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Marketing to senior citizens: challenges and opportunities.

1. Introduction

Never before has humanity seen such a development: A shrinking population in almost all developed countries and at the same time a considerable aging of their inhabitants (Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006; Wodok, 2004; Michaels, 2003; Wallace, 1999). So far, the history of humanity and the development of the modern economy have been primarily characterised by the youth and, hence, growth. This also explains why to this day, no country has had any experiences regarding the consequences that such a change in the ratio between the young and the old will have on the economy. It is conceivable that extensive economic growth may slacken due to this demographic development. What we can be sure of is that the demand situation and people's patterns of consumption will change significantly. This may not be abrupt, but it is certainly unavoidable and fixedly determined. It also leads to insecurity for many companies while simultaneously providing fantastic opportunities (Neundorfer, 2008; Kohlbacher and Herstatt 2008; IHK, 2008; Maas and Erbsloh, 2007; PwC, 2006; Lienhard, 2006; Hunke and Gestner, 2006; Haimann, 2005; Capgemini, 2005; GREY, 2005; Verheugen, 2004).

Marketing and advertising campaigns in recent decades have been focused on young consumers because the elderly or the senior citizen segment was stereotyped as a unique segment of low net-worth individuals dependent on their children's income (Dwight and Urman, 1985; Bivins, 1984; Allan, 1981). Today, the silver haired segment of the population represents a huge untapped market that has the financial means to remain independent in its members' later years (Klebl, 2007; Arnold and Krancioch, 2007; Hunke and Gestner, 2006; Haimann, 2005; Holper, 2002).

Surveys reveal that these seniors have higher education and independent sources of income. They have access to the Internet and read print media. Based on a study of the senior citizen's lifestyle, published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, researchers define the elderly market "as people of 55 years of age and older who are consumers of products and services for seniors" (Kim, Kim and Kim, 2003). Other surveys showed that the 55-65 market saves twice as much as the 25-44; has double the discretionary spending of the younger market; and if motivated to spend and buy, purchases more investment properties, new cars, travels more often and literally buys more better-quality products (Meyer-Hentschel and MeyerHentschel; 2009; Abdel-Ghany and Sharpe 1997; Sherman and Forman, 1988). This makes seniors one of the most important target consumer groups for the coming decades and turns them into a significant driving force for company success in many industries (Klausch, 2008; Arnold and Krancioch, 2007; Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006; Hunke and Gestner, 2006; Martin, 2004; Kirch, 2003; Peterz, 2003).

2. Defining 'Marketing to Senior Citizens'

Before defining "marketing to senior citizens", the term "age" must be defined, since gerontological literature tells us that age can be understood and defined in many different ways (Arnold and Krancioch, 2007; Bachmaier and Kiinzli, 2006; Lehr, 2006; Martin, 2004; Ricklefs and Finch, 1996; Reimann and Reimann, 1994). Furthermore, as far as possible, a neutral age definition is required for marketing, which neither denies nor combats age (Kalbermatten, 2008; Ebel, 1987). A value-free definition of age intends to use the terms "age" and "old person" to describe an affiliation to a particular phase of life without presenting "old" as a judgemental expression.


As with childhood and youth, we now define "age" as a separate phase of life (Martin, 2004). Through the years, many studies and practical experiences have shown that most people consider socially introduced retirement and the instance of becoming a pensioner to be a cut or break in their lives, changing behaviour in a multitude of ways (Meyer, 2008; Kohlbacher and Herstatt, 2008, Neunzig, 2000). According to Engel (2008), becoming a pensioner can be regarded as a "turning point". As a result, it makes sense to choose pension age or retirement as a dividing line for age (Meyer, 2008; Booz & Company, 2008; Briinner, 1998). This definition is also used here because retirement is the only aspect jointly applying to otherwise heterogeneous seniors (Kalbermatten, 2008; Etrillard, 2004; Tews, 1995; Benet and Newman, 1989). In most developed industrial nations, this gives us an age of around 60 years (Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel, 2009; BMELV, 2007; Walker, 2004; Martin; 2004). But in marketing to seniors the age limit became lower and lower; e.g., 55-plus, 50-plus or even 45-plus (see chapter six).

Consequently, age is not defined by illness, as age cannot be defined by the occurrence of a particular disease or by a constellation of illnesses (Meyer Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel, 2009; Berghaus, 2006; Stuttgart, 2006). Age is also not a specifically human trait applying to the majority of older humans. If we were to define age as illness or as a feeling, many people would never be old. A person who feels healthy, fit and young at 85 and then dies would hence never be old, and marketing to senior citizens would also not be required for this person (Kalbermatten, 2008; Gruss, 2007).

It is important to note that we must distinguish between actual and perceived, subjective age (Witterstatter, 2008; Johnson, 1996; Kolzer, 1995; Henderson, Goldsmith and Flynn 1995; Wilkes, 1992; Stephens, 1991; Chua, Cote and Leong, 1990; Seitz and McClary, 1988; Barak and Stern, 1986). In the broadest sense, subjective age includes all cognitive and affective representations associated with age and aging (Gana, 1995). Barak and Schiffman (1981) introduced the concept of subjective age in marketing at the start of the 1980s, using hypotheses drawn from the cognitive theory of aging (Thomae, 1970). This means that cognitive age is one's 'feel age', that is how old you feel, which is both self-reported and scientifically measured (Barak and Schiffman, 1981). And Barry quoted: "You can measure this notion of cognitive age well both domestically and overseas" (Barry, quoted in SMU 2009).

