they age,” the firm stated. “This motivates older consumers to try to live healthier lifestyles so they would not be a burden on loved ones as they age.”
Ranking high among the fears associated with independent aging are the loss of mental capacity, running out of money, and losing the ability to “get around.” “These findings show us how the desire for healthy aging can be driven by various dynamics, including fear, a lack of financial stability, or the desire for independence and a sense of dignity,” NMI said. “Uncovering which drivers are having the most impact on our target consumer, will help us create well-rounded, effective solutions and communications around products and services that assist consumers in maintaining their independence.”
Determining which life factors, their level of connectedness and how these are influencing attitudes and behaviors is imperative to meeting the needs of the aging consumer. For instance, NMI found that the financial component of the mature consumer had a direct correlation to the consumers’ perceived health status. “Retirement savings or the lack thereof, shows a high relationship to other negative life factors,” NMI asserted. “Compared to consumers who are on target with their financial retirement plan, older consumers who are not on target are significantly more likely to give their health status a lower rating, feel their life is out of control, indicate their stress levels are worse than ten years ago, and don’t feel they have a very good support system if they ever did need help. Therefore, it is important to understand that life factors are highly connected.”
The mature consumer segment is clearly not receptive to one-size-fits-all solutions to the aging experience. Understanding the nuances of aging is where the most effective and customized solutions will be found. NMI said marketers not only have an opportunity, but also an obligation “to contribute to and help define the changing landscape of aging so that we may all age with independence, proper care, and a sense of dignity.”
Coming up on Thursday, part two of this series will shift gears to focus on how “Millennials” – those born between the 1982 and 2001 – are challenging the purchasing power of aging consumers and changing the landscape of food as we know it.

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