GenSights - Making Boomer Magic
Sharing generational insights to help businesses make magic with Baby Boomers
If You Can Transform Fast Food, You Can Transform Anything.
When it became clear that Herb—our 91-year-old father—had become too incapacitated to continue living in his Portsmouth, NH condo, my sister and I moved him to a nursing home a few blocks away. It was relatively cheerful and the staff was both competent and extremely kind. The only downside was the food. Typical, bland institutional stuff: overcooked canned vegetables, tasteless mass-produced chicken, you get the picture. Because we continued to spend weekends at the condo, we’d often visit with Herb at meal time, so we could keep him company while he ate lunch and dinner. On our way back home, we’d talk about the cuisine—or lack of it—and wonder how things might change once Boomers started needing that level of care.
I thought back to that time as I was reading an article about Lyfe Kitchen, the new fast food restaurant concept that’s the brainchild of a couple of former McDonald’s executives, including ex-president and COO Mike Roberts. Lyfe, which stands for Love Your Food Everyday, is out to radically change the way we think of, and experience, fast food. As writer Frederick Kaufman put it, “All the cookies shall be dairy-free, all the beef from grass-fed, humanely raised cows….there shall be no butter, no cream, no white sugar, no white flour, no high-fructose corn syrup, no GMOs, no trans fats, no additives, and no need for alarm: There will still be plenty of burgers, not to mention manifold kegs of organic beer and carafes of biodynamic wine.” (The entire article, entitled “Former McDonalds Honchos Take On Sustainable Cuisine” is available at wired.com)
Best of all, this is not some wide-eyed, romantic notion of how fast food should be. Writes Kaufman:
"The market research Roberts did at McDonald’s convinced him that mothers, the dominant decision makers about mealtimes, are more focused than ever on healthy food. So this time around, brussels sprouts and quinoa will enter the picture. This time around, the end result—the food—will look and smell and taste more like an entrée from some bistro in Brooklyn than a 30-second stop along Fast-Food Alley. But the process will be roughly the same, in that the problems of enormous scale can be solved through similar uses of technology, efficiency, and experience. ‘I would say that the pattern of this mosaic is very familiar,’ Roberts says. ‘The strategy of the rollout, the people and their skill sets, the systems of training and hiring and finance and accounting and supply chain, the development of the property and real estate system—they are all very similar. In other words, Roberts will take all the tricks he learned from old-style fast food and apply them to the next phase of American eating."
To a foodie like me, this is great news, and I can see that how, if the Lyfe Kitchen rollout is successful, it could also radically transform the way food service companies will supply their customers in the future—making organic, fresh, and delicious food available to retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes like Herb’s. (Lyfe Kitchen hopes to have 500 to 1,000 restaurants up and running nationwide within 5 years.)
But the real take-away here should be that by applying tried and true business techniques, entrepreneurs can transform anything from health care to transportation to home products to meet the needs of seniors today and Boomers tomorrow. And remember, the 65-plus market is growing by approximately 10,000 Boomers every day; by 2030, that age group will be about 71.5 million strong.
“We’re in the middle of the first stage of the food revolution,” Roberts told Kauffman. “I’m dreaming of a place where science, medicine, producers, farmers, and restaurateurs meet to say we are on a journey together.”
How exciting if that kind of revolutionary spirit courses through every segment of business, making life better for us all as we age!
– Written by Lynn Schweikart
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: healthy fast food, nursing home food, seniors, Boomers, 65-plus market, health care, food revolution
The Risks of Fearing Risk.
I recently went on a trip to Cuba with 110 members of my New Hampshire-based women’s chorus, Voices From The Heart. Participants ranged in age from early twenties to mid-seventies. It was a treat to watch the latter be just as willing as the former to try everything from octopus ceviche to salsa dancing to strolling with the locals along the Malecon after midnight. I thought of that experience when I listened to this video clip of geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas speaking about the concepts of “upside” and “downside” risk at the 2010 Green House Project meeting. (The Green House Project is committed to creating a world that honors and supports a positive elderhood through a radical transformation of long term care.)
Thomas defines risk as “an outcome that’s different than you expected”. Downside risk, the fear that things will turn out worse than expected, is something we’re all too familiar with. What we rarely consider is upside risk—the possibility that things will turn out better than expected.
Thomas argues that too often in planning for care for elders, the experts and families all too often focus on downside risk at the expense of upside risk. The result is that by being overly protective, we are actually preventing elders from having outcomes that are better than expected, thus reducing their ability to grow and thrive. (I suspect that this same obsession with downside risk could be having a similarly negative affect on today’s kids.)
Everyone wants their elders to be safe. But it could be that too safe is just as deleterious as not safe enough. According to Thomas, normal lives should include a “balance of upside and downside risk”. I suspect that as Boomers and active seniors like my Cuba companions age into the need for long term care, the facilities and home care companies that strike the right balance between these types of risk will be the ones most likely to succeed. Bring on that ceviche and salsa music!
