How Baby Boomers Will Change the Way You Sell Senior Living
Brian Morris and Brad Ball, Silver Advertising
Brian Morris and Brad Ball, Silver Advertising
In the next several years, more and more baby boomers will be seeking senior living services, and so the time is now to understand this generation’s attitudes towards aging and how you should be messaging your communities.
Our guests on this podcast episode talk about how the way you sell and market your services is going to need to adapt. We’re going to hear today about baby boomers’ media preferences, aging in place, other attitudes and other trends that you’re going to need to adapt to.
On this episode of the Senior Care Growth Show, Brian Morris and Brad Ball of Silver Advertising share data about the baby boomer generation so you can prepare to meet the challenges of marketing and selling to this demographic head-on.
Are you wondering if your current marketing and sales efforts will be effective with Baby Boomers? You’re not going to want to miss this episode.
Rick: Hello and welcome to the Senior Care Growth Show, where senior care and senior living sales and marketing leaders go to grow. I’m your host, Rick Whittington.
We have a real treat for you today. If you listened to our last podcast with Ryan Knisely from Presbyterian Senior Homes, he talked at length about the baby boom generation and what he’s seeing at Presbyterian Senior Homes. Today, we’re going to go much deeper into that topic with two gentlemen who are experts in the baby boomer generation. You will meet Brad Ball and Brian Morris from Silver Advertising. Brad and Brian are now in their sixties and they came together in 2017 to form a company that studies and understands the senior market better than anyone. I will let them introduce themselves more in depth during the show today as we get into our interview. I know some of you who listen to our podcast are baby boomers and you know that the future of senior living is the baby boom generation.
Some of you are already seeing that at your communities. In the next several years, you will be selling senior living to more and more baby boomers, and so the time is now to understand this generation’s attitudes towards aging and how you should be messaging your communities. As we study this age group, we know that the way you sell and market your services are going to need to adapt. We’re going to hear today about baby boomers’ media preferences, aging in place, other attitudes and other trends that you’re going to need to adapt to.
Before we get into today’s episode, I wanted to tell you about a new opportunity here at Senior Care Growth. Our passion is helping senior living industry professionals improve their sales and marketing. We’ve gotten some feedback that senior living communities would like a way to understand if their digital sales and marketing efforts are working and how to improve them.
So we’re going to introduce a new digital audit service. In this process, we’ll review your total online presence from your ratings and reviews to your search engine visibility, from your websites to your advertising. And then we will give you a report and several ideas to improve your marketing and sales so you can increase your occupancy. If you’d like more information on that audit, all you have to do is go to https://seniorcaregrowth.com/audit.
Okay. Hopefully you’ll find today’s episode immensely valuable. I really enjoyed talking with these two guys. Let’s get into my interview with Brad Ball and Brian Morris.
Okay guys, it’s great to have you on the Senior Care Growth Show. Why don’t we start with some introductions? Tell us who you are and what you do.
Brad: Great. Thank you, Rick. My name is Brad Ball and I’m sitting with my partner Brian Morris. You’ll hear from him in a minute. We’d have a company called Silver Advertising. We are marketing advocates for seniors. And what that really means is as to career agency guys, we believe that the most overlooked demo in the United States, frankly the world as the aging population, which we’re going to talk about. So thank you for having us on this broadcast. I’m not embarrassed at all to say I’ve been doing marketing advertising for over 45 years, which makes me very qualified on the subject of senior marketing and what opportunities exist. I started in the agency business. We are best friends, were both competitors as well as members of the industry community here in Los Angeles.
I started on the agency side and then became the Chief Marketing Officer for McDonald’s Corporation in Chicago. From there, Warner Brothers asked me to come back a few years later to head up marketing for motion pictures and hopefully you saw Harry Potter. Then NASCAR tapped me on the shoulder, whom I met in my earlier career, to head up entertainment for that great sport. And finally, I had a stint with a very millennial company and indoor trampoline franchise operation, a global franchise operation. And between that and my agency career and my own agency, Brian and I put our heads together, which you’ll hear when he takes over, to really form a partnership, starting this great opportunity.
