The market of aging baby boomers and retirees now accounts for 50
percent of total U.S. consumer demand, and companies targeting this dominant and growing segment are turning to specialty marketers like Age Wave Impact, Emeryville, CA.
Age Wave has leveraged its knowledge of the 50+ market from a decade of
consulting to become a full-service provider of direct marketing services. From its healthcare roots, it has branched out this year to attract clients like Eddie Bauer, funeral service network Service Corp. International and Lifesource, a startup that makes nutritionally fortified prepared food for seniors. Earlier this month, Age Wave started a campaign for brokerage firm Paine Webber.
The 50+ market is all over the board in terms of behavior and buying preferences, said Age Wave CEO Bart Penfold. By understanding what those segments are and how to reach them, he expects to attract more clients beyond the healthcare sector.
Age Wave approaches the mature market by life stage rather than age and other demographics. The firm initially targeted the Lifesource product toward consumers in the San Francisco Bay area with diabetes or who had suffered a heart attack or other cardiac event. It chose which lists to rent by matching its knowledge of the characteristics of these disease groups — such as high blood pressure or presence of a pacemaker — with the available lists. It then tested the lists with outbound calls to verify that prospects met health criteria.
Bill Burkart, president of Age Wave's marketing communications division, has learned that lists of medical conditions work well in some cases and poorly in others. In building an audience for Miracle Ear, for instance, lists of males age 75 and older who worked in blue collar jobs performed better than lists of the hearing impaired. In general, Burkart said, age is a more accurate list selection criteria than income.
The company also has evolved a proprietary LifeChange/LifeChoice modeling process that factors in effects unique to the mature market to better target prospects.
Age Wave also has gained a knowledge base through Mature Market surveys that are distributed twice per year to more than 4,000 households and focus groups of seniors that are held across the country. Both the surveys and focus groups address specific topics such as banking or insurance. Its call center representatives — and delivery people in the case of Lifesource — are trained to carry on longer conversations with seniors, which also generate market data.
The latest set of 50 focus groups, centered on technology, found that one of three new mature consumers age 50-64 use the Internet while just one in nine over 65 do. Ninety percent of Internet usage centers around e-mail while use of e-commerce is extremely low, Burkart said. Online seniors search the Internet more for entertainment and news than for chat and health information.
Through the Lifesource campaign, however, AgeWave discovered that seniors are concerned with maintaining health to prevent disease. This feedback came from coupon redemption and inbound calls generated by direct response print ads placed in San Francisco area newspapers.
Realizing that Lifesource products appealed to a wider market, AgeWave implemented a second marketing phase using DRTV. Spots of 60 seconds were chosen over 30 seconds based on research that determined seniors do not react well to quick cuts, and sound was used in ways that would most benefit the hearing impaired, Burkart said.
“They are able to whittle down for us from a wide range of potential options, from font sizes to 1-800 numbers,” said Drew Mariche, marketing director for Lifesource, which has expanded to Southern California and has plans to eventually go national. “Them having a healthcare skew has also helped us because a lot of our customers' clients have a chronic condition.”
The special needs of seniors also convinced Lifesource to use a route carrier system akin to a milkman rather than ship the food by mail. Personal delivery was preferable to active seniors not home during the day as well as widows or homebound retired couples who valued conversation as part of the product.