Use Direct Response to Reach Seniors

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The Internet is the perfect solution for the graying of America. But current dot-com television brand advertising doesn't really address the senior market. It's slick, MTV-style ads are geared toward a much younger and already Internet-savvy demographic.


To reach the older consumer, dot-coms need to use direct response to build brand/identity on a much more personal level with this demographic. By using direct response long form, you have the opportunity to tell stories.


Seniors appreciate the ability to know the person they are doing business with more than the younger generations do. We all know "In the good old days," you used to know the customer you did business with on a personal level.


The fact that this has changed so much in the past few decades leaves the senior market out in the cold. For example, take the photography industry. You used to take your film in and chat with the man behind the counter at the camera shop. He would send off your film and then call you when it was ready.


You would then discuss your pictures with him. He would tell you how to improve them, and maybe he would sell you an additional piece of equipment.


Today's seniors are less likely to do business with a drive-through film developer if they can have a deeper and more personal relationship with a cyberbusiness. However, direct response can build a bond of trust with older consumers - the kind of relationship enjoyed by the camera shop years ago.


Electronic retailing started by offering goods and services to seniors and the older generations by selling them products on shopping channels. Now we have the same opportunity because the Internet is very much like a shopping channel.


But we need to make sure we use offline branding and advertising and tie it in directly with sales online. And because there are current and developing methods of tracking advertising online, marketers will be able to analyze tangible sales results.


While the traditional advertising industry may profess to know who its viewers are on different broadcasters, we as an industry actually know who really buys and from which outlet. By placing a traditional 30-second spot on the Discovery Channel, viewers in the 47-to-62 age range may see the spot, but direct response can show whether the people actually watching that network are more likely to be impulse purchasers.


Today, younger people are finding just about everything they need on the Internet. They sign up for college, buy cars, play games and interact with their peers. But seniors have the challenges of getting there, and the Net can be positioned as a valuable lifetime tool for them. Again, by using direct response, we can knock down the barriers that can't be done in 30-second or 60-second advertising.


Seniors say that when they lose the ability to drive, they feel out of touch with their community. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that seniors cited the loss of interaction with the community as their No. 1 greatest fear. By using the time allowed with direct response, dot-com companies can reach and teach seniors that they aren't out of touch if they get connected through the Internet.


Dot-coms can position the Internet as a neighborhood community offering medical advice (drkoop.com), shopping malls (mall.com) and family interaction (photographs and e-mail). It also opens seniors up to horizons they've never imagined. Being connected to the Internet allows bedridden seniors to get involved in their community through e-mail, message boards and chats. There also are many products seniors might like to use but feel apprehensive about or don't even know it's easily available through the Internet.


Direct response can let seniors know that just because they can't drive to the store, they don't have to do without certain items or information.


Seniors can still order clothes, look for real estate or talk to their grandchildren, and they can also connect with other seniors or just people who share their interests. And where else can you talk to someone in Tonga in real time without paying heavy fees or tolls?
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