– Written by Lynn Schweikart
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: downside risk upside risk, care for elders, elders, long term care, home care companies
The New Normal?
As marketing strategists we’re always on the quest for what’s cutting edge when it comes to reaching and servicing the Boomer & Senior markets. Today more than ever knowledge and technology are like moving targets. What was leading edge yesterday is passé today. The only way for thought leaders like us to stay on top of our craft is to stay in a constant dialog with other thought leaders that share the same enthusiasm for knowledge as we do. What better way than to attend the “What’s Next Boomer Business Summit” at this year's location, our Nation's Capital, Washington DC. The annual summit is presented by Mary Furlong & Associates and this year's topic was: The New Normal: Showcasing the groundswell in social media, the surge in the services economy, and the rise of the independent sector.
With the incredible roster of keynotes and industry experts, the summit was simply outstanding. Our heads were spinning with excitement and the treasure trove of ideas and information. One hot topic centered around how social media has led the way to stay informed and share ideas with one another. Though I was posting on Twitter and Facebook throughout the conference, it was evident, there's no substitute for face-to-face contact, and I’m not talking Skype.
Here are just a few of our initial takes from the summit:
ELECTRONICS & TECHNOLOGY
This category now boasts that 7 out of 10 Boomers are comfortable with technology according to Steve French of NMI. What makes this category endearing is how it makes lives easier and provides a connection for families, especially children and parents or grandparents. Who ever thought that we’d be exchanging pictures with our families via Facebook rather than a photo-album and texting with our college age children?
Due to the economic conditions over the past couple of years a lot of housing projects (new builds) have been on hold according to Sharon Dworkin Bell of NAHB. Though there still might be growth in the 55+ communities (more affluent demographic), some of that building has leveled off. Based on what we heard at the "Aging Means Business" conference back in November, this leveling off is primarily due to the fact that people don’t really like being segregated by age and most prefer multi-generational living. Communities comprised of multiple generations appear to keep older people younger, longer. One thing for sure, there is a major disconnect between what consumers are looking for in housing as they age and what builders are providing or not providing. Lots of room for improvement and opportunity!
Reaching the 50+ audience through social media is already huge and still growing. When social media is part of your marketing strategy it’s important that it is authentic, real and genuine according to Laurie Mitchell of Grand Care Systems If it’s not, you risk alienating your 50+ audience and your chances of recapturing them are not good. The experience has to be worth their while.
These are just three of the many take-ways from the summit. We'll be posting more on topics like healthcare and healthy living trends, the "next great act", entrepreneurship and encore careers, philanthropy, the service industry, the workforce, room for innovation and more.
Once we have a chance to dive into our notes and Tweets, we’ll continue to post our impressions and insights on the "new normal".
– written by Tom Gorski
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: Boomer & Senior Markets, the new normal, 55+ communities, social media and 50+ audience, Boomers and Technology
Aging Means Business – Are You In?
Before the holidays set in, we were fortunate to attend the "Aging Means Business" Conference which was a subset of the Gerontological Society Annual conference on aging. Held in Boston this year, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of this unique gathering of thought-leaders, designers, architects, students, gerontologists, health care specialists, entrepreneurs and business professionals all focused on designing for a new age. We were excited, encouraged and inspired to meet some of the people we have both learned from and featured in previous blog articles, including Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of the MIT Age Lab and writer of the blog Disruptive Demographics, who moderated the event.
We’ve written about this topic ourselves in the past, and many of the speakers concurred that products designed for people who are aging, don’t necessarily need to focus on the “aging” itself but on good design that can benefit anyone or everyone.
We were fascinated by Matthias Holwich who spoke about the “BOOM” Project which focuses on a revolutionary new way of thinking about caring for people as they age, and moreso looking at a whole new way of living. (We hope to do a special post soon with information from our interview with Matthias.) We at Gen-Sights have stated previously that we believe Baby Boomers are going to change the world again as they have at every life stage, demanding new and different living arrangements as they age. The numbers alone will dictate it, but that’s not the only reason. Since we have already been and continue to care for elderly loved ones, we’ve gotten to see how things are now, and it has ignited us to give some thought to the idea of how we would want it to be different for ourselves.
With the simple fact that certain physical things happen to the body as it ages, healthy or not, a panel discussed the topic of designing the work environment for an aging workforce and new leadership techniques to handle multiple generations working together: better lighting, ergonomic office furniture, quiet working spaces to allow for better concentration and focus, and common areas to foster intergenerational collaboration. With a significant portion of the working public being in the 50+ category, now and into the future, businesses need to address these issues if they want to have a thriving workforce.
