Researching the Older Market

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by: Dick Stroud

I recently had a most enjoyable lunch with Robert Berry Manor Marketing. Rob was the marketing controller with Bacardi Martini so he knows a lot about a subject most dear to my heart!

The reason we met was that Rob is doing a lot of work in researching the older market. I asked him what were his top five things about conducting a research programme with this age group. This is what he said…….

Obviously, good research techniques should be applied to all consumer groups but there are a few things to consider when conducting qualitative research amongst an older audience. Clearly, these will be more relevant to some parts of the older audience than others. They are, nevertheless, a useful checklist:

Availability and security – daytime research may not only be possible but may be preferred. Many older people do not like to go out after dark. The venue should be somewhere that is known, accessible and where respondents can feel comfortable and secure.

Sensitivity – what has become socially acceptable for a younger generation may not be for their parents. Discussion of certain financial matters can be too sensitive for a group context but fine in a depth interview.

Clarity – this involves both physical and intellectual/emotional clarity. Concepts have to be readable and the ideas expressed have to be understandable. The latter may seem obvious but the meaning of copy and images can alter with the generations.

Vocabulary – this not only applies to any testing of copy (above) but more importantly involves the researcher using appropriate vocabulary and understanding that used by respondents. Reserve, courtesy and more formality may all be essential in putting older audiences at ease.

Empathy – all researchers need plenty of this. Where the age gap is large an older audience may not feel as comfortable sharing information with someone they regard as a child or grandchild! Trust may be as much a function of age as skill.

The over 50’s are a rewarding group who respond well when treated appropriately. Their thoughts are worth a bob or two – if you understand my meaning.

I am sure Rob would be more than happy to amplify upon any of these points. Thanks.

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