In this context, feel age often tends to be younger than actual age (Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006; Reader's Digest Deutschland, 2006; Jaeggi, 2006; Peterz, 2003). In the KarstadtQuelle study "Freier denn je ... Die freie Generation 2009--Das Lebensgefiihl der Menschen ab 45" (lit. "Freer than ever before ... The free generation 2009--Attitude to life for people of 45 and upwards"), many of those questioned had an average feel age of 53 years, which is even lower than in the two previous studies (2000 and 2006)--by an average of about 10 years. Women feel even younger than men (roughly one year). Education also seems to extend the feeling of being young: Respondents with a higher level of education classified themselves as being 6 years younger than respondents with a lower level of education (KarstadtQuelle Versicherungen, 2009). Meyer-Hentschel (1986) also confirms this link between education and feel age, stating that: "The discrepancy between actual and perceived age is particularly noticeable with people who have (...) a high level of education." The consumer research group GfK (Gesellschaft fir Konsumforschung) investigated the "Silver Generation" in a study in 2008, which generally led to similar results. According to GfK, three quarters of respondents felt almost ten years younger than their actual age (GfK, 2008b). These results show the same tendencies as GREY's observations (2005) even though the latter's research even demonstrated that the generation of 50+ felt 14 years younger. In this respect, Meyer-Hentschel (1986) stresses that with increasing age the discrepancy between chronological and subjectively perceived age grows steadily. Berghaus (2006) concludes: "Our surveys have shown that people aged 50 and over give the same response: I feel a lot younger than I actually am. The difference between feel age and actual age is between 7 and 1 5 years. Even the majority of 70- to 75-year-olds do not describe themselves as seniors".

Entry into the older age group means dealing with a new situation and hence a reorientation (Engel, 2008; Strauch, 2008; Gruss, 2007). Actions required after retirement are suddenly different to those before retirement. Older people are suddenly faced with entirely different tasks, life projects and behavioural patterns (Kalbermatten, 2008; Hoffmann-Kramer, 2007). Marketing to seniors could be helpful to gerontology in terms of repositioning the age (e.g., feel age versus actual age), allowing it to be dealt with in its entirety. Conversely and according to Meyer-Hentschel (1986), gerontology could also "provide plentiful evidence for practical marketing work" due to its practical research.

Marketing to senior citizens

Marketing is often regarded as market-oriented company management (Meffert, Burmann and Kirchgeorg, 2008; Winkelmann, 2008; Fritz and von der Oelsnitz, 2006; Olbrich, 2006; Martin, 2004; Bruhn and Steffenhagen, 1998). If this general definition of marketing is applied to the target group of senior citizens, marketing to seniors can be seen as the consistent focus of all entrepreneurial activities on the relevant markets, industries and consumer groups--i.e., senior citizens (Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel, 2009; Reidl, 2007).

Whereas science has been dealing with the senior citizens' market since the 1960s, emphasizing its future potential in numerous surveys, articles and recommended actions (see section four: Literature review), only a few pioneering spirits dared to approach this market in the 1980s (Senf, 2008; Kalbermatten, 2008; Hunke and Gestner, 2006; Martin, 2004). At the beginning, competitors even sniggered at these companies because of their firm belief in the youth-centered economy and in the resulting growth (Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b; Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006; MeyerHentschel, 1986). By now, this view has changed in many places. "In short, the senior market is a goldmine and one that we have been researching and documenting since 1985. Marketing to seniors produces the best return per marketing dollar" (Marketing-To-Seniors, 2008). Successful marketing to seniors is even becoming an economic necessity for many forward-looking companies (Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b; IHK, 2008; Reidl, 2007; Giereth, 2006; Martin, 2004; Krieb and Reidl, 2001; Moschis, 1992).

Marketing to seniors comprises the targeted focus of marketing strategies and tools to the older consumer market. Marketing-related literature does not (yet) provide a consistent definition, however, so that different authors give different definitions for marketing to seniors. Most authors can be split into two groups. One group prefers not to use special approach strategies for seniors. Consequently, they are clearly for so-called integration marketing, according to which the products offered and advertising communication are not aimed at particular age groups (Feige, 2006; Giger, 2003; Briinner, 1998; Opaschowski, 1998). This allows the older generation to feel integrated as a part of society rather than excluded (Krieb and Reidl, 2001).

The other group of authors puts the focus on a target marketing concept with explicit marketing to seniors. This means that integration marketing is only accepted conditionally (Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer Hentschel 2009; Reidl, 2007; Peisker, 2007; Rutishauser, 2005; Hartl Kasulke, 1998). In this sense, marketing to seniors now means that the objectives and measures of a company or of particular sections must be adjusted to the specific current and potential requirements and needs of the senior market (Nieschlag, Dichtl and Horschgen, 2002, Grosskopf , 1998). In this context, von Baumann (1990) states the following: "If, when researching the needs and expected benefits for seniors, greater differences can be found and characterised compared to the rest of the population and to other target groups, then it is possible to develop an independent marketing concept for seniors." "Marketing to seniors combines the essential principles with senior-specific ideas, examples and programs for anyone desiring to promote goods and services to the senior market" (Walker, 2004). And Martin (2004) even stresses: "A general view of the segment of over 50s does not allow for a successful treatment".

