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Maslow and older consumers

by Louis on October 4, 2007

Yesterday was very exciting. Beautiful weather, tomatoes, cucumber and basil from my garden for lunch. AND my friend Marc Gunther’s blog.

Marc’s blog introduced me to Chip Conley, a successful out of the box hotelier from California. Marc writes about Chip’s new book, Peak, but also about how Chip uses Maslow’s hierarchies. Chip attributes his success to recognizing that we all seek higher levels throughout our lives

This excites me because Maslow is important for marketing to boomers and seniors and Conley is using it. I was introduced to Maslow’s hierarchies related to senior marketing by the grandaddy of senior marketing, David Wolfe. His book, Ageless Marketing, and his earlier work, Serving the Ageless Market, are foundation texts on the subject. Others writing about senior marketing are doing great jobs restating and advancing the subject.

Those who get the scale (huge) of the older person market wonder why most marketers don’t get it. Most marketing is directed at lower needs. Lower needs are already met for most older consumers. Even the higher of the lower …esteem, which may be the motivation to buy a flashy car, is of less consequence. This is a basic disconnect between most marketing and the changing psychographics of older consumers.

So how can business tie their product to the peak levels of the pyramid? They must tie their company, brand, service, everything to the higher levels, to self actualization and altruism.

Take the record sales of the Toyota Prius among older consumers and the well off. People don’t buy a Prius for basic transport. And they do not buy it to save money because it actually costs money over less expensive cars that do not get such good mileage. People buy a Prius because they associate their new car with environmental improvement. The benefit they perceive may be for the planet or their grandchild’s future. They are actually taking action outside themselves when they buy the car. And they get a new car to boot. Everyone wins!

Of course the Prius is not the only example of marketing to higher levels of need.

Cause based marketing is not new. My mother bought her plane tickets from a travel agent that supported a charity mom appreciated. Newman’s Own is a whole company based on the idea. Paul Newman lends his persona…his brand... because he knows greater good results. Newman’s Own has donated over $200,000,000 to over a thousand charities. Newman’s Own is an extreme because the company seems to have formed to provide for the foundation it supports, but it is an example. Cause based marketing is growing because it works. It works by filling a higher need than the product being purchased.

Many who are marketing successfully to older consumers are appealing to higher needs. Del Webb Corporation, the originator of the active adult home community and still a leader in the field, knows they are selling lifestyle in their communities. The tag line on their website says “Welcome to the life you deserve”. That is a far different appeal than the “home you have always wanted” a move up builder might employ. Del Webb knows they satisfy a higher need than mere shelter. They sell self fulfillment.

Thanks to my dear friend Jo Fisher, a founder and stalwart of action toward Aging in Place, for the e-mail that set the tone of this post.

I started Chip’s book with excitement last night. I will post further as I work my way through it. This subject will continue to appear on this blog as we make our way to Aging in Place . Please enjoy your lunch.

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