Grandma and Grandpa Updated Their Status

Worldwide, seniors are largely neglected by brands and marketers. The tendency is to focus on the youthful, impulse spenders, tomorrow's big wallet owners youth. While this holds some great business sense, especially in the MENA with some 60% of the population being under the age of 30, I don't think it's sensible to overlook the segment that has 47 times the net worth of households headed by those younger targets.

Money matters aside, they are also the fastest growing demographic on social media. Emails are so 2008 for the 55-75 grandma and grandpa of 2015, and they are on Facebook, befriending their grandchildren, liking status updates, sharing pictures, sharing thoughts, hearting instagram photos and loving that LO-Fi Effect! connecting with a childhood friend, and they are on 5 WhatsApp groups (minimum) debating life matters. (Tip: show them how to silence the groups so you don't have to go searching under every pillow and cushion in the house for the phone after they hide it away too annoyed of all the Tin Tin RInG RING of all groups!). The facts below speak for themselves (Source: Google & Ipsos Study), and although they are from the U.S, you can easily find similarities by observing seniors behavior in MENA. Seniors in the Middle East are creating usage habits following the pattern "Offline Traditions Gone Digital": with WhatsApp "Home" & "Family" groups, cooking groups, Majlis groups, accompanied by heavy use of voice recordings are all signaling the fast shift in behavior (Source: Cheil Human Digital Trends Report)

  • The Internet is an everyday part of boomers' and seniors' lives; it is the top source for gathering information on topics of interest, outpacing TV and print media by a substantial margin.
  • Social networking sites are used by the majority of seniors daily with more than half following a group or organization on a social platform.
  • Search is the top online information-gathering resource for seniors, driving a variety of actions.
  • Seniors access the Internet on their PCs and growing portions are doing so on smartphones and tablets.
  • Since 2011 the older generation's interest in Facebook has increased 41% for 35-54-year-olds and 80% for the 55-80 age bracket.
  • Over half of boomers and seniors watch online video with YouTube reported as the preferred site with 82% of video watchers using it.

If marketing is the art and science of understanding consumer behavior to unlock business opportunities and negate potential threats, I think we are failing to be good marketers for senior consumers, and are using outdated communication language and media when talking to them. It's like we assume they are old, but in fact, what is really old is our understanding of them and the tactics we use when talking to them.

When it comes to understanding their behavior, it is important to realize that although seniors might be using social media in ways that are similar to younger generations, their motives to go online are different. Parents of millennial enjoyed lesser time on the summit of knowledge than previous generations. Millennials were given the internet, so they were more resourceful at a much younger age and didn't have to rely on parents for knowledge. Our parents grew up looking up to their parents as being the one and only source of complete and comprehensive knowledge, they expected and wanted to be that for their kids, for us, but that turning point where children grow intellectually independent came earlier to millennials than their parents expected, or liked.

Implication? Part of the parenthood dream our parents had of how much to give for how long was shattered. Their self esteem must have been affected as well. The Invincible Super Parent image they wanted to show off to their kids, couldn't stay glamorous for long with the Internet being the cool- free- know-it-all- super-fast -secretive uncle.

So this competition was paired with intimidation, they couldn't figure that Internet thing out, and their children are falling in love with it and everyone seem to admire and talk about it. They didn't want to ask because they are jealous, intimidated and feeling inferior. Their kids started growing more confident of their arguments and sources of information, they are bolder, and parents thought; "I can't argue with the internet! The Internet belongs to that complicated, security protect giant computer, specially trained, exceptionally smart prodigy that I had nothing to do with at work. My children know more than I do, and I don't like it and I won't admit it."

Now being online, reverses all of that.

They aren't intimidated of the internet as they used to be. They concurred one beast. They feel accomplished. They want to be celebrated. They aren't simply online. They ARE ONLINE! See them!

Remember when you were a kid singing a song which you knew all the lyrics to? and while singing you felt like a hero, you felt like a superstar? like the only person singing in the room? because you knew you had this, you got this, you mastered this! You were a hero and you were sneaking glimpses around looking for that person who is acknowledging your greatness? Acknowledging HOW EXCEPTIONAL you are? so full with victory you were. That's how Seniors feel when they are online. When they appear on your Facebook chat list, when they update their status and impatiently await for the likes and comments, when they spend half an hour perfecting that caption to that picture, they are THERE and it's a BIG deal! It's not casual business, it's self branding at its finest, most exquisite, artistic yet self conscious form.

When it comes to our tactics and the tools we use to communicate with today's seniors, we are definitely falling short on their expectations, they have outpaced us. We have a target segment that has gone completely out of its way to adapt, bolted its way to catch up with what the world is doing, to join the digital and mobile conversation, eager to benefit from what brands and marketers have to offer, and what are we giving seniors in return? Ignorance, and non-observance. Their efforts are being ignored, their specific pain points are rarely acknowledged, they are often added to the dreadful mass segment, and nobody seems to care whether seniors are listening and interacting with us or not. What's worse, is that whenever they are the target audience of a campaign, they are rarely talked to on digital or mobile platforms, it is automatically assumed that a TV commercial or a newspaper ad is PERFECT for them, although Google says their online content consumption is outpacing TV and print media big time.

So, if you live in AdLand, be aware that seniors are there, they are online searching for your brand, liking your Facebook post and probably commenting on it, they are a Whatsapp message and an Instagram picture away, are ready to be talked to, and they have money to spend on your brand and time to listen and interact with your campaign. How much better can it get?