3. Market Segmenting Approaches

Marketing to seniors does not focus on a particular target group but on a multitude of different customer segments. Marketing recognised early on that: There might be the phase of life called 'Age', but there are no typical old people (Kalbermatten, 2008; Kofidou, 2008; Engel, 2008; GREY, 2005; Walker, 2004; Boyer King, 2004; Jasny, 1997), which is why Peterz (2003) describes the senior segment as "... the most difficult market research target group of all...." No generation or partial segment of the market is more heterogeneous and diverse than the 50-plus generation (Meyer-Hentschel, 2008a; Meyer, 2008; Pompe, 2007; Reader's Digest Deutschland, 2006; Etrfflard, 2004; Reitzler, 2001; Shoemaker 2000; Tews, 1995; Benet and Newman, 1989; Greco, 1987; Lazer, 1986; Bivins, 1984). And Meyer-Hentschel (1986) emphasizes: The older people get, the bigger the behavioural differences between them. The renowned US gerontologist Neugarten provides the central statement for this, saying that: "If a person is 70 years old, this tells us nothing about them. Except that they were born 70 years ago" (Neugarten, quoted in Peisker, 2007).

Today's silver generation is active, self-confident, demanding, adventurous, experience-driven and forward-looking, keen to consume and pleasure-loving. It tries to avoid risks, dislikes using credit cards for purchases and wants to enjoy life instead of saving (Strauch, 2008; Wild, 2008; Kofidou, 2008; IHK, 2008; Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007; GREY, 2005, Etrillard, 2004). Marketing to seniors has recognised the heterogeneity of this 50-plus target group and therefore tries to make the segmentation into the different typologies of age more palpable and assessable (Kalbermatten, 2008; Engel; 2008; KuB and Tomczak, 2007; Reader's Digest Deutschland, 2006; Conrad and Gerling, 2004; Hartl-Kasulke; 1998) (1).

The research area of Sociometrics at TNS Emnid has, e.g., identified three types of the 50-plus target group: The Passive Old, the CulturallyActive, and the Experience-Driven (TNS Emnid, 2004). On the other hand, the Ernst Dichter Institute differentiates between four types: TrendBlockers, Trend-Accepters, Trend-Setters and Trend-Jumpers (Ernst Dichter Institut, 2000). The research institute GfK even differentiates between eight types: the Dreamers, the Cosy, the Demanding, the Adventurous, the Critical, the Down-to-Earth, those seeking protection and those open to the world (GfK, 2005). Gerontology tends to use the following types: If age is used as a criterion for classification, we speak of the "young old ones" from 65 to 74 years, the "old-old" from 75 to 90 years, the "oldest old" from 91 to 100 years and the "long living" for those of 100 years and more. Based on the continuation of their roles, however, we can distinguish between senior citizens living independently, so-called "Go goes"; senior citizens requiring help, called "Slow goes"; and senior citizens requiring care, the "No goes" (BMELV, 2007). The Senior Scout Lifestyle study 50 plus points out four types: the Trend-Oriented, the Individuals, the Preservers and the Practical (Reidl, 2007). The renowned gerontologist and age researcher Dychtwald splits seniors into four groups: The Ageless Explorers, The Comfortably Contents, The Live for Todays and the Sick and Tireds (Tsai, 2009). And the Federal Association of the German Advertising Industry (ZAW) sorts the generation 50-plus into the following five types: The Clever Cosmopolitans, the Hedonists, the Illiquid Traditionalists, the Moderate Xenophobes and the Apathetic Aged (ZAW, 2010). The MeyerHentschel Institute also differentiates between phases of life as these three types: Pre-senior 50-plus, young seniors 60-plus and older seniors 70-plus (Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel, 2009). Finally, Sinus Sociovision presents the heterogeneity of the 50-plus target group with the following types: Homely Pensioners, the Resigned Old, the Precarious, Old Kids, the Wellness-Focused, the Avantgarde, Vital Intellectuals, the Demanding Epicures and Seniors (Sinus Sociovision, 2005).

Each of these and other typologies (e.g., Booz & Company, 2008; GREY, 2005; T.E.A.M., 2004) is surely justified and has a particular relevance even if many of the new approaches do not necessarily provide new insights. In part, the type designations can even be similar, which is not surprising considering that the quantitative and qualitative description of a population at roughly the same time cannot present largely different findings (Reader's Digest Deutschland, 2006). However, companies should choose typologies according to their ability to provide pragmatic contributions to the target achievement in question. Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel emphasize that a purely age-based three-way split of 50-plus, 60-plus and 70plus can even be suitable for a first sensitisation--but not for a final market segmentation (Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel, 2009). Barry acknowledges that there are some demographics that are useful for segmenting, but importantly cognitive age is a driver. The message to marketers is: Focus on feel age, not real age (SMU, 2009). Many authors confirm this interpretation; e.g., Witterstatter (2008), Walker (2004), Johnson (1996), Kolzer (1995) and Meyer-Hentschel (1986)--also see chapter two. Finally, Kohlbacher and Herstatt (2008) are of the opinion that the market of seniors--irrespective of age--can also be split into the groups "Pre-Retirement" and "Post-Retirement". This is based on Engel's definition (2008) mentioned above, which calls retirement a "turning point", thereby clearly defining retirement age as the separator for age (see section two: Defining Marketing to the senior citizens).

4. Review of the Literature

Marketing to senior citizen is still a young subject (Kalbermatten, 2008; Senf; 2008; Reidl, 2007; Hunke and Gestner, 2006). This short review of some of the relevant literature on senior citizen marketing will show the development, importance, and impact of this young marketing method, which can help businesses effectively sell their products to the silver-haired segment of the population.

The fairly young senior-citizen-marketing field has only developed in the last forty years or so, with ever more research papers being published in books, marketing-related and academic periodicals (Senf, 2008). Following the literature, U.S. demographers began to chart a growing population trend in the 1960s: The senior citizen market, defined as those 65+, which would begin to grow at a faster pace than ever experienced before. Because of increasing life spans and their buying power, the elderly were predicted to become a major force in terms of size in the U.S. marketplace. This recognition of the growing elderly population led to a number of calls for research to estimate the size and character of the elderly segment, for example Goeldner and Munn (1964) and Morse (1964).

