SYDNEY: The implementation of home-care reforms which allow elderly consumers to decide where they spend government-allocated funding, rather than the state deciding on their behalf, is forcing Australia's aged-care sector to rethink its approach to marketing.

"This sector has been invisible for a long time, because all of their marketing efforts and comms efforts have been focused on business to business," noted Derry Simpson, leader of strategy and planning at 303 MullenLowe Perth.

Because of the high level of demand and allocation by the government, industry participants had little or no need to market themselves, but that is now changing. Marketing managers are having to revise their ideas as they shift their efforts towards individuals, or, in the case of smaller players, start to think about marketing for the first time.

"Many of the small players never even had a marketing plan and it wasn't even discussed," Gill Walker, founder of Evergreen advertising, a specialist agency for the 50+ demographic, told Mumbrella.

Now they are talking about it and are finding it a shock. "They've never spent money like this before in their lives on communication," said Simpson. "What they think is the biggest budget ever isn't particularly big in this day and age to get cut-through.

"They have to start acting like big brands," she stated.

Effective brand positioning needs to be distinctive, appealing and relevant, according to a recent Warc Best Practice paper, while messaging will need to be directed not just at the elderly themselves but also at their families.

"You need a dual-audience strategy and you need to contemplate the media channels that are going to reach both audiences effectively and connect with both audiences effectively so that whoever instigates the discussion, that there is a kind of knowing acceptance of a brand, a brand position," advised Kevin Moreland, partner and director of the BCM agency.

He added that innovation will be an important differentiator, as well be making an emotional connection and demonstrating empathy with the target audiences.

Data sourced from Mumbrella; additional content by Warc staff