Do you identify with every message directed at your age group? My guess: probably not.

The same can be said for other groups, especially senior citizens. Don't assume that just because your product or service is useful to senior citizens that you can market to them as a mass group. People of all ages are complex individuals. It's the nuances that make people who they are, and that's what you have to market to.

When marketing products or services geared toward seniors--such as the Telikin (a touchscreen computer with user-friendly email, video chat, photo management, and web browser software)--you have to look at housing, marital status, social network, income, and, most importantly, ethnic and cultural background. My company's research surrounding healthcare marketing found that there are five important cultural distinctions that should be taken into account by any business marketing to senior citizens, including:

  1. Family.
  2. Community.
  3. Spirituality
  4. Independence.
  5. Education.

Cater to These Cultural Nuances Within Groups

It's crucial to understand how these cultural nuances work within any given community and age group. Here are some key marketing differentiators that you should recognize within three different senior-citizen demographics:

African-American seniors: Family is their principle source of support, and the family unit is where every major decision is made. They're more likely to be caregivers and assist family members. Community, church, and family are foundational to their home and social lives, and spirituality plays a significant role in promoting pride and self-respect through validation of shared beliefs and attitudes within the community.

African-American seniors possess a strong sense of independence and personal pride. They are dominant users of television (97 percent) and newspaper (86 percent) and are primarily consumers of English language over-the-air networks, especially African-American-oriented channels like Bounce TV, TV One, and Centric.

To connect with this group, your marketing should focus on the family, value independence, and be sincere about community involvement.

Hispanic seniors: While Hispanic seniors are unified in language, they come from varied cultural backgrounds. Each group has its own values, traditions, and beliefs, but common key influences in their lives are community, church, and family. Families traditionally include at least three generations, and grandparents see themselves as surrogate parents to grandchildren and the keepers of traditions, language, and heritage.

Hispanic elders typically view imposed change as threatening and are referral-oriented; they want to know someone like them has tried and liked the product or service. They're consumers of television, newspaper, and radio, and they prefer Spanish-speaking media.

When you're marketing toward Hispanic seniors, don't push change until you've built a relationship with the community. Make sure you value cultural traditions and heritage and advertise in both English and Spanish.

Asian-American seniors: The Asian/Pacific Islander classification encompasses diverse cultural groups. Education is important to them because it represents status and success. Saving is also important, and they tend to focus on the group rather than the individual when making decisions. They value social harmony, interdependency, and relationships.

Within the group, seniors are considered assets rather than responsibilities. They consume most media through television, but Asian newspapers are another effective way to reach this audience. Because of their close-knit community, geo-demographic targeting with community media works well.

Your marketing campaigns should focus on education, respect seniors' importance within the community, and market specifically to individual segments such as Indian-Americans and Chinese-Americans.

One-size-fits-all marketing doesn't work for 18- to 24-year-olds, and it certainly doesn't work for seniors, either. People aren't just an age; they're individuals with nuances. When marketing to senior citizens, speak to the primary consumers and their influencers. If you want your marketing efforts to be successful, deliver the message through the most efficient ethnic and general market mediums. Make a point to recognize and embrace consumers' diversity, individual concerns, and cultural nuances, and you'll truly engage them.