In the 1970s, marketers and consumer behaviourists began to show interest in the aged market, for example Samli and Palubinskas (1972), Mason and Smith (1974), Klippel (1974), Reinecke (1975), Bernhardt and Kinnear (1975), Towle and Martin (1976); Gelb (1978) and Deshpande and Krishnan (1979).

In the 1980s, many companies and agencies also dealt with the senior growth market. Consequently, more and more books, essays and articles were published on demographic change and marketing to senior citizens as the target group of older consumers presented itself as the only group demonstrating solid growth, for example Allan (1981), Bivins (1984), Lazer (1986), Sherman and Forman (1988) and Schewe (1988).

In the past twenty years, a huge number of primary and secondary research studies have attempted to describe the increasing size and buying power that the elderly consumer segment will become in the future, for example Blisard and Blaylock (1994), Gruner + Jahr (1996), Hartl-Kasulke (1998), Waddell (2005), GfK (2005), PwC (2006), Bauer Media (2007), Reidl, (2007), DIW (2007), Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel (2008), GfK (2008a, 2008b) and TNS/Commeizbank (2009)

5. Position of Seniors in the Economy

The generation of seniors will become the most significant target and consumer group of the coming decades, as it is considered the richest generation in the world (Peterz, 2003). Science and practical experience agree that the senior target group is one of the most different target groups, however (Schrader, 1998). In order to be able to understand the enormous economic power of seniors to its full extent, we shall now take another brief look at demographic change.

Demographic change

Demographic development can be reduced to a common denominator: Fewer people, fewer consumers, fewer young, more old (Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b; Kohlbacher and Herstatt; 2008; Lienhard, 2006; Hunke and Gestner, 2006; Wodok, 2004; Wallace, 1999 2. In 2000, for instance, roughly 600 million people globally were 60 years and older (Michaels, 2003). In 2025, this figure will have doubled to 1.2 billion people, and the WHO expects more than 2 billion 60-plus by 2050. This would make every fifth person 60 years or older (WHO, 2010). In order to meet the challenges of a population ever increasing in age, the UN General Meeting even announced 1999 as the "International Year of Seniors" (UNO, 1999).

Presumably, Europe will be most affected by this process of aging (Wodok, 2004, Heigl and Mai, 1998). The proportion of older people will grow from 20 percent in 1998 to 35 percent in 2050. Every third person will be more than 60 years old (UNO, 1999). Especially the Eastern European developing and emerging nations will have a higher proportion of older people (Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b; Kohlbacher and Herstatt, 2008; Boyer King, 2004). But in Russia, Australia and many countries, aging societies will also be perceivable. For instance, the number of Australians aged 65 and over will nearly double by the year 2020 (ABC Net, 1999). This age development is even more extreme in Japan, which is why Japan can often be regarded as a forerunner in marketing to seniors (TNS/Commerzbank, 2009; Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006; Conrad and Gerling, 2004). In 2010, those age 50 and over make up half of the overall population. The number of people age 65 and over will increase from 18.5 percent to 35.6 percent in 2050. In 2015, the Japanese will on average live to an average age of 87.5. Five percent of the Japanese population will then be more than 100 years old (Kohlbacher and Herstatt, 2008; Wicher, 2007; Conrad and Gerling, 2005). In the future, however, the People's Republic of China will be the largest senior market in the world. The strict Chinese policy on families has led to a significant reduction in the birth rate, resulting in the proportion of seniors (65-plus) in China doubling by 2027, from today's 7 percent to 14 percent (Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel, 2009).

After Japan, Germany already has the second oldest population in the world: The average age is 43.9 years (WHO, 2010; Wicher, 2007). And since Germany's population is not growing, this aging is more dramatic than in other countries (Klingholz, Klingholz and Medicus, 2006; Wodok, 2004; Gaede, 2004). Whereas 82 million people live in Germany at the moment, this will be reduced to between 65 and 70 million in 2060, falling back to levels in the 1950s (Wodok, 2004). The proportion of younger consumers is also falling continuously, with that of older consumers strongly on the increase (TNS/Commerzbank, 2009). In 2015, every fifth German will be more than 65 years old. By 2060, the proportion of 65-plus will rise to roughly 34 percent. Today, more than half of the population of Germany is more than 49 years old. This aging process is particularly apparent in the number of old-old. In 2008, there were roughly 4 million 80-plus in Germany, making up roughly 5 percent of the population. Their numbers are increasing continuously and will reach the highest value so far of 1 0 million in 2050 (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2009; Reader's Digest Deutschland, 2006). Of all the countries in Europe, Germany's society is aging most quickly (Bauer Media, 2007).

What is also interesting is the fact that the USA is slightly distancing itself from this demographic development (Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b; Allan, 1981). Whereas European countries are combating sinking birth rates and a decrease in their populations (Strauch, 2008; Pipes, 2004), the population of the USA of currently 300 million is expected to continue rising according to the US Census Bureau, reaching roughly 450 million by 2050 (MeyerHentschel, 2008b). Between 2000 and 2004 the Afro-American and AsianAmerican sections of the population accounted for 29 percent of the USA's total population growth. In addition to a high immigration rate, the high birth rate amongst the Black Americans (average fertility rate of 2.0) is a further significant factor in the demographic development of the USA. In spite of this population growth, the proportion of seniors in the USA is still expected to increase considerably. Between the years 2005 and 2030, the senior market (age 60 and over) will grow by 81 percent, while the remaining adult market (18-59 years of age) will grow by only 7 percent (SMU, 2009; Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007).

