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.
If you can measure everything, why wouldn’t you?” says Chris Terrill, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of E-commerce of Fort Washington, Pa.-based Nutrisystem. “Coca-Cola would love to be able to run a TV spot and know who bought its product and where at all times — and then be able to contact its consumers and sell subscriptions for delivery of its products, but it simply can’t do it. Still, for every marketer, that is your dream. DR is going to continue to get stronger. Big upstream brands continue to utilize DR more and more. If Nutrisystem can do it, anyone can. And the great thing is that there are even more interesting measurement tools coming thanks to more convergence of Web-style metrics extending into TV.”
Terrill joined Nutrisystem in 2007 as senior vice president of E-Commerce, following executive stints at Blockbuster.com and Match.com. He added the CMO title in 2009, having learned DR from Tom Connerty, a former CMO of Nutrisystem, of whom he speaks highly.
“You’ve got to give credit to Tom Connerty, who kicked off Nutrisystem’s most recent foray into the DR space,” Terrill says. “He recognized years of equity in the brand and rebuilt the marketing model to go directly to consumers.”
Nutrisystem has been around the weight-loss and fitness space since 1972, and the company went public in 1999 (NASDAQ: NTRI). While the company has gone through what Terrill calls “dormant” stages, it has maintained a leadership role in the space for nearly 40 years by building a trusted brand and creating loyal customers with its quality products and services.
Most recently, however, Terrill says the combination of DRTV and online direct response is what has driven the brand to new levels of success. “The expansion of online marketing took what was happening in DRTV marketing and brought it into more focus,” he says. “Look at banner ad tracking: DRTV guys would say they’ve been trying to do that forever. As a CMO, my life is about managing and building plans that are quantitatively driven. As a direct-to-consumer marketer, we want to measure TV like we measure online.”
Nutrisystem A Perfect Match
Terrill’s background speaks to his desire to bring the same kind of measurement capabilities found in the online DR space to all areas of Nutrisystem’s marketing efforts. In the mid and late 1990s, he cut his teeth at QZAR Inc., owners of the then-popular Laser Tag entertainment center chain, and phone giant GTE.
In 1999, he joined Match.com, the online dating business, where he served as director of marketing and vice president of new brands and verticals, among other senior positions. His biggest accomplishment there was spearheading the creation of Chemistry.com, a competitor of eHarmony.com, aimed at the growing market of those seeking long-term relationships. During his tenure, the overall Match.com business grew from $15 million to $250 million, with more than 1 million subscribers.
“At Match, we were doing online DR-style campaigns designed to drive immediate response,” he says. “That came in very handy at Nutrisystem when we wanted to expand the business from traditional DR-to-call-center and into online response.”
He left Match for Blockbuster.com in 2005 to become vice president of product and marketing. While there, he oversaw development of the video retailer’s online brand — and his early segmentation and positioning work helped lay the foundation for the Blockbuster Total Access program, which put the retailer in direct competition with online video retailer Netflix and brought Blockbuster more than 1 million new customers.
Today at Nutrisystem, Terrill is in charge of all marketing for Nutrisystem’s brands — “men’s, women’s, silver and diabetic,” he says — encompassing TV, online, print and more. “We do affiliate marketing, search, display online, as well as operate our own social community on Nutrisystem.com,” Terrill adds. “We have a team of about 80 that handles every aspect of our business that touches the consumer, plus a team of contractors who fill in whatever spaces we need at a given time.”
DRMA Marketer of the Year Spotlight
In its October 2010 issue, Response announced and spotlighted the three finalists and winner of the Second Annual Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA) Marketer of the Year Award. In the November issue, we began spotlighting the other seven top nominees in a monthly section. This month, we caught up with Tom Duncan, Charlotte, N.C.-based president and CEO of Positec Inc.
The three-year-old company reports 2010 revenue of more than $200 million, thanks mainly to the success of the WORX garden and Rockwell tool lines. The company launched three long-form campaigns in 2010, with plans for two more in 2011. And it’s not just DR success — the company contends its retail distribution increased 120 percent due to the success of its campaigns.
Q: What does it mean to you and your company to be one of the top 10 nominees for the DRMA Marketer of the Year Award?
A: It is an honor to be recognized by the DRMA for something that our team works hard at each and every day but encompasses what we have been striving toward for several years. The caliber of the other nominees is impressive so that also makes us proud of what we have accomplished.
Q: What was the most significant accomplishment in the past year for your company?
