Marketing Universal Design

by Louis on August 19, 2010

I was catching up on some of my colleague’s writing today starting with Laurie Orlov’s blog Aging in Place Technology Watch about Aging in Place as a Crisis of Opportunity for CCRCs . Laurie referred to a piece by MIT Age Lab‘s Joe Coughlin in his blog, Disruptive Demographics, called Should I Stay or Should I Go? These are both great pieces, sucking me right in the way the web does, ‘helping’ whole days to slip away unnoticed. This is time well spent.

One of the comments on Joe’s article is from a fellow I have ‘known’ in the internet sense for a few years. Chuck Nyren is an accomplished and somewhat irreverent marketing strategist. He mentions an article he wrote about selling Universal Design to boomers. Chuck is talking about the mindset difference between boomers and the folks at whom most Active Adult marketing has been directed. I think he captures it real well in this paragraph:

Instead of “Look! It has this and this and this,” we’ll be sniffing around for friendly, useful spaces. You’ll want us to say, “Look! There’s a perfect place for my pottery wheel,” or “There are plenty of windows and sunlight. My house plants and indoor herb garden will do fine in here,” or “Good. I can put up big, deep shelves for my books and CDs,” or “Here’s the perfect room for our side business on Ebay,” or “Here’s a place where I can soundproof a recording studio or  entertainment center,” or “This oversized back door is great because I can roll my bicycle in and out without squeezing and jerking it around – and the extra-wide hallway means there’s plenty of room so I can just lean it against the wall and we won’t bang into it every time we walk past it.”

Chuck has it. It is not what you show a boomer, it is what the boomer sees in their own mind’s eye. It is about creating a canvas for the art of their lives. Chuck turns the undifferentiated opportunities inherent in Universal Design into the aspirational opportunity of the boomer shopper.

To get people into homes with the right features before the health crises Universal Design has to be attractive to buyers. We know we cannot appeal to them based on the potential to stay after a stroke they are not planning to have. We must appeal to their desires. Selling is never about what you have to sell, it is always about what your buyer wants to buy.  This is often hard for those who are passionate about Aging in Place and UD. Chuck is passionate too, but he is a marketing strategist with experience and a boomer who knows himself and the rest of us. We need more of this in Aging in Place. Read Selling Universal Design to Baby Boomers.

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