Thursday, November 15, 2007

Boomers and Positive Messaging

In the book and in our sessions with companies and organizations, we talk at length about the need to "Be Positive" when developing marketing programs targeting older consumers. The reason is that older consumers will ignore negative images and messages -- they have essentially trained their brains over time to skip over things they know they won't want to retain for later use.

We didn't make this up. It's based on the academic and peer-reviewed work by Dr. Laura Carstensen, Professor of Psychology and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. For more than twenty years her research has been supported by the National Institute on Aging, so she knows of what she speaks.

Our point with marketers is that since the first rule in marketing is to "get someone's attention," if you're trying to connect with older consumers you better avoid stay negative images, words and concepts. But every day we come across examples of marketers that don't yet get it.

Here are two.

First, this print ad from Merck targeting older consumers ran recently in Parade Magazine. The headline reads (ominously): "I didn't know shingles had the potential to be serious. More importantly, I didn't know I was at risk."

This line, coupled with the photo of Mr. Happy Face, staring out at us, with a somber and serious color scheme, is exactly opposite of being positive. Based on Dr. Carstensen's research, we suspect Merck turned off more people than it attracted.

Another example is this TV spot from Australia for a hearing aid. The tone isn't quite as negative or scary as the Merck ad, but the approach is identical to most hearing aid advertisements -- let's focus on the problem, hearing loss.

Poor man, he can't hear, sits idly by during conversations, has a disappointed wife, and feels like a schmuck. Then he gets a hearing aid and his life is changed. (Odd aspect of the commercial: his voice-over is almost lost over the last scene with the crowd of people all talking at once -- if anyone watching has a hearing problem, they'll miss the call-to-action. It's enough to make you wonder).

Compare that hearing aid spot to the opening video at Phonak's Audeo "personal communication assistant" Web site. It's all about the positives of hearing, not the negatives of hearing loss. Very compelling, interesting and provocative. In fact, at no point in the video do they talk about hearing loss.

To us, the lesson is simple -- cast the message in the positive and you'll catch more fish. Maybe it is too simple a lesson to ever get learned.

2 comments: said...

I can reinforce your point on hearing aids. What motivated me was the positive that I might reduce my tinnitus.

ideacoach said...

I say Hooray for the positive messages. Seems to me that it should work for all generations.
Thanks for the focus, I am going to be sure to include it in my blogging posts.

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