Brian: I was wondering if you were going to say you’ve got seniors to use the trampoline, but somehow I don’t think that would quite work well. I’m Brian Morris and I’ve been in Los Angeles in marketing and advertising for about 40 years. For a long time, 27 years, I was at a company called Bailey and Associates here in LA. We had about 250 employees and lots of really good national accounts like Hilton and Safeway and Ford and Gallo and the LA Dodgers and KB Home. And when I left there I went to Greenville, South Carolina to be the head of marketing at a luxury real estate company called IMI. And we had communities around really nice places in the world where people bought real estate and build homes, usually anchored by a golf course and a nice hotel. And that was awesome until 2008, you might remember that luxury real estate wasn’t the best business to be in then.
But by getting together with Brad and working on seniors, we kid about ourselves in a way in terms of our experience. But the reality is, “it takes one to know one” is what we say, and we believe in research, but we have a focus group every morning when we look in the mirror. And we thought, “how great to be marketing to a target that we could totally identify with.” And especially when you marry our marketing and advertising experience with our knowledge of the target audience and the fact that we live it, it was a good idea for a business. So we’re really happy to be here today talking about this subject.
Rick: Yeah, it’s great to have you guys on the broadcast today. Thanks so much for lending your time for that. When we first talked, you mentioned to me that baby boomers have different attitudes than the generation before. Can we go into that in a little bit more detail?
Brian: Absolutely. First of all, I think most people watching this would know that the demographic is moving, and it’s big. Boomers are 75 million in total, about 54 to 72 years old. And we agree that they are quite different than the generation that proceeded them. Any generation for that matter. One of the things that you’ll notice when you learn about boomers is how much more active they are, how much more healthy they are, how much more interested they are in extending their good life as opposed to entering a new life. They don’t view themselves as winding down at this point. They view themselves as going into the next chapter. I think that’s really important because while they might be retiring early, they’re working still. They’re vital. They’re still having sex. I’m not kidding when I say that, but it’s an interesting section of what we learned about the target audience.
And importantly, one of the “a-ha” things that we learned was that the seniors, and boomers are part of that, considered themselves 10 to 20 years younger than they really are. And I think that’s an insight because I know, at 65 years old, that’s my opinion of myself. And it’s very enlightening when it comes to talking to them, because I remember doing advertising for Princess Cruises and casting was always a real issue because older people didn’t want to say, “well, I want to go on cruise with those old people.” And so the reality was that we had to lower the age range down in order to talk to people. So boomers are interesting because they’ve always been in charge. They’ve always been the biggest demographic. They’ve always been what the world revolves around. And right now they’re feeling very ignored and they’re feeling like, wait a minute, we made this country the way it is in many ways, and now no one’s talking to us. No one wants our opinion and I think I’m ready to be talked to in a new and different way. And so we’re going to talk about that more today, Rick.
Brad: I would add that if you enter life in full health as they like to at age 60, right in the sweet spot of that 54 to 72 year old boomer, you can expect an additional 19 years of life. And you know, if your listeners want to write this down, NFRFCGAS. It actually means Never Fully Retired From Consuming Goods and Services. Now think about that. When people questioned why we would go after this demo, it’s because I don’t care for 60 or 75, we haven’t retired from those things that we love to do, which has an impact, I think, on your direction for this opportunity of what should be happening in the senior living communities or those that choose to age in place. That’s where we think the sweet spot is given this huge age wave.
Brian: Yeah. I think one of the other things we learned was that between 55 and 64, these consumers actually outspend the average consumer in almost every category. And when we saw from AARP, a statistic that said that the 55 plus spend 50 percent of all the money and control even more wealth than that in the country, but get 10 percent of all marketing dollars. That’s when Brad and I said this is big.
Brad: That data point, Rick, leads right into this myth that seniors are afraid of digital. They’re afraid of the Internet. So untrue. Senior spend two to one over what a millennial spends online. And we have to remember one thing, it was the seniors, this age group, the boomers, that invented the technology we’re all using today, so it’s not about being afraid of it. It opens up huge opportunities.
