Baby Boomer Brains Process Ads Differently: New Research

Companies have been aiming their marketing to people over 60 in very specific but perhaps unsuccessful ways, based on assumptions that may not be valid. A new report from Nielsen NeuroFocus, the Berkeley, Calif.-based agency that specializes in neurological testing for consumer research shows that mature brains respond very differently to marketing messages. They are more emotionally balanced, and have a longer attention span. This evidence flies in the face of the traditional belief that older brains cannot adapt easily and no longer learn well.  [Hey, if I can submit my own brain as a “specimen” the fact that I learned quantitative finance principles in my mid-50s surprised me as well, except that I was tenacious about learning it!]

The neuroscience field is releasing results of research showing convincing evidence that the mature brain retains plasticity, or the ability to change as a result of experience, even at later stages of life.  This is also the reason why EXPERIENCE MATTERS – there’s only so much book learning that the younger adult mind can do, especially in the era of over-divulging, over-diversion, and over-distraction  - all of which often leads to distortion of:  input, information and interpretation. 

Here are some of the findings, bulleted, for ease [with my editorial comments in brackets]:

  • Boomers do not want to feel old or be treated as such. They do not respond well to ads that portray stereotypes and they steer clear of messages that feature older people. [But please stop featuring buff 30-somethings in clothing ads that are meant to appeal to sizes 12 and up.]
  • Boomers want to be spoken to honestly.  [Yes, but that doesn’t mean our lives will be less than enriched if we don’t use your products, or that something terrible will happen without your company’s anti-depressants.] 
  • To that point, mature brains, being more emotionally stable, respond better to positive, rather than negative, fear-based advertising messages. According to Nielsen NeuroFocus, marketers should deliver upbeat advertisements that focus on the benefits to the baby boomer.  [Memo to pharmaceutical firms:  stop portraying women in their fifties as if we are back in the 1950s, as in mid-20th century!] 
  • Mature brains have broader attention spans.  [Could be because we’re not on multiple mobile devices, all of the time, at the same time?  We actually look at and listen when we care about something.]
  • Boomer brains respond better to advertising messages that are simple; research shows they may ignore those that are rapid or cluttered.  [However, about certain products – such as pharmaceuticals or financial services – we want all the information; just don’t make it so filled with jargon, because we mistrust that.]
  • Advertisers are still guilty of ignoring baby boomers, although they are strong and influential in terms of purchasing power. Boomers are on track to spend $7 billion online this year, and they are dining out again.  [News alert to fast-food and quick-serve restaurants:  take a page out of Panera’s playbook.  The firm boomers love to love is doing better in some areas and time slots than McDonald’s and Chipotle – the latter two still banking on 20-somethings who can eat only so many burgers and grinders.  Panera’s 58-year old Harvard MBA CEO knows where his bread is – literally and figuratively. In this recession, baby boomers are flocking to Panera for meals that are lighter on the waistline as well as their bank accounts.]

Check out the research:

Nielsen NeuroFocus

Follow BlogHer on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/BlogHer-28615

Comments

In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.