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Just What (the) DR Ordered: A Healthy Approach to Baby Boomers

1 Feb, 2011 By: Jackie Jones Response

As the first batch of baby boomers turns 65 this year, DR proves more useful than ever in reaching a well-educated, health-conscious and tech-savvy generation.

The 77 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are a far cry from your run-of-the-mill retiree of yesteryear. Forget dependent, over-the-hill stereotypes associated with “senior citizens” — boomers are resourceful, better educated and well-adapted to new technologies, and marketers should take notice.

This year marks the first baby boomers turning 65, and marketers in the health care space looking to capture their attention need to look no further than direct response.

“Baby boomers are different than their predecessors in three notable ways: In general, they are more tech-savvy, lead a more active lifestyle and they approach health care decisions in a more proactive manner,” says Beth Vendice, East Coast president of Mercury Media, based in Marlboro, Mass. “On the whole, they will thoroughly research and understand their options and then make a decision, vs. simply doing what their doctors prescribe. These differences shape the manner in which health care marketers reach and influence the baby boomer target.”

Baby boomers provide ample opportunities for health care marketers, but only if advertisers recognize them for the unique group of seniors that they are, according to Linda Armstrong, executive vice president of account services at DMW Direct, a DR agency specializing in the 50+ consumer group.

“This group of prospects requires marketers to re-evaluate every part of their marketing program for relevancy to this new market,” Armstrong says. “How you talk to them, what you say, how what you say looks, the product you deliver and the delivery systems you use need to be brought in line with the needs of those boomers in transition.”

Television Always Timely

When it comes to effectively reaching baby boomers, television still reigns as king for most marketers. In order of property, TV ranks No. 1 for media consumption of those ages 65 and older and continues to out-deliver all other media, according to Vendice.

“DRTV satisfies the boomers’ needs and consumption habits well,” she says. “It delivers the adequate time and format to introduce new products and services, informs and educates, then delivers a simple offer with a call-to-action. We have found that straightforward and simple creative messaging — à la the direct response format vs. traditional branding — delivers the most effective results when targeting and motivating the baby boomer consumer.”

Health is the primary concern for this age group, and marketers’ messaging and content remains critical as these consumers continue to age, says Ronald C. Pruett Jr., managing director of The Boston Associates and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board. Pruett strongly agrees that television is the best place for health care marketers to connect with customers.

“Television is still the best platform for this segment of the population, and DRTV is the perfect tool for reaching them,” Pruett says. “The main reason is this group is comfortable with the channel and they trust it.”

DRTV’s strength shouldn’t discourage health care marketers from also pursuing a digital strategy — far from it. Vendice and Pruett agree that using online platforms in conjunction with television is successful when engaging with baby boomers, and that search (especially local search), banners and social media can be highly effective when used with offline media.

“Television has become a part of (baby boomers’) lifestyle more than with younger generations. However, coupled with this must be a digital program that emphasizes search, local advertising and increasing content delivered on (tablet) devices such as the iPad,” Pruett says. “Folks expect to find your products everywhere today.”

New Heights for Hoveround

Vendice cites Sarasota, Fla.-based Hoveround Corp. as one of Mercury Media’s most impressive clients in the baby boomer space, attributing their success to a superb combination of media and consumer-friendly creative.

“They are nimble, flexible and open to experimenting with well thought out tactics encompassing all forms of media,” Vendice says. “They have done a great job at testing and incorporating a variety of online tactics and coordinating these very closely with the rest of their efforts for a truly holistic approach.”

Hoveround, a manufacturer and supplier of mobility and access products since 1992, has a successful track record with baby boomers because of the company’s belief in building up the consumer.

“Hoveround was founded on the idea of giving people more freedom and independence as their mobility is challenged every day. It is still the mantra we live by today,” says Jeffrey Hilton, vice president of marketing. “We try to help folks live and age in place more gracefully and on their terms.”

Direct response has been crucial in Hoveround’s marketing strategy and enables the company to communicate with baby boomers in the manner they best respond to: in a way that leaves them feeling self-sufficient.

“To me, DR says ‘give me what I need and tell me how to get it.’ It’s as simple as that. The boomer generation wants the information and they want it in a clear and concise way,” Hilton says. “DR is the perfect vehicle for boomers because it doesn’t waste their time. DR lets us really clearly lay out: Here’s the problem, the solution, the features and benefits of our product and the process you need to follow to get it.”

Hoveround utilizes four main channels in its marketing: DRTV — “the first and the foundation,” Hilton says — online, direct mail and print advertising. The health care company’s strategy is a true integration of marketing, and if one channel is ignored, the others suffer, according to Hilton.

“TV represents the solid foundation of everything we do. We run TV 12 months a year,” he says. “Every single day you will see a Hoveround commercial on air. That sets the condition of the marketplace for the more hard-hitting DR vehicles like online and direct mail.”

Hilton is quick to point out that though TV is the core of his marketing, online proves important as technologies advance and consumers become increasingly comfortable with digital.

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