19 Jan 2018 17:36 IST

Wake up, Grandpa’s gone digital!

Excluding seniors from internet advertising ignores their purchasing power

When the advertising is digital, senior citizens are generally ignored. This might be a wrong move, as most aged consumers are in control of their disposable income.

“One demographic not tapped by most marketers is senior citizens, which is a big mistake,” says Prasad Shejale, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Logicserve Digital, an independent digital ad agency.

The world is ageing, yet brands remain largely obsessed with youth. With the growing popularity of the Internet, “ease of access and affordability of Internet plans, we are witnessing a huge shift of people from all age groups adapting themselves to this technology and using it for their everyday needs,” he adds.

It is important for brands to also focus on the senior citizen segment along with the millennials to truly expand their reach and grow, says Shejale. Seniors, he adds, are the new influencers.

Concurring with this, Rubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect India, says aged consumers are not as resistant to digital devices and platforms as many may assume. iProspect India is a digital performance marketing agency from the Dentsu Aegis Network.

Conventional wisdom has it that the older you are, the less adept you are at new technology.

“That may have been true earlier, but last year many things changed. There were several changes in infrastructure and in the cost of data consumption. Pre-Jio, consuming data was an expensive proposition. Jio has democratised the digital culture in India. Plus demonetisation has understandably ushered in the need for everyone to adopt digital payments,” she adds.

On World Elderly Day on October 1 last year, Ingenico Group, in the business of seamless payments, joined forces with the Nana Nani Foundation in Mumbai to help senior citizens adopt digital payments. At a workshop at Nana Nani Park, Girgaum Chowpatty in Mumbai, the elderly were encouraged to shift from cash to digital transactions.

Marketing to the elderly

As an octogenarian at the venue pointed out, “We are open to change, and all we need is someone to guide us and help us embrace technology in our daily life.”

At the workshop, discussions revolved around the fact that when it comes to brands, other than healthcare, insurance or other products connected to age most senior citizens are compelled to buy products designed for a far younger audience.

Most brands tend to forget that these aged consumers are also “looking for positive exciting experiences that enhance our quality of life, just like any other person in any demographic.” These are paying customers too.

Logicserve’s Shejale says good service is of utmost importance for this segment, and that seniors always tend to look for value. “If they get a good service and support, they often don’t mind even paying more. Also, this is such a segment that is more likely to be loyal towards a brand. Investing in efforts and activities catering to this segment can prove to be very helpful from a long-term perspective.”

India’s ageing population, which was just 7.5 per cent (77 million) in 2001, has increased to 8.6 per cent (104 million) by 2011, according to an India Ageing Report 2017, by United Nations Population Fund. It predicted that the population of senior citizens in India could be around 20 per cent (300 million) of the total population by 2050.

Senior ads

“Advertisers tend to generally go after share of wallet and where the purchasing power lies. Though it mainly rests among 25-45-year-olds, and most brands will try to sell their products to this target audience, like FMCG, auto and telcos, brands don’t look at the elderly category as an outcast,” says iProspect’s Singh.

However, Shejale insists many companies seem oblivious to the fact that their customers are greying. Though some have started to market and advertise to an older population, most tend to showcase products and services that only tend to meet the ‘special needs’ of senior citizens.

Like adult incontinence. Friends Adults Diapers, an adult diaper brand, highlighted the issue in a unique light-hearted manner. The company behind the brand, Nobel Hygiene, conducted intensive research, which showed that in India, 24 per cent of people suffer from adult incontinence. The brand hoped to bring the issue into mainstream conversation.

An earlier campaign by travel company Thomas Cook also falls in this category. The company launched Silver Breaks, tour packages designed for senior citizens, keeping in mind their preferences and requirements. Created by Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi, the product was promoted through two short videos aired in cinemas, on TV as well as the digital medium. “While the entire travel industry is banking on young travellers, in groups or solo, Thomas Cook rightly focused on the senior audiences with this unique product through various channels including digital,” he adds.

Social media

Experts point out that when brands consider using influencers as a marketing strategy, they generally tend to imagine millennials on Snapchat, Instagram or other social media.

A campaign that decided to challenge the status quo was the Vodafone ad using veteran Bharatanatyam dancers Shanta and VP Dhananjayan. The couple was featured as the uber-cool elderly couple (Asha and Bala), chilling in Goa on their second honeymoon after 35 years of marriage. From getting a tattoo to parasailing, to checking on diabetes, the adorable duo was shown to be keeping pace with technology, with a little help from the 4G Vodafone network, using Facebook live, Google maps, video calling and photo-sharing features.

Ogilvy’s Senior VP and head of team Vodafone Hirol Gandhi insists the elderly are conversant with digital. iProspect’s Singh also insists advertisers and marketers are aware of this segment, and of the greater tech usage among older citizens. After all, senior citizens are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook, and tend to use social media tools largely to stay connected to their increasingly scattered families and friends.

In fact, says Singh, as many senior citizens are on social media, most brands direct their marketing at them “irrespective of the age group”. Be it advertising on a hoarding, or print, or TV, or digital, Singh insists “the target audience of the brand stays the same irrespective of the medium” and that advertisers are “medium-agnostic. Actually, digital is the only medium where you are segmenting your audience. In every campaign that is done, we tend to compartmentalise, for working women tend to think differently and home-makers tend to think differently. It is the demographics and the psychographics that we marry before every digital campaign,” says Singh.

Influencer-based content has been proving to be an effective way to target this mature demographic, says Singh.

Referring to “data that can tell us so much about a person,” Singh cites a banking company's campaign with National Award winning actor Irrfan Khan. “We had 1,500 segments of communication targeting different audiences. Each communication was different and based on explicit data. For instance, in the case of women in a certain age group, in a certain city, say working women, one loves reading while the other loves the outdoors. Each message was customised,” Singh says.

“For designing marketing plans for senior citizens, the most effective channel would be mobile,” insists Shejale. “All the communication designed for this segment needs to be simple, relevant, personalised, easy to understand, execute and should clearly depict how it can help them.”

For brands to really connect with senior audiences and gain their trust and loyalty, Shejale says it is important to “keep things simple, avoid a one-size-fits-all strategy and connect with them on an emotional level to make the marketing activities more relevant and effective.”

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)