Brian: I think one of the other things that makes this demographic different than it used to be is the advent of women, in terms of their power and control and interest, unlike other generations before. Women have been in the workplace for a long time now and they’re not secondary. We always know that they’ve been influencers when it comes to decisions in the family, but now they’re even at a higher level. And the other thing that maybe makes this demographic different now is the influx of minorities who are now the majority. Out here in California, 39 percent of our population is Hispanic and 14 percent is Asian and Caucasians are now the minority in this state. And the reason I bring that up is because as these boomers come through, it’s not demographically the same group that we think of them as being. There are a lot more active women and a lot more minorities.
So that alone is part of it. The other thing that we’ve found is that this group thinks differently. They are less wasteful and they’re less extravagant and they’re more concerned about quality of life. We talk about QTR, I think you’ve probably heard of that term, Quality Time Remaining, and they’re a lot less interested in postponing their life than living it every day and getting rid of the things in their life that bother them and concentrate on the things that are good. And I think that to some past generations that could sound selfish. To this generation, it’s like, well, forget you. We’re going to sprint to the finish line and we’re not going to stop doing [anything]. We’re going to play pickleball.
Brad: You know how every New Year’s Eve you’d sit up and watch Dick Clark and the big ball dropping down during that December 31 to January one transition? Seniors have that big ball in their mind every day because they’re using that QTR, quality time remaining, as a driver to enjoy what they’ve earned working and living their life. And we’ve come across some great examples.
Rick: You know, that’s a great point. In my own personal experience, my parents…. I grew up in a 1,800 square foot home and my parents who are both retired just bought a 3,500 square foot house and they’re going to be living in this house for maybe 10 years, and that’s their mindset. But they want to enjoy that 10 years that they’ve worked so hard for and earned. I think our listeners are going to be working with baby boomers, or they have been, as decision influencers for their parents. And I think more and more we’ll see our listeners sell their services directly to baby boomers. Let’s start with baby boomers attitudes towards aging. How do they view aging?
Brad: To break the cliches that are about aging today. As Brian said, you know, the old expression was “50 is the new 40.” It’s more like 20 years difference in how you think about this. But I think one of the best examples of how they view aging today is age is just a number. Age is not a decision point with which you stopped doing certain things. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has this unbelievable data point by 2024 — think about that — six years from now, seniors age 65 to 74 will have an increase in joining the workforce by four and a half percent. And millennials in that 16 to 24 age group will lose almost a share of one and a half percentage points in their workforce activity just by virtue of the age change. So staying in the workforce is the best example of attitudinal differences than when our parents sort of automatically have that alarm clock that says you’re this age now you retire.
Brian: I think it’s all. Frankly, I think it’s fueled by being healthier. And I think that allows you to do the quality time remaining. And the activities that are not as sedentary. I’m sure that the communities that your viewers are running are addressing that — that this isn’t about parking someone in front of the television set anymore, that this is really an active group. I’ve found that the cruise line business is really leading the way when it comes to how they’re treating seniors because they, for years, had a mindset of what a senior is, and yet now they realized that in order to get boomers, they’ve got to change their amenities and they’ve got to change their pricing and they’ve got to change their destinations when they get off the ship and change the whole mindset. We were talking to a cruise line recently that is putting bicycles on their river cruises and that are expanding workout rooms and that are providing healthier cuisine. And I think they’re really on top of it. I mean, they have a long way to go, but I think they’re leading the way in a lot of important points.
Rick: Would you say that the cruise line industry is at the forefront of that? Would you say that they’re one of the best industries that our listeners could look to and study how they’re messaging and how they’re portraying their marketing?
