Thriving on the Vine: Consumerism Among Ageing Consumers.
By Vijay Dandapani ~ Hotelier's outlook on NYC, travel and the industry
Friday, 25th January 2013
Late last year the Global Marketing Alliance ran an article on an oft-mentioned and written topic: marketing to the ageing consumer and the author mentions the many truisms associated with the steadily changing demographic of the consumer particularly in the developed world and marketers' need to adapt and cater to the dynamic.

This is including, notably, an experience at a hotel "that had just completed a major refurbishment with no thought given to ensuring the new design was age-friendly." 

The GMA article did not spell out the lacunae in the hotel's efforts at catering to the chronologically advanced consumer.  It is safe to assume that the corridors deliberately sported a dimly lit look with the rooms adorned with minimalist lighting.

While the last instance may not be entirely anomalous, players in a variety of industries are paying more than lip service to the needs and aspirations of the mature consumer. A recent issue of the Financial Times reports on how the greatest marketing challenge  "how to sell to older adults, whose number are growing while younger age groups contract."

Early in the piece the FT article zeroes on the principal issue that affects all marketing efforts directed at ageing: older consumers do not wish to be reminded of their age.  Exhibit A cited was the instance of a mobile phone called Katharina developed by German company Fitage. It was marketed to older users and featured big keys and simple signage. The phone was a bust with the company following suit a couple of years ago.

Among the nostrums suggested by experts cited in the Financial Times are some that are highly relevant if seemingly obvious. These include avoiding marketing pitches that scream "designed for the old and frail"  while devising strategies that highlight the way their products and services compensate for the physical deterioration of old age.  For example  "German seniors are prepared to buy puréed baby food, for example, but not in larger jars because that would draw attention to the fact that these are adult-sized portions."

Other equally obvious yet useful improvements include "building age-friendly features such as louder, clearer call volume" by manufacturers of mobile phones. 

For hotels the subtle improvements could include switches that have a perpertual faint glow to enable easy spotting; beds that enable both relatively shorter and older people lay down without having to virtually launch themselves on; sockets that are at table top level and advertising outreach that features more than perfectly toned humans: preferably groups of couples in the "right" demographic.

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city. Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

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