How an Aging Population is Changing the Mind of the Market
#6 Older consumers more often focus on the customer experience than on the product: desires are less materialistic, more experiential; pleasure sought in little things.
For most of us, the first half of life is largely about getting, having and controlling. We strive to acquire a rich bounty of material objects and to bring others into our spheres of influence, possession and control to give meaning to our lives.
We fill our closets with more garments than we need in houses scaled beyond our daily needs. We fill those houses with furnishings not often used, park cars in their garages that are bigger and more powerful than our needs require, and otherwise do many things to excess in our relentless pursuit of happiness.
And still, we always want more. Usually until the onset of midlife
Even then, many continue living out their sagas of narcissistic materialistic indulgence. But those most likely in their later years to find the yeastiest joy of their lives begin to see sources of life satisfaction more along the lines that logotherapist Viktor Frankl did.
In his classic Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl urges us to replace the question, “what can life do for us?” – a self-centered materialistic query – with the question, “what does life demand of us?” That question is about looking to the self rather than to the outer world for the meaning of our lives, which – Frankl insists – will be found in existential beingness expressed in nonmaterial experiences rather than in what we influence, possess and control.
Most advertising to people in the second half of life misses the mark because it promotes values associated with getting, influencing, possessing and controlling. Very little gets to Frankl’s core thoughts about where “man’s search for meaning” will find pay dirt. And yet, the search for meaning in midlife especially grows progressively stronger until a person has some sense of comfort in the meaning he or she finally embraces as their reason for being.
In the meantime, the same as the play imperative in the spring of life promotes learning; the midlife imperative to look more to experiences for life satisfaction promotes discovery of the meaning of one’s life. A marketer who doesn’t understand this is poorly equipped for being effective in older markets.
Frankl thought dimly of all the focus placed today on avoidance of pain and the obsessive pursuit of pleasure for its own sake.
Hal Norvell, former head of AARP’s travel programs, told me once that he did two promo pieces for the same tour. One piece stressed services, conveniences and comforts of the tour. The other talked about the color and sounds of local markets, the poetic majesties of the landscapes travelers would traipse over, and the raw though bearable challenges of the tour. But it was high adventure for the mind. And it was this piece that drew the most applicants.
Abraham Maslow said that at higher levels of psychological maturation people progressively focus on Peak Experiences, experiences that transcend narcissistic and materialistic values, e.g., observing a toddler in imaginative play, being uplifted by a magnificent dawn, or getting goose bumps from the Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s Ninth.
I refer to Peak Experiences as Being Experiences in my book, Ageless Marketing. On page 253, I define Being Experiences as experiences that enhance one’s sense of connectedness, sharpen one’s sense of reality, and increase one’s sense of appreciation for life.
Next: #7 – More introspective – more self-informed, more trust in self.