Brian: I would. I think that they’re doing a couple things right. First of all, it’s not just smoke and mirrors. They’re spending a lot of money to redo their ships and to come up with new and interesting activities for boomers. But they’re also communicating better than most industries are in terms of their realization that marketing materials can’t look cheesy, can’t look stereotypical, can’t look the same, can’t be done by unqualified people. They’ve really upped the ante when it comes to production values. We are real proponents about production values of communication materials because it says everything about you. One of the reasons we felt really good about this opportunity is this. The average age of a creative person in an ad agency in America is 28 years old. And really and truly what would they know other than something very stereotypical? So when we talked to people about communication materials and developing brochures or TV commercials, I think we have a much better sense of what kind of quality we expect in our lives and what kind of quality they expect, especially on a considered purchase item like a retirement community or a $15,000 cruise. And so that’s changed the way we think.
Brad: That cruise example that Brian was just talking about — it’s that the attitude is shifting to the management of the cruise companies to get off the boat. In other words, it’s one thing to dress up for a nice sit down dinner and maybe go play some cards and cruise. It’s another to purposely cruise, which is what the river cruises are doing. But even some of the big ocean cruises are emphasizing to get off the boat. One in particular, On the Waterways has just launched its largest ship ever where they doubled the public size, the public areas for activities and things to do with the same number of capacities, still for only 200 people.
So it’s an ocean cruiser that’s doing this, but when you sign up for those things, you’re basically told, “plan to walk seven or eight miles a day because when you get up the river Danube, we want you to get off and really see it the way you would if you flew in from an airport and taxied there.” That’s a very different mindset than someone today. And I, like you, had that same experience with both parents going from attempting to age in place to move out, and the community they went into, as good as it was, had the rows of paperback books that you can check out. It had the jigsaw puzzles, it had the television sets with the wheelchairs lined up in front as if it was an indoor drive in theater. . And there are situations where your health puts you in that position, but I think the trend is to get that experience on the independent side soon enough so that you live the fullest life with your friends and the community that you’re becoming a part of. And there’s a lot of learning out there that can be transformed.
Rick: Yeah. I think one thing that stuck out to me when we talked is that you said that people are getting out. Baby boomers are wanting to be out there wanting to be adjunct professors, they’re wanting to be active in their community as opposed to being active in the community in a building. Any thoughts about that?
Brad: Well, I’ll tell you one quick thing. This whole digital myth that we talked about, what’s happened is that our generation coming into this, we’re not digital natives. Our children are, but our generation has so discovered and embraced online and email and you can sit there and say Facebook has 2 billion people that are using that. But they discovered they can chase their curiosities into action because they learned about it and then follow up to do, to travel, to teach. It’s an active part of their planning process. Especially as Brian said, when you shop, you do more homework now than you used to when you’re reaching for a Groupon or a discount offer. No. I’ll spend a little more because I’ve done my homework because I have this QTR hanging over me and I’m going to make this purchase last.
Rick: One other quote of yours that stuck out to me when we talked is that baby boomers, you said, are the most experienced consumers on earth, and I thought that was really insightful. As senior living communities are planning where to put their marketing and sales messages, can you tell us a little bit more about how baby boomers consume media? Are they online? How do they spend their time online? Are they offline and how do they, how do they seek advice for those services?
Brian: Really interesting. I think that there are still some people that think they get all their information from 10:00 coffee at McDonald’s or something. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Statistically, 78 percent of boomers will use the internet this month. Eighty percent use social media. Sixty five percent are on smartphones. Sixty four year olds watch almost 43 hours of streaming TV a week. You have to look past the numbers. We are very aware and proponents of digital media, let me just say that. Some resources will push clients to ignore traditional media all together. And I think that the key is the right mix. This target audience is still reading newspapers. Last time I looked, there were still TV commercials on television. Radio is still active in certain areas, and outdoor.
So we think it’s probably a mix, Rick, and we think that you’ve got to go heavy digital. You don’t even begin to have that conversation, especially with the target audience on their computers and their smartphones. But let’s not just forget traditional media because one of the things that you talked to us about was how do you stand out. I think you stand out by using the right media and matching that with the right message. And again, we’re going to get back to tonality because tonality is where people really miss the mark. So whether it’s a newspaper ad or it’s a brochure or it’s a TV commercial, getting the message right and having it feel to this audience that it was created just for them and you get them. And that it’s their music and it’s their nostalgia, and whatever you use, but they’re going to say “this was a message that was crafted for me and how I think. They get me.” And number two, how to stand out in that media. I think that it’s the same thing we’ve been saying for 40 years, but nobody is talking to this target audience like they’re normal when they have the same issues as any other target audience.
