The oldest Baby Boomers turn 72 this year. But don’t call them old.
Seventy-four million strong, Baby Boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964, have redefined every stage of life, from childhood to parenting. So why should aging be any different?
Insurers, healthcare companies and medical providers eager to engage Baby Boomers need to jettison traditional ways of communicating with aging individuals. For Boomers, it’s about staying active while at the same time dealing with myriad challenges head-on.
“Baby Boomers are skilled, adept and experienced, so marketers need to use positive words and not make them feel over the hill,” said Ann Fishman, Founder of Generational Targeted Marketing and author of “Marketing to the Millennial Woman.” “Don’t make the content scary or have Boomers think, ‘I’d rather have the disease than the cure’ because the message spends too much time rattling off all the negative side effects of a medication. You need to communicate with Baby Boomers in a way that shows results.”
Fishman, whose clients have included Allstate Financial, American College of Cardiology and Reader’s Digest, also stressed that marketing communications to Baby Boomers requires a multigenerational effort. While Millennials may know how to distribute and measure marketing campaigns via digital and/or social channels, Baby Boomers should drive the creative to ensure the message resonates with the target audience and nothing gets lost in the translation.
Use of language is crucial when communicating with Baby Boomers because it establishes trust, regardless of the media channel or the product or service being promoted.
Being sensitive to language is just one of several ways that healthcare organizations can sharpen their overall communications catering to this still-influential generation.
To be sure, many Baby Boomers are digitally savvy and live online. However, there are plenty of Boomers — most likely early ones — who prefer to communicate via analog and/or offline platforms. Like any generation, Boomers are not monolithic. A lot depends on an individual’s specific healthcare needs and where she resides in the Boomer-age spectrum.
According to a 2017 study conducted by Brightline Strategies, among people aged 65 and over, 59 percent of the respondents said they use the Internet to research a specific disease or medical condition. Among people between the ages 55 and 64, 53 percent of the respondents said they use the Web for such purposes.
However, percentages drop significantly among Boomers when it comes to using the Internet to speak with a healthcare provider (doctor, nurse, pharmacy, etc.): For people 65 and over, just 39 percent use the Internet to contact a healthcare provider; for people between 55 and 64, about a third of the respondents said they use the Web to contact a healthcare provider.
Against that statistical backdrop, it’s important that brands communicate with Boomers via multiple media channels, such as email newsletters, direct mail, online video, banner ads and community outreach.
Digital analytics, of course, will help marketers to distinguish the healthcare needs of one segment of Boomers from another and establish more personalized messaging stemming from how Boomers within each segment consume news and information and through which channels Boomers like to communicate.
Hospitals, HMOs, pharmacies, assisted living facilities and home healthcare organizations should strongly consider localizing their marketing campaigns because as people age they tend to travel less and stick close to home. Indeed, the global home healthcare market is expected to reach $517.2 billion by 2025, according to a recent report by Grand View Research, progressing at a CAGR of 7.8 percent during the forecast period.
To cultivate relationships, healthcare organizations could sponsor and host local programs, conferences and events designed to educate Boomers about exercise, diet, and long-term care insurance products, among other healthcare-related topics.
Arranging such events also enables Boomers to meet with their peers, discuss their healthcare concerns and strike up new friendships, which is vital part of staying active as one ages.
Leverage social media channels
It may seem counterintuitive considering that the youngest Boomers are now in their mid-50s, but healthcare organizations catering to Boomers need a robust social media strategy.
According to Statista, 68 percent of U.S. Baby Boomers use YouTube, which indicates a fairly healthy appetite for online video. Online video, of course, presents tremendous opportunities for marketers to illustrate their products and services. And because Boomers didn’t grow up in a 240-character world they won’t be discouraged by long-form or serialized videos.
Sixty-five percent of Boomers use Facebook — in keeping with trends showing that older Americans have started to colonize the social network from their younger counterparts.
Fishman said healthcare organizations and medical providers can seriously boost their social media presence by setting up (and steering) Facebook chats catering to Boomers. “Baby Boomers don’t want everyone to know their business,” she said. “But they are willing to chat [online] with other Boomers who may also be looking for medical advice.”
Aside from You Tube and Facebook, Boomers seem cool to the other social channels: Just 21 percent of Boomers use Instagram and 19 percent use Twitter, Statista said.
Serve as a generational conduit
Baby Boomers are also known as the “sandwich generation.” To wit, they have kids (and grandkids) but also have parents, many of whom remain quite active while others are on the decline.
Healthcare companies can boost their value by providing Baby Boomers with information and resources to help them locate groups and organizations catering to their parents’ medical needs. From a marketing standpoint, this is not to be underestimated because it makes Boomers’ lives’ easier and provides some peace of mind.
Millennials, of course, gravitate toward all things digital. To a large degree, that goes for Gen Xers, as well. Not so for Baby Boomers, who like to communicate through multiple media channels. What truly distinguishes Baby Boomers — and what healthcare organizations must keep top of mind — is that they want straight talk focusing on how they can take better care of their medical needs and those of their extended families.
Liam Collopy is executive VP of Harden Communications Partners, a Stanton company.