On The Warc Blog: happiness and older shoppers

06 April 2010

LONDON/WASHINGTON: The role of happiness as a communications tool and marketing to consumers over 50 years old were among the topics that attracted attention on The Warc Blog this week.

According to Bob Deutsch, president of Brain Sells, marketers need a nuanced understanding of happiness, which, even if they rarely discuss it directly, underpins much of their activity.

"In designing digital offerings that promise an 'experience' or when focused on building customer relationships, the covert subtext of most advertising should be the creation of the feeling of happiness," he said.

More specifically, Deutsch suggested there is a difference between items that consumers "must" have, like their favourite aftershave, and something they "want", but which may be more of an impulse choice.

The emotions engendered by these purchases are also different, with acquisitions in the former category based on relief and minimising loss, and those in the latter related to satisfaction and maximising gain.

"If I like a product and buy it because its attributes meet my interests, I can be relieved to have it," said Deutsch.

"If I feel a product reflects my identity and expands its latent expressions of self, a certain relationship develops with that product. It is that relationship that makes me happy."

As such, brands and retailers that move beyond depicting their customer as a "purchasing process", and instead display a clear understanding of their personal needs, are the most likely to be successful.

In a separate post, Paul Feldwick, a consultant and Admap columnist, discussed the importance of the over-50s demographic as a target market.

This group boasts considerable purchasing power but is often ignored by commercial communications, according to Feldwick.

He argued that advertising has typically been built around much younger age-groups, both in terms of the work it creates and the make-up of the industry itself, trends that have been exacerbated by the rise of new media.

"We each tend to construct a view of the world based on what we see around us, the people we spend time with, and the language and mental images that we share with that group," he said.

"So, while a lot of good sense has been written about marketing to the over-50s, the actual behaviour of agency people remains largely unchanged by what sounds too much like a description of a remote and possibly fictitious tribe."

One solution to this problem, Feldwick continued, could be employing "reflective practice", as used in the caring professions, to examine the assumptions that shape the views individuals have about others.

"In the case of people older than us, how much baggage does each of us bring from past relationships with our parents, our teachers, and from our own fears of ageing?" he asked.

"To understand them and their world, therefore, we need first to become aware of, and challenge, our own prejudices."

Data sourced from Warc