Economic power

The 50-plus generation will be the most important target and consumer group of the coming decades because it is independent financially and in terms of time (Peterz, 2003). It is regarded as the richest generation in the world (Engel, 2008; Strauch, 2008; Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b; Reidl, 2007; Lienhard, 2006; Mohr and Wodok, 2006; Haimann, 2005; Verheugen, 2004; Wodok, 2004; Kirsch, 2003). Many studies demonstrate this (Reader's Digest Deutschland, 2006; GREY, 2005). According to a study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), for instance, private consumer spending of households in Germany was highest for 50- to 60year-olds, with EUR 2,564 in 2003. And the households of 60- to 65-yearolds also spent an above-average amount of EUR 2,317 compared to the average in the Federal Republic of Germany, which was EUR 2,177 per month for each household (DIW, 2007). The 50-plus also leads in terms of disposable income. According to DIW, the age group of 50- to 60-year-olds in Germany has the largest income per month of EUR 3,530. And according to the purchasing power study by the Consumer Research Association (GfK) from 2008, 40- to 49-year-olds have the highest purchasing power of EUR 368 billion a year, following by the EUR 339 billion of seniors above 65. Germans aged between 50 and 59 still have a purchasing power of a respectable EUR 272 billion per year (GfK, 2008a). In Japan, those aged between 60 and 69 have average assets of an equivalent of EUR 100,000 per household, thus constituting the top group of all age groups, closely following by those aged 70 and above. Many of Japan's seniors are financially so well off that they are referred to as rojin kizoku, the "old aristocracy" (Kohlbacher and Herstatt, 2008). And Americans aged 50 and older control 70 percent of all disposable income. This consumer group earns more than $2 trillion in annual income and owns more than 77 percent of all financial assets in the U.S. (Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007).

In comparison, the picture looks quite different for the younger age groups. Their numbers are reducing and they have less money. They either have insufficient income or expenditure for their families limit their financial mobility (GREY, 2005)

Given their bigger economic power and the large market potential of seniors, it is not surprising that the interest of the economy in target groups 50-plus is noticeably on the increase (Knob, 2007; Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007; Lienhard, 2006; Haimann, 2005; Etrilard, 2004; Holper, 2002; Reitzler, 2001; Hartl-Kasulke, 1998; Kolzer, 1995; Sherman and Forman, 1988; Meyer-Hentschel, 1986), even though in 2005, Capgemini's study still showed that 34 percent of respondents consider the demographic development to be negative for business development, with only eleven percent considering an aging population to provide positive impulses (Capgemini, 2005). And looking at advertising agencies, a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows that only a third of them have so far focused on the 50-plus generation (PwC, 2006).

By now, more and more companies are beginning to realise that older consumers should be included in their marketing considerations and that they should offer products and services specifically targeted at older people (Etrillard, 2007; Hoffmann-Kramer, 2007; Mohr and Wodok, 2006; Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006). At the end of 2003, for instance, 85 percent of Swiss companies questioned in a study regarded it as important to align products to the special requirements of the older generation. 59 percent of companies even expected age-related products to produce average or above-average growth (Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006). According to a current study by TNS/Commerzbank, 65 percent of German companies can already feel the effects of an increased life expectancy in their sales markets and respond to them with appropriate offers. Above all, they intend to adjust (59 percent) or extend (58 percent) their existing product range. They also often adapt their customer approach to the changed target groups (52 percent). Retailers are particularly active in this respect (67 percent). By using increased communication, they are attempting to bolster regressing sales. Nevertheless, the development of age-specific products remains an exception at 29 percent (TNS/Commerzbank, 2009). However, in 2009, this is exactly what the federal government is asking German companies to do with its initiative "Economic factor 'The old'", promoting the design of specific products and services for the older target group (BMFSFJ, 2009).

Nonetheless, not every company will profit from and be successful on the growing senior market (Ramme, Ullrich, Matzner and Smaluhn, 2008; Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006). According to TNS/Commerzbank (2009), 25 percent of companies will even suffer a reduction in their sales due to the aging population. Comparing industries, we must expect the retail and construction industries to suffer from a reduction in sales (Wodok, 2004). Senior citizens are also not a simple customer group simply handing over its money (Neundorfer, 2008; Hanser, 2006; Rutishauser, 2005; Peterz, 2003; Schrader, 1998). This means that an intense focus on the particularities of seniors is certainly justified (Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b). The more familiar you are with the older target group, the easier it is to service them (Maas and Erbsloh, 2007; Elrilard, 2004; Walker, 2004; Underhill, 2000).

6. The Difference in Marketing to Seniors

A traditional belief has it that wisdom comes with age. It is not necessarily true that older people are wiser than younger ones, as is confirmed in scientific articles. According to scientific research, wisdom does not automatically come with age (Gliick, Bluck, Baron and Mcadams, 2008; Baltes and Staudinger, 2000; Staudinger, 1999). Life experience may however, bring one closer to this virtue. In addition, "wisdom" is rather difficult to grasp, and cannot be measured like an IQ. Seniors also tend to have more available time to make their purchase decisions. They are life-savvy and, for the most part, research well. They will ask questions before making a purchase--sometimes many, many, many questions (Meyer, 2008; Reidl, 2007; Boyer King, 2004; Sherman and Forman, 1988).