Brad: It’s one thing to make them the butt of a joke in a TV spot, but hear the facts about shopping and seniors. Think about this. Seniors buy one out of two new cars. Seniors are driving well into their seventies and eighties and that should scare a lot of us, including whether we lose our license. But the fact remains that those seniors, which were in their twenties, thirties and forties, and they were negotiating to buy a car, what did you do? You went into the showroom, you listen to the guy who made the proposal and then he went to the manager to see if we can work out that price. People today, including seniors, will download the factory invoices, figure out which of the dealers will participate and they’re not the gullible seniors that are victims of fraud, which is a problem. They’re the seniors that go in and have the information already when that salesman tries to sell them a more expensive package or to suggest they could never meet that price. Guess what? I’ve your invoice right here. I’m ready to bargain. So they are shrewd. They are shrewd consumers because as we’ve said, they’ve had decades of experience on how to negotiate, how to do homework and they do want a discount, but they also are looking at this as wealth preservation.
Brian: And they feel like they’ve earned it. I mean, they don’t get credit for, for a lot they did in their lives and they still want to feel special. They still want that discount or the or the coupon or whatever still matters. Not as being cheap, but just being smart. I want to get back to tonality for just a second, Rick, because with the cruise line industry, it’s an interesting thing. They have broken stereotypes of this target audience in a good way. They will use romance as an example. They will use humor. They will use all the tried and true creative and production issues that for some reason, when this target gets to be 60 or 65, people think that they can look at schlock and it’ll work. It doesn’t work that way. I got my first flyer the other day for a symposium on cremation. There’s two things that make me feel old. When I get those flyers in the mail — and I didn’t go to that symposium, by the way. But the other thing is when I buy online and you scroll down to your birthday, you scroll and you scroll and you scroll until you hit 1953, that’s one of those things that wake you up as a consumer.
Rick: Well, you guys have given us a lot of great information about how to cut through that crowded market. We are constantly bombarded with messages today and what I’ve heard from you is that seniors, baby boomers especially, are doing research online. They’re also doing research offline and they’re very prepared for those conversations and the purchases that they make.
Brian: And they are really sensitive to how the message is delivered and not just the message.
Brad: One quick point that you just triggered. We handled one of the most noted mortuary services/cemeteries on the on the planet. A big part of our marketing assignment was to promote pre-need, which is that really tough subject of picking the plot for the family based on your last wishes and where you want to lay to rest. And that is a very analogous that I think this boomer generation, who on the one hand is caring for their aging parents, but they’re thinking about it too. We thought about as we transitioned our parents there and that pre-need includes how you’re talking to them about this in this advertising tonality and in their own language. And don’t make it a generic, big white paint brush. Get very specific, but get very real because when you know when the characters are real, people lean into the message. When they smell a fake imposter, they move away. Great films always have a combination of old characters as well as the young guys, and when they were together you’ve got a hit. And I think there’s a lot of learning that you had us think about even just inviting us to be on this podcast.
Brian: Yeah, I think there’s a hotel chain, I forget which one it is, a Comfort Inn or something, that had a long running campaign that was designed with the business traveler in mind. And they had business people come together and say what they would want from a business hotel. I think talking to boomers about what they want from a community now is really smart, and they’re going to feel ownership and it will change. I think that communities need to get ahead of the curve when it comes to doing some of these kinds of things. Again, like cruise ships are.
Rick: Yeah, those are all great points. I think especially as, as time goes on, our messages are going to need to change and the human element becomes really important to that advertising and to those messages that senior care and senior living communities are sending out. We also talked at one point about home builders and how they’re addressing aging in place. That seems to a popular trend among some of the older baby boomers. Can you give our listeners an example of that and what impacts will trends like that have on senior care and senior living communities?
