I have been in this business for a long time and have had huge success marketing to all types of consumers through interactive avenues and new media. One of the miss-conceptions I hear most when pitching new clients is the idea that the older consumer base in America is techno-illiterate and that marketing to them through online channels is not only ineffective, it's a total waste of time. In fact, the opposite is true.
Older Americans continue to be some of the most aggressive adopters of the Internet and online information consumption. A recent study by the Center for the Digital Future at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and AARP shows that 76% of Americans over the age of 50 say the Internet is a main source of information for them , up from 50% just 5 years ago! That's an amazing adoption rate that any product manager would love.
This trend is validated in the market place with media buys and interactive advertising seen in places usually considered more reserved and traditionally print (offline). Take the Pharmaceutical industry for example, the online trends identified in the Annenberg article nearly mirror the increased interest in the medium by many big Pharma advertisers. Go back 5 years and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone executing major interactive initiatives online in the Pharma space. Fast forward to 2008 and the industry looks completely different. Not only are Pharma advertisers embracing cutting edge interactive campaigns, but they are heavily engaged in medium defining movements like social networking and mobile web communications.
Alli, a GSK branded OTC weight loss drug, recently launched a campaign around shedding pounds with the help of the community. The Alli community of course. Alli Circles is a way for people to share stories and experiences in loosing weight throughout a connected community of support. Very Cool.
The Annenberg study also suggests that among Internet users 50+ who are members of online communities, 58% log in to their online community daily or several times a day, compared with 47% of members under 20. This makes the Internet not only a brand message platform for older American's but a long term engagement tool for retention and constant communication. It's no secret that as American's get older, they tend to fall into patterns more and buying decisions become much more loyal than younger influential consumers. It's also no secret that as we get older, we tend to want more community interaction, but are less inclined to leave the house :) Hello Internet.
The bottom line is that the older demographic in this country is a viable market for the Internet. Again, it's all about the idea and the creative behind the campaign, but online can work wonders for the aging demo.
Check out the full Annenberg article for some more killer data.