In addition, customers of the 50-plus generation can be described as follows: They are independent financially and in terms of time, they are well informed and distrustful (Strauch, 2008; Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007; Hupp, 2000; Schwenk, 1995). They expect comfort and competence and want offers to be simple (Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b). In addition, they look for authenticity. The older generation is also very experienced in the field of consumption, which is why IHK (2008) also calls them "... true buying professionals." who also want to be treated accordingly. Martin (2004) emphasizes: Older consumers "want to be acknowledged and taken seriously as competent customers; behaviour towards them must not be characterised by prejudices and cliches". They are particularly critical and self-confident, and respond to product promises very carefully (Conrad and Gerling, 2004). Finally, older people are very marketoriented. Whereas younger target groups can be swayed by discounts, offers and permanently lower prices, the 60-plus generation prefers quality and brands (Meyer, 2008; Wild, 2008; Strauch, 2008; Bihler, 2008; Opaschowski, 2008; IHK, 2008; Feige, 2006; Martin; 2004; Boyer King, 2004).

The VA consumer analysis 2006 also confirms the growing importance of quality and brand to best-agers (which is one of the names given to seniors in the literature). According to this, 42 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds pay more attention to the brand than the price and 66 percent are happy to spend more for quality (VA, 2006). It is important, however, to keep in mind that older people might be aware of brands but that they do not necessarily stick to a single brand throughout their lives (IHK, 2008). In 2002, the study "50-plus" of the Consumer Research Association GfK already showed that the 50-plus generation is also happy to try new products and brands. This applies to nearly half of the 70-plus generation (GfK, 2002).

There is another point that further sets the senior market apart from others. More so than in any other adult market, seniors are likely to have others involved in their purchasing decision-making. Some studies in the independent living industry, for example, have shown that from age 75, joint decision-making steadily increases to over 80 percent of the time. These third-party candidates are spouses, family members, neighbours and friends, other caregivers (companions, home health aides) and professionals (doctors, financial advisors, lawyers, trust officers and sometimes clergy) (Walker, 2005; Walker 2004).

This is contrasted by the fact that customers aged around 60 can themselves be so-called 4-generation buyers. They not only buy for themselves but also for their children, grandchildren and sometimes even for their own parents (Reidl, 2007). This large cross-selling potential also makes them into the most interesting customers in terms of marketing around at the moment (Knob, 2007; Lienhard, 2006; Haimann, 2005; Etrillard, 2004; Holper, 2002; Reitzler, 2001; Hartl-Kasulke, 1998; Kolzer, 1995; Sherman and Forman, 1988; Meyer-Hentschel, 1986).

Regarding advertising, however, companies should be careful and--at least in Germany--not to address the old generation as "seniors" (IHK, 2008; Fosken 2007; Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006; Schiitte, 2006; Feige, 2006; GREY, 2005; Conrad and Gerling, 2004; Peterz, 2003; Hartl-Kasulke, 1998; Meyer-Hentschel, 1986). In North America, on the other hand, the term "senior" can often be found in advertising texts. In English, its meaning is slightly different to that in German. It is contrasted with "junior", thereby expressing life experience. In German, on the other hand, it has a negative connotation, because there are many negative characteristics that have defined and simplified the image Germans often have of their seniors (Kalbermann, 2008). Synonyms, terms with more positive associations such as Master-Consumer, Best Ager, Woopies (well-off older people), Wollies (well income old leisure people), Baby Boomer, Midager, Generation Gold, Empty Nesters, Yollies (young old leisure living people), Silver Ager, Future Seniors, Selpies (second life people), Senior Dings, Grampies (growing retired active moneyed people in an excellent state), Harvest Agers, Grumpies (frown-up mature people) or Busy-Fit-Oldies are also not properly suitable to address the older target group (TNS/Commerzbank, 2009; Neundorfer, 2008; Martin, 2004; Lewis, 1997; Benet, Pitts and LaTour, 1993; Auer, Horrion and Kalweit, 1989), because, according to Meyer (2008), these descriptions of the target group tend to be approached in a reserved manner, showing little appreciation. As a result, it is not surprising that according to GREY, (2005), 31 percent of older people feel that advertising does not take them seriously or devalues them.

Such new word coinings were also applied to a consistently younger target group (Hoffmann-Kramer, 2007). Whereas at the start of marketing to seniors, only customers above 65 were regarded as the target segment, the age limit became lower and lower; e.g., 50-plus, 45-plus or even 40-plus (KarstadtQuelle Versicherungen, 2009; Ramme, Ullrich, Matzner and Smaluhn, 2008; IHK, 2008; Dobbelstein and Pflaum, 2007; Reader's Digest Deutschland, 2006; Feige, 2006; Verheugen, 2004; Kirch, 2003; Barak and Stern, 1985).

7. Growth Markets for Marketing to Seniors

Demographic change alters the world of consumers and marketing (Wodok, 2004). It will not only change the rules in many industries but also shift market structures and market shares (brand eins, 2009; Klausch, 2008). It is obvious that traditional products and services for seniors can massively profit from demographic change (Lienhard, 2006). Age-specific spending will noticeably increase in the future (Rutishauser, 2005). Goods and services with significant growth potential include, e.g., travel, health, toiletries, beauty, wellness, banks, insurance, technology, products for the home, education, entertainment and automobiles (Meyer-Hentschel and Meyer-Hentschel, 2009; Wahl, 2008; Kalbermatten, 2008; Ramme, Ullrich, Matzner and Smaluhn, 2008; Reidl, 2007; Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007; Feige, 2006; GREY, 2005; Martin, 2004; Lohmann and Danielson, 2001). Of these growth industries that can be expected to profit from the demographic change, two will be presented here by way of example ("Banks and insurance" and "Automobiles"). The focus will primarily be on Germany as the Federal Republic is the fastest-aging society in Europe and because the country currently already has the second oldest population in the world.