Brad: The first answer is a huge impact, right? We’ve seen the data. You’ve seen the data that people’s big goal is to age in place as long as possible. And in so doing, all these new communities, all these new senior living communities are vulnerable to a delay in the occupancy numbers that the model was built on. What we’ve found is something that I remember in our own house. So you start to make the house more livable for the aging person, right? That’s the usual things, like the grab bars in the showers, but now that you have technology like Nest. These companies are figuring out people are staying in their homes, and they’re turning them into smart homes. The smart builders, the KB Homes of the world, are making smart home building decisions. The obvious one is building a single story home. You really have to have a single story or you better have elevators. One of the other.
Secondly, you have the ability to light the flooring when you get out of bed in the middle of night so that you can have a lit path on the way to your trip. Or even including ramps. In our personal case, on my wife’s side of the family, they stayed in their own home until they were 91 and 94 respectively until they passed away. How did they do that in addition to having the financial wherewithal? Instead of putting a down payment on a senior community they put that money into a third or fourth bedroom knowing that a live-in nurse on 24 hour basis would have the room and the privacy. Plan the ramp when the wall walker and the wheelchair become a reality. And that again is this big difference that I think marketers should be talking about now. Not to be afraid that they’re delaying that decision. But to let them know that you think about it.
Brian: I think the way to start that is by looking at what they want in a bigger way. Independence, security, health, and then seeing the home builders asking, “what can we do for that?” And I think seniors need to know that these communities are addressing the same thing. It’s about independence. It’s about dignity. And I’m not saying they’re not doing this now, but to use those drivers that are especially important to boomers, about not wanting to be treated as a stereotype. That next stage of life isn’t like it was with my parents. But to have a place that says we get independence, here’s what we’re doing. We get the fact that you want less regimentation. We get the fact that you want less formal, more casual. We get the fact that you’re active and here’s how we’re addressing that. Whatever those big issues are that this target wants, address those early on so that you have a counterargument to someone who says, the reason I wanted to stay in my house is for this reason. It’s like, “we got that.”
Don’t make them feel like they moved into a rest home, which is what we used to call these. They moved in to their own home or they’re staying in their own home. My favorite discovery in this process, Rick, is a community in Colorado called Aspen Ridge, and Aspen Ridge had this wonderful “a-ha” moment that their own community came up with. Let’s have our own craft brewery started right here on the premises. They were at 50 percent occupancy when the idea came up. They invested $23,000 to start craft brewing their own beer. As they say, they envision, they brew, they bottle and then they drink it. They are producing 12 different varieties by the end of the first year and occupancy was up to 100 percent because it combined a lot of things — a passion, staying active, a sense of community and something different than another game of Canasta.
Rick: That’s great. It’s such great information. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. I love that Aspen Ridge example to illustrate unique and interesting ways that senior living and senior care communities can really up their game in terms of their sales and marketing and the activities that boomers really connect with.
Brian: They have a unique point of view and a place that has a personality and an attitude that’s different.
Brad: If I could live on a golf course and make my own beer, I think I know where I’m going.
Rick: Well, last question for you guys. Where can our listeners find you if they’d like to have a conversation?
Brian: It’s pretty easy, I hope they do want to find us. Our email is email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love people to check out silveradvertising.com. We have a blog. It’s the-silver-rush.com. We would love to chat so we appreciate this opportunity and it’s been a lot of fun.
Brad: I’d like to say one last thing. Your listeners in the business they’re in should know that the gold rush was a big idea but the silver rush is here. That silver rush is going to bring back silver dollars for their business and we’re excited about it. And as Brian said, we thank you for the opportunity to let us go beyond our timeline here.
Rick: I tell you, such great information here today guys. Thank you so much for your willingness to share your expertise with our listeners. We’re definitely better for it. And that about wraps our show up today. Thank you so much for listening to the Senior Care Growth Show, where senior care and senior living sales and marketing leaders go to grow. Your listenership is greatly appreciated. We’ll see you next time.