Mary Furlong (Mary Furlong & Associates, founder of SeniorNet and ThirdAge Media) was part of a panel that reviewed student entries for useful designs and conceptual ideas to make life easier for the aging population. It was exciting to know that young people are taking an interest. In fact, at my table during the lunch breakouts, there was a young college student involved in a project to design a bag that could be attached to a walker. The rest of the people at the table put in their two cents, telling her to look at it from a utilitarian perspective and see if it would be functional not only on a walker but a baby carriage as well and to be sure that designer fabrics and fun fashion would be incorporated. No stodgy or dowdy looking things for this crowd!
Changes in healthcare, transportation and service industries were also speaker topics that rounded out the packed, informative day. We walked away feeling that this room full of brilliant minds and interested learners may actually be able to have an impact on the needs of this ever growing segment of the population. Businesses are just beginning to scratch the surface in seeing the opportunity for growth by designing products and services to not only target the Baby Boomer and Senior audiences, but to design them for the greater good of all.
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: Baby Boomers, Aging, Aging Means Business
Trying To Create Marketing Messages with Meaning? Learn What’s Meaningful.
It’s one of the golden rules of marketing: in order to connect with your target audience, you need to tell a story that’s meaningful to them. That’s why businesses with big budgets invest a lot of those dollars in research. But what if your company doesn’t have that kind of money? Well, if you’re lucky enough to be a business that’s targeting the senior market, I recommend spending around $15 for 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans by Cornell sociologist and gerontologist Karl Pillemer.
Pillemer is the founder of the Cornell Legacy project. In 2004, he and his researchers began to systematically collect the responses of nearly 1500 Americans age 70 and older to a single question: “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?”
Though the individuals are from a broad spectrum of economic, educational, and occupational backgrounds, their beautifully insightful answers on a wide range of topics strike a similar vein. All together, they provide a wise, practical, and deeply moving guide to creating a life that’s both satisfying and successful.
The advice offered ranges from “how to be happy on a day-to-day basis, the secrets to a successful marriage, tips on raising children, ways to have a fulfilling career, strategies for dealing with illness and loss, and how to grow old fearlessly and well”. You’ll learn what’s given these “wise elders” joy over the course of a lifetime, as well as what they regret. In a word, you’ll learn what’s meaningful.
The insights you’ll gain as you develop a deeper understanding of what really matters to people in this stage of life can make you a better person. They’ll also help you be a better marketer; one who is able to ascertain the meaningful benefits your product or service provides to this market—and craft more powerful stories to explain those benefits.
Best of all, this is not only relevant to elders. The research I’ve read on Boomers indicates that this cohort holds many of the same attitudes about what’s really meaningful in life. According to a recent U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey, those age 50+ have $2.4 trillion in annual income, which accounts for 42% of all after-tax income. Now, wouldn’t that be meaningful to your business?
– written by Lynn Schweikart
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: Connecting with your target audience, Senior Market, gerontologist, targeting the senior market, Lessons for Living
It’s Who They Are and What They Do. Not How Old They Are.
Can’t believe it’s the beginning of 2012. Last year at this time, everyone (including Gen-Sights) was getting all excited about the first Baby Boomers turning 65.
But if anything, this past year has once again reinforced for us that our culture’s fixation with age is very misplaced. As Boomer experts (and Boomers themselves) have been saying forever—or so it seems—let’s get past the obsession with demographics like 18-34, etc. and focus on what should really matter to marketers: who people are and what they do.
So resolve to change your thinking. What need does your product or service fulfill? How do people really use what you offer? How does it help them live better? What are the stories that satisfied users tell about your product or service? (Also, what are the stories that any dissatisfied customer might tell?) If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re never going to find your target audience’s “sweet spot” — let alone know how to genuinely connect with them.
In early December, when Talbots became the target of a takeover bid, The Boston Globe asked a cross section of fashion industry experts to suggest how the retailer should go about reinvigorating its brand. Interestingly, only one used that tired old cliché about targeting a younger audience with more “body conscious silhouettes”. The others urged the company to become more tuned into who their customers are and what they really want beyond the career clothes that Talbots is known for. In other words, search out their stories.
Communications consultant Thelar Pekar gave a lecture at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications entitled, "Why Story Matters”. Though her talk was targeted to young people just beginning their careers in business communications, what she had to say should resonate with marketers of any age – trying to connect with customers of any age:
“Businesses are starting to understand that in a complex market, dealing with complex topics and complex people, story elicitation results in greater and deeper insights. Whether you are working to communicate a message to customers or the needs of customers to your future bosses, consider applying story as a tool for conveying complex emotions and truth.”
Those “greater and deeper insights” that you can gain through sharing and listening to your customers’ stories can form the basis for communications that truly resonate and inspire. And if you do that, you may find out that you don’t need a younger audience to grow your business, you just need a better story.
Happy New Year!
– written by Lynn Schweikart
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: Baby Boomers, customer stories, insights, grow your business