Banks and Insurances

There has been no other time in Europe or the USA in which as much money was inherited and paid by insurance as is the case now and will be in the coming years. In the Federal Republic of Germany alone, the German Institute for Old-Age Provisions (Deutsches Institut fir Altersvorsorge) expects an overall volume of inheritance (money, real estate and consumption assets) of EUR 2.3 trillion involving roughly 1 0.8 million inheritance cases between 2006 and 2015. Roughly EUR 1,000 billion of this relates to the period between 2006 and 2010, whereas volumes are expected to increase to EUR 1,300 billion in the period from 2011 to 2015. Inherited monetary assets which are particularly relevant to banks and insurance companies are expected to amount to roughly EUR 470 billion and EUR 640 billion respectively. In the last 1 5 years, the average value of an inheritance in Germany has more than doubled. In 1990, the average was EUR 102,000; in 1996 this was already EUR 129,700. Currently, EUR 250,000 can be expected (Finke, 2005).

According to the results of TdW Intermedia 2003/2004, 47.4 percent of the German population are current or potential heirs. 14.3 million Germans have already inherited. Three out of four heirs are between 44 and 65 years old, with every other heir being between 50 and 62 years. Never before in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany has the older generation amassed such wealth. Overall inheritances worth EUR 2,8 trillion can be expected by 2015. Payments from life insurance of EUR 25 billion a year also have a positive effect (Focus, 2004). This makes it even more surprising that, according to Martin (2004), "... banks do not offer customer relations or customer loyalty programmes [for this promising customer segment] to a noteworthy extent ..."

The transfer of large monetary assets to the next generation opens up entirely new business opportunities for banks and financial services (Kofidou, 2008, Meyer-Hentschel, 2008b; Maas and Erbsloh, 2007; GREY, 2005; Wodok, 2004; Martin, 2004). According to TdW Intermedia 2003/2004, 60 percent of potential heirs expect capital assets in the form of money or securities (Focus, 2004). In a study from 2005, ICON ADDED VALUE calculated a financial services potential of 1 3 million people between 50 and 85. 63 percent of these require short-term planning of one to two years, with 53 percent looking for even shorter investments (Szallies, 2007).


Demographic change will be a challenge for the automobile industry in every way (Meyer, 2008; Wahl, 2008; Krause, 2007; GREY, 2005; Wodok, 2004; Martin, 2004). On the one hand, global demand will continue to rise by 2020, 70 million new vehicles will be sold globally (2005: 61 million). But customer structures and buyer groups will shift noticeably. Moreover, sales markets will even shrink in some countries, such as Germany (TNS/Commerzbank, 2009). In Germany, the automobile market will reduce by 2015 to 3.25 million new registrations (2006: 3.4 million). Older people also have the highest number of passenger vehicles. By 2015, the proportion of car owners in the 60-plus generation will increase from 23 to 30 percent. 34 percent of all buyers of new private vehicles belong to this age group. The development is reversed for younger generations: The proportion of 30- to 39-year-olds purchasing new cars will drop from 24 to 20 percent. And there is a reduction from 21 to 16 percent for 20- to 29-year-olds (Reidl, 2007). As a result, the success of car manufacturers will be more strongly based on sales success to older buyers. In addition, older people want neither boring cars nor special cars for seniors. Especially as concerns vehicles in the higher price segment (e.g., Audi, BWM, Mercedes, Porsche), older customers are already a strong and therefore important group of buyers (Meyer, 2008; Kofidou, 2008; Krause, 2007; Peterz, 2003). U.S. seniors purchase more than 40 percent of all new cars and over 80 percent of luxury new cars (Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007).

The industries presented here as examples illustrate the many options and opportunities for our economy provided by an increase in the number of older people. In fact, older citizens are becoming an increasingly important driver for company success in many industries. Travel, automobiles, banks or pharmaceuticals--the aging population will certainly affect all developed societies (TNS/Commerzbank, 2009; Kohlbacher and Herstatt, 2008; IHK, 2008; Klausch, 2008; Klebl, 2007; Knob, 2007; Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007; Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006; PwC, 2006; GREY, 2005; Wodok, 2004; Choi and Dinse, 1998; Gaube, 1994).

8. Seniors are an Internet Market

It is hardly possible to imagine the everyday media experience of Internet users above 55 without the Internet (Pencun, 2005, Ochel, 2003). The current "Silver Surfer" report, which was part of the "Mediascope Europe" study and published by the European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA), also confirmed this. For Europe, the results show that a quarter of Internet users from the 55-plus generation questioned regularly surfs the net (Germany: 24 percent). They spend an average of 8.8 hours a week online (Germany: 7 hours). Apart from web research using search engines (Europe: 83 percent, Germany: 88 percent) and email communication (Europe: 83 percent, Germany: 87 percent), communication with other Internet users in forums (Europe: 1 7 percent, Germany: 23 percent), downloading music (Europe: 1 5 percent, Germany: 1 7 percent) and making calls via the Internet (Europe: 1 4 percent, Germany: 1 6 percent) are particularly popular with European Internet users over 55 (EIAA, 2007). According to the ARD/ZDF online study 2009, German Internet users over 50 spend 97 minutes a day online, whereas 14- to 29-year-olds spend 180 minutes online (ARD/ZDF, 2009). According to the Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy (2007), U. S. seniors spend more time online than teenagers.

