This is a guest commentary for CNBC.com.
One-third of Americans will be over the age of 50 by 2016. And according to Georgia State University's Center for Mature Consumer Studies, today's mature market (those aged 55 and above) already controls 75 percent of America's wealth and 70 percent of its disposable income. And don't forget that in 2011, the first Baby Boomers turned 65, signaling what a lot of us see as a paradigm shift in the mature market which will impact everything from wants and needs to marketing strategies.
Right now, there's an interesting mix happening: The mature market is really a transitional one not totally consisting of members of the Depression-era Silent Generation (born 1925-1942), and not totally of Boomers (born 1946-1964).Our agency recently wrapped up some research that shows that members of this hybrid group do not readily identify themselves as representative of either generation but their sensibilities can swing toward one or the other demographic in terms of social, political, financial and cultural attitudes.
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Many came of age in the 1930s and 1940s, and were too young to serve in World War II or the Korean War. Generally well educated, this group leans toward an active lifestyle, is often on the fence about green issues, and makes purchases from both online and brick-and-mortar outlets.
So how can companies successfully reach the mature market? Understanding their mindsets, lifestyles and life stages is the best way. A few things to keep in mind:
Target the entire demographic, but don't treat it as a stereotypical entity. or example, not all Baby Boomers identify with hippies or Woodstock and not all Silent Generation folks fought in World War II. Concentrate on where they may be heading, not where they've been.
(Read More: Asia Caught Off Guard by Its Aging Population)
Remember that technology is your friend. his market is outpacing younger cohorts when it comes to adopting new technologies and online media, so don't discount digital advertising, social media and mobile content. And while going digital isn't always the answer, these media provide new, dynamic ways to deliver targeted, highly trackable brand messaging.
Use an integrated approach when it comes to media. t's best to engage with a targeted audience through multiple touch points (traditional advertising, public relations, digital) based on which media they may be using at any given moment.
Emphasize benefits over features and information over entertainment. his market (especially Baby Boomers) likes to be informed and engaged in a creative way before making purchase decisions.
Have a little empathy. oomers took a big financial hit during the recession and are having to rethink or even put off retirement; "Silents" have vivid memories of economic hardships. Stay abreast of the trends affecting this audience.
Remember stage, not age. oday's Boomers' and seniors' lives have a lot more moving parts than did previous generations. Some are juggling parenthood while taking care of their own parents, so remember that when developing a voice for your brand.
Keep it relevant. recent study conducted by Google/Nielsen showed that eight out of 10 members of the mature market believe the marketing messages they were exposed to in traditional and online media were intended for a much younger audience. That same study showed that this demographic is the fastest-growing and wealthiest, with more than $2 trillion in annual spending power. An audience posting such statistics obviously deserves a dialogue tailored to them.
Finally, Have a sense of humor. oday's mature market has grown up demanding things be done on their terms and has redefined almost every area of society. These individuals are healthier, more technologically savvy, better educated, more culturally literate and more discerning in their consumer tastes; the role they play will shape product design, branding and marketing for years to come.
Michael Pavone is president and CEO of Varsity, a marketing communications and research agency specializing in reaching the mature market.
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