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Brands Can’t Afford to Ignore Mature Consumers

This week we continue with part two of our three part interview with Joe Ford, Immersion Active’s President, led by Kathi Scharf, Immersion Active’s marketing lead. In this interview, Joe discusses the importance of the mature market to brands’ growth and what makes Immersion Active’s approach different.

Kathi: You’ve said in the past that brands need to take a “fresh look” at the mature markets when they are thinking about growth? Can you give us a little more context for that comment?

Joe: There is no parallel for the demographic wave that will affect all aspects of society in the coming years. Over 65 million Baby Boomers will shortly be heading into their senior years. This to me is not a negative, but an opportunity for society. Yes, there are issues like entitlements that society must address, but Boomers have done it their way from the very beginning and they are going to do so in the future. This means that the markets that are applicable to the mature consumer are going to broaden and deepen in ways we can only imagine, creating new opportunities for existing brands and entrepreneurs alike.

From a strictly financial perspective, if a brand is looking to grow, it will be hard to ignore the Boomers as they age. Their buying power is unparalleled and will remain so. Boomers might only be a quarter of the nation’s population, but they hold 70% of the disposable income (Nielsen and BoomAgers).

Kathi: What brought you to marketing to the mature market? What attracted you about the space?

Joe: I’ve spent the majority of my marketing career in the first half of my life working with education and family decisions around education, and I loved that. I love that you can be a participant in the shaping of someone’s future. It’s an amazing honor.

Honestly, when I first heard about Immersion over ten years ago, I wasn’t looking at the mature market, but what I’ve come to realize over the years by working with so many brands in this space is that the opportunity to shape the future is more relevant than ever. Brands today working in the mature market have the opportunity to shape the future of how we, as a society, interact with and honor our predecessors. This is the opportunity of our time. It requires creativity and problem-solving on an unprecedented scale, and playing a small role in that revolution is such an honor.

From a creative standpoint, I think that this space gives our creative team permission to confront challenging issues and questions of universal significance in a way that other teams that focus on the young just doesn’t provide. So if you’re interested in reexamining your brands’ creative in the light of more meaningful, universal questions, it can open up unexplored creative avenues. That’s something few marketers think about yet deeply desire.

Kathi: You’ve been a big proponent of leaning into David Wolfe’s Ageless Marketing work around creative and advertising. What advice would you have for brands who are looking at new ways to energize their creative for the mature consumer?

Joe: Creative doesn’t have to be youthful to be fresh. The appeal to the mature consumer starts with understanding how certain core needs like purpose take center stage in the second half of life. The other core needs don’t disappear as people age, those needs are just transformed by the needs specific to the second half of life. When your creative touches on these core needs, the appeal actually becomes broader across all age groups in a way that doesn’t alienate or exclude people. This is the secret to David Wolfe’s approach and why the campaigns that were inspired by his approach tend to have such universal appeal, such as Monster’s “When I grow up” campaign and others.

Great creative can start and end with the mature consumer, and it’s often in considering the mature consumer first that the best campaigns come to life.

Kathi: You’ve reinforced with our team the importance of Immersion Active’s unique approach. What’s Immersion’s secret sauce?

Joe: This may seem high level, but it’s absolutely essential to understanding what makes Immersion different and successful, and it’s not your traditional answer.  It underpins everything. Our secret sauce starts and ends with our mission and values. You’ve got to stand for something. For Immersion, if I were to boil this down, the mature consumer isn’t a target in our campaigns; they are a stakeholder. We fundamentally believe that the choices we make as an agency and the brands we choose to work with play a role in shaping the future and put the mature consumer, as the largest and most influential market segment in history, in the driver seat. Given their unique experiences, the mature consumer has an amazing opportunity through their purchases and engagement with brands to be a force for good, for positive change, for creativity, for beauty in this world. To be an agency in this space means to stand for something and to live it.

But there’s a lot that goes into executing on that vision, and the short version is that Immersion’s teams are organized for a digital space that requires in-depth digital subject matter experience, mature consumer expertise, and high alignment between projects. This means every project has a core team from the beginning of project to the end. Core teams have built-in redundancy and shared knowledge and lower attrition.  All IA team members have defined areas of digital and deep subject matter expertise. Each Project Core Team has a Subject Matter Expert (SME).  Core teams gain intimate knowledge of the project from beginning to end and share from project to project.  Brands get first hand experience with core teams and SMEs on every project.

This is just a part of what it takes, but it’s a large part and it is why being digital first as an agency is more than a having a few strategists with digital experience. It must be baked into your agency DNA.

To be continued … Next month, we’ll talk more about the role the new Innovation group plays at Immersion.

Missed Part 1 of Joe’s interview? You can find it here.