Regarding the number of Internet users, there have also been clear developments for the 50-plus generation. In 2000, senior citizens may comprise less that 10 percent of the total Internet population, but they're the second fastest growing group online (behind teens), and they've got the money to spend and time in which to spend it. Whereas, e.g., in Germany, 15.6 percent of the 50-plus generation were online in 2001, 33.7 percent were online in 2006 and 44.9 percent in 2009. Half of the 50-plus generation is now online, and we can assume that this proportion will continue to grow. For 14- to 19-year-olds, the full potential has mostly been reached, whereas for those of 60 and older, there is significant growth potential for the next years. Internet usage may be increasing for all age groups, but the largest increase is apparent for 60- to 69-year-olds ((N)onliner-Atlas 2009). According to the ARD-/ZDF online study 2009, more older people (60 and older) are online than people under 20 (ARD/ZDF, 2009). (3)

In general, older consumers take buying online for granted: Whereas in 2006, a study found that only 28 percent of 56- to 65-year-old Internet user made purchases online, the number has now risen to 40 percent. This increase is even more extreme for 66- to 70-year-olds: from 22 percent in 2006 to 43 percent in 2009 (KarstadtQuelle Versicherungen, 2009). Nowadays, seniors order an above-average number of products online; e.g., books, clothing, holidays, shoes, computer accessories, electronic items, flowers and presents (van Baal and Graune, 2007). U.S.-seniors spend over $7 billion online (Pepper Institute on Aging & Public Policy, 2007). German Internet users above 55 may only be buying five and hence half as many items online as average Internet users in Europe, but the products tend to have significantly higher prices (EIAA, 2007).

Internet usage will also increase in the 50-plus age group because the advantages of obtaining information quickly via the Internet and of quick and cheap communication via email have also convinced the older generation (ARD/ZDF, 2009; Strauch, 2008; van Baal, 2007; van Baal and Graune 2007). "This means that the Internet can also increasingly be used as a marketing tool for older generations...." (Berghaus, 2006).

9. Conclusions and Future Research

Demographic change is a revolution for marketing because the aging society will change the world of consumers and marketing across the globe (Knob, 2007; Gassmann and Reepmeyer, 2006; Lienhard, 2006; Wodok, 2004; Martin, 2004). Initially, many countries regarded this aging process as a catastrophe, whereas companies are now starting to view it as an opportunity (Neundorfer, 2008; Kalbermatten, 2008; Etrillard, 2007; GREY, 2005; Gaube, 1994). In marketing, we are only now facing a senior boom; the Age Wave, as Dychtwald (2010) puts it. The learning about age has only just begun. In this sense, age is still young, its market and marketing potential have not been fully developed and are largely unexploited (Engel, 2008; Kohlbacher and Herstatt, 2008; IHK, 2008; Baltes and MittelstraB, 1992).

Marketing need not, however, be reinvented entirely. Instead, it is essential to apply existing marketing knowledge to the older target groups, to identify generation-specific particularities and to utilise cross-generational opportunities (TNS/Commerzbank, 2009; Kofidou, 2008; Neundorfer, 2008; Feige, 2006; GREY, 2005; Reitzler, 2001; Kolzer, 1995; Moschis, 1992). It is also important to investigate the usual marketing routes regarding their relevance to age and above all regarding their mode of action (Nufer and Oexte, 2010; Meyer; 2008; Kalbermatten, 2008; Berghaus, 2006; Niejahr, 2004; Kirsch, 2003; Brunner, 1998; Benet, Pitts and LaTour, 1993).

In order to allow demographic change to provide benefits for all generations, senior marketing must in the future intensively deal with the following research questions:

* What are the effects of the demographic change on future marketing and communication strategies?

* Where could changes take place in the consumer behaviour of older buyers?

* What distribution channels are appropriate for older people?

* What should the range of products and services be like in the future?

* What are future customer segments?

* What are the value-creating and business models of the future?

* What are the lifestyles of the 50-, 60- or 70-plus generation?

* What lifestyle types become apparent in the future?


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Norbert H. Meiners *

University of Applied Sciences Vechta, Germany

Bernd Seeberger

Health and Life Sciences University UMIT, Hall/Tyrol, Austria

* Professor Norbert H. Meiners, Head of the Department of Business, FHWT, Germany,, and Associated Researcher at UMIT, Austria, may be contacted at ><; Professor Christa Them, Head of the Department of Nursing Sciences and Gerontology, UMIT, Health and Life Sciences University, Hall/Tyrol, Austria, may be contacted at >; Professor Bernd Seeberger, Head of the Institute of Gerontology and Demographic Development, UMIT, Health and Life Sciences University, Hall/Tyrol, Austria, may be contacted at ><.

(1) Most typologies start at 50 years of age. This does not, however, pose a problem if they also provide subsegments other than age. This is because, in 1989, it became apparent that actual age is an insufficient segmentation criterion (Auer, Horrion and Kalweit, 1989).

(2) Pipes (2004) stresses: "Indigenous Europeans are dying out. Sustaining a population requires each woman on average to bear 2.1 children; in the European Union, the overall rate is one-third short, at 1.5 a woman, and falling. One study finds that, should current population trends continue and immigration cease, today's population of 375 million could decline to 275 million by 2075. (...) Into the void are coming Islam and Muslims. As Christianity falters, Islam is robust, assertive, and ambitious. As Europeans underreproduce at advanced ages, Muslims do so in large numbers while young."

(3) In the USA, older women are the ones who use the Internet, much more than their husbands. E.g, the fastest growing segment of facebook is women over 55, up 175.3% in the last 120 days (Smith, 2009).
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Author:Meiners, Norbert H.; Seeberger, Bernd
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