A: We rolled out our sixth consecutive successful long-form infomercial, which gives us a batting average of 1.000 during the past four years. That is not easy to do in this economic environment. I am more proud of our consistency, as much as the level of success of each product.
Q: How did the successful products you had over the past year fit within the overall concept behind your company? Were any of those products so successful that they changed the way you do business? If so, how?
A: We are unique in that we are a brand company first and foremost and so each successful product that we launch via DR supports our overall multichannel brand strategy. Each successful DR campaign becomes another brick in our long-term brand foundation.
Q: Why do you think your business responded well during the recent economic downturn?
A: We have had a record sales year each of the past three years while our tool industry competitors have seen sales drop by high double digits. We have discovered the right formula for driving both DR and retail sales, which has allowed us to grow despite the economic downturn.
Q: What is your outlook for the next 12 months? What are the top items in your pipeline?
A: We are expecting another record sales year. We have two new long-form shows planned to launch in 2011.
Q: What vertical markets do you believe are best equipped to survive current economic issues — and even thrive — in 2011? Why?
A: Great creative, a strong value proposition and a unique, appealing product is more important than what market or category a product is in. We operate in the tool and garden categories, and we see these markets continuing to struggle overall due to the housing market and stagnant disposable incomes.
Q: Does today’s consumer respond better to short-form or long-form DRTV? Which of these two formats are best supported by other media, including online, mobile, print and radio?
A: We prefer long-form because it works best for our higher-priced, highly demonstrable products. We also like the way we can use other media to remind or re-market a “fence-sitter” who may not have called or bought when he first saw the long-form show.
SANTA ANA, Calif. — Not many hall-of-fame professional athletes have forged a business career that would make their sports exploits pale in comparison. However, Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s off-court success — in both business and philanthropic endeavors — during the past two decades has become nearly as legendary as his on-court prowess as a five-time NBA world champion and three-time NBA most valuable player during his career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s that business success — based on the teamwork and leadership he cultivated during his playing days — which Johnson will discuss as the keynote speaker at Response Expo 2011. His powerful message, presented by Euro RSCG Edge, kicks off the Expo on Tuesday, May 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. “We are thrilled to bring Magic Johnson’s lively and engaging speaking skills to our attendees,” says John Yarrington, publisher of Response and event director of Response Expo. “More importantly, his incredible success in sports and business, his understanding of teamwork and creativity, and his work for charitable causes should enthrall and educate the leaders of the direct response marketing world.”
Thomas Haire, editor-in-chief of Response Magazine and content director of Response Expo, adds, “Magic Johnson’s ability to combine competitiveness with joy on the basketball court made him one of the most compelling athletes of the 20th century. He brings those two seemingly divergent skills to his business and philanthropic goals, making him one of the most important and successful businessmen of this new century. I have no doubt that Response Expo’s attendees will not only enjoy, but learn from, Magic’s presentation.”
Johnson, chairman and CEO of Johnson Development Corp. and Magic Johnson Enterprises, spent 13 seasons with the Lakers (1979-91; 1996). He retired originally on Nov. 7, 1991, after announcing that he’d been diagnosed as HIV-positive. At the time, his diagnosis was seen as a near-death sentence, as knowledge of AIDS and HIV was very limited. He immediately went to work to raise funds for research and to help those with the disease, forming what became the Magic Johnson Foundation.
The foundation today is committed to improving the quality of life in urban communities, and has distributed more than 800 college scholarships to deserving minority students and has opened AIDS/HIV clinics in four cities. In addition, Johnson — who was featured on the cover of Response in May 2003 — has created 21 Magic Johnson Empowerment Centers to help bridge the digital divide in low-income communities.
“Doing business and giving back really go hand-in-hand,” Johnson said on his Web site. “It’s the best way to truly create a win-win situation for everyone. If the community is happy, then they support your business and if your business is doing well, then you can give even more back to the community.”
Speaking of doing business, Johnson Development Corp. is dedicated to urban revitalization by providing entertainment complexes, restaurants and retail centers in underserved communities nationwide. The company operates 103 Starbucks nationwide — the coffee giant’s only franchised locations — and has also opened six AMC Magic Johnson Theater complexes across the United States.
In addition, Johnson has invested millions of dollars in urban areas via the Canyon Johnson Urban Fund, the result of his partnership with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors. The partnership has raised more than $900 million and has acquired 24 properties to assist in the revitalization of underserved communities.