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Why brands need to focus on experiential marketing while serving India’s elderly

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A Successful experiential marketing strategy must promote the brand’s message and values.A Successful experiential marketing strategy must promote the brand’s message and values.A Successful experiential marketing strategy must promote the brand’s message and values.

By Saumyajit Ray

While the marketing landscape has witnessed dramatic changes in the past decade, with brands clambering to create innovative experiences for the evolved millennial and Gen Z consumer, the lucrative segment on the other side of the age spectrum is often forgotten. Yes, India is a young country with over 65% of its population under the age of 35, however there are 110 million seniors above the age of 60, with 40% of them residing in the urban areas. While brands and marketers are slowly realising the wallet-share associated with the elders, there is a need to revisit this segment with a more current outlook towards their needs, aspirations and lifestyle.

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‘60s are the new 40s’ is the mantra followed by most seniors. From healthier diets and strict fitness regimes to exotic travels and indulgent wardrobes, the seniors no longer seek austere retired lives. Instead, they invest wisely and save up to relish this new phase of life with new and exciting experiences. They are not afraid to learn new skills, try different cuisines and explore new destinations. And much like their younger counterparts, they seek value and meaning in the brands that they endorse. Value is not restricted to the monetary value of the brand but includes the social and environmental impact of the brand as well. Unlike the younger generation, the seniors have the spending power to indulge in the brands that they can relate to and a stickiness that is often lacking in the easily distracted millennials and Gen Z. According to the report, Unlocking the potential of senior consuming market, the medical and lifestyle market for the economically-independent senior urban population was pegged at $6 billion (about ₹43,000 crore). The overall potential of the market driven by senior citizen consumers is as large as ₹100,000 crore, excluding the real estate, banking and financial services and insurance and pharmacy products. Of which, only ₹10,000 crore has been addressed so far.

To harness this opportunity, brands need to revisit their understanding of the senior segment. The grim, lonely and sad brand messaging speaks to a stereotype that is no longer the norm. These new consumers are embracing age with a renewed love and zeal for life. They relate to messaging that aligns with their new-age values and lays the foundation for a long-term relationship based on trust. Experiential marketing has evolved as the new mantra to capture the target audience’s attention and successfully convert a desire into a firm purchase intent. It allows the audience to enjoy an immersive brand experience that is not limited to how a product or service functions but instead highlights the brand’s ethos and how it makes the potential user feel while indulging in the product or service. Experiential marketing allows them to understand both the brand philosophy as well as its intent to achieve those values. A powerful tool that connects the brand to the consumer while allowing the consumer to engage with the brand’s identity and values. However, similar to other marketing tools and aids, a cookie-cutter approach towards all market segments would render the entire exercise of experiential marketing futile. Seniors endorse brand messaging that is concise, clear and authentic. Hence an authentic experience is imperative to capture the attention and loyalty of this segment. It enables consumers to turn into brand ambassadors, as well as serves as a catalyst for word-of-mouth marketing, an essential marketing activity to build brand trust and encourage trials amongst more wary seniors. According to a McKinsey research experiential marketing is the powerful catalyst for word-of-mouth marketing, with branded experiences accounting for 50-80% of all word-of-mouth activity.

A successful experiential marketing strategy must promote the brand’s message and values. Seniority, an online portal dedicated to lifestyle and medical products for seniors, aims to offer products that are useful but also fun and quirky to compliment the contemporary lifestyle of India’s elderly. True to its promise of addressing lifestyle needs of the senior segment, Seniority launched offline stores with two ‘experience zones’ in Pune and Coimbatore where the company routinely organises zumba classes, yoga sessions and therapy talks for seniors.

As India’s elders look to enrich their lives with new experiences, travel and hospitality have seen significant demand from this growing segment. Once again, it is the service providers, who are able understand this segment and offer an experience that best aligns with the attitude and evolved needs of the elderly that are able to enjoy the loyalty and trust of this segment. Every Indian above the age of 70 is not looking for a trip to the holy shrines! Mrs Smita. Jain, a 60-year-old home baker, celebrated her milestone anniversary by booking a trip to Norway to witness the Northern Lights with her 65-year-old husband. Allowing the seniors to actively participate in designing their travel experience, allows travel providers and platforms such as Senior World, to integrate the service they provide with the experiential marketing model itself. A creative opportunity to allow seniors to engage with the brand and feel connected with the brand’s process right from the start.

The emergence of nuclear family set-ups, has led to a growing need for elder care services. Some new-age seniors have also embraced the idea of community living. However, true to their attitude, the seniors expect facilities that look and feel just like ‘home’ with good quality services and amenities to lead a holistic lifestyle. While elders seek community participation to overcome the loneliness that often accompanies old age, a lot of them prefer to stay at their own homes with good quality elder care services that also addresses their loneliness. The pandemic further amplified the imperative need for quality health care at home for the elderly and led to a surge of over 40% in the Indian elder care market. Choosing an elder care partner is a significant decision. Allowing someone into your personal space and sharing personal health details, needs thought and consideration. Thus, rendering traditional advertising and marketing tools fairly inefficient for this category. When making important decisions like these the seniors trust their own experience or that of someone they know. However, with the fear of the pandemic looming at large, the past year made it difficult for companies to offer in person experiences or even trials. It was the brand’s equity with its current’s subscribing seniors that helped these eldercare brands reach new and potential consumers. With seniors becoming comfortable with technology, brands like Emoha aligned their vision of offering seniors a holistic lifestyle with the current virtual environment. Emoha’s MOH TV offered over 600 varied online programmes to keep the seniors engaged. Online yoga sessions, antakshari and even bingo nights, kept the senior entertained and allowed them to socialise and belong to a community even while staying confined within the four walls of their homes. They created compelling experiences that elders could share with others in their societies and colonies. Thus, converting customers to potential brand ambassadors! Word of mouth marketing at its best, especially at a critical time like the pandemic. Besides, some of the larger virtual events were open to potential subscribers as well, allowing them to experience the service first hand.

Creating compelling experiences remains key to building brand loyalty amongst seniors. Saregama, an established music company, repackaged its offering into an experience by creating the much popular Carvaan. A portable music player, shaped as a radio to give a retro vibe, loaded with some of the most popular tunes from the year’s gone by, allowed seniors to indulge in some treasured old memories. An experience of nostalgia with every song. Its no surprise that the brand became hugely popular amongst the elders.

Brands that have adapted their services and communication to align with the evolving lifestyle of this emerging senior segment, have succeeded in creating a loyal customer base. However, a very large segment remains untapped. It’s about time that other brands wake up to realise that while the seniors are retiring from jobs, they are not taking a retirement from life or their Amazon Prime subscription! In fact, life has only just begun for these young at heart individuals, who are willing to explore and experiment new avenues. It is on the brands now to create captivating communication and experiences that would align with the evolved values of seniors.

The author is co-founder and CEO of Emoha Elder Care. Views expressed are personal.

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