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Marketing Engagement Stories — Landis Communities

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Last week we had the privilege to speak at LeadingAge Pennsylvania’s annual conference on “The End of Advertising. The Advent of Engagement.” There was a lot of enthusiasm for Creating Results’ definition of engagement: “the act of turning people on to your brand in a way that improves business.”

Definition of marketing engagement - Creating Results

Many attendees asked for additional ideas and best practices, so we’re kicking off a new series of posts – the “Engagement Stories.”

Our co-presenter in Hershey was Larry Guengerich of Landis Communities. The perfect senior living provider to kick off this series! Here is their story of creative (and effective) marketing engagement.

Where would Landis recommend other senior living communities focus their initial marketing engagement efforts?

Who better to “turn people on to your brand” than your employees and others invested in your organization’s success?

Guengerich says that engagement goes beyond the responsibility of the marketing and communications department at Landis.  When you think about marketing engagement as “the act of turning people on to your brand in a way that improves business” … keeping employees, board members and the members of the Lancaster community engaged with the organization is key to meeting their business goals. In this case, Landis is better able to offer safe homes, good jobs, excellent care and ample opportunities for all to demonstrate joy, compassion, integrity, stewardship and community (Landis’ core values).

One of the best ways to be engaging in your marketing is through “experiences”. But Landis doesn’t limit “engaging experiences” to just selling to their prospects.

Larry Zook, President/CEO of Landis Communities routinely facilitates communication throughout the organization by hosting “conversations with the president” events. As he explained in a recent blog post, Landis Communities is very intentional about hiring employees who, as one employee’s put it wants “to see their job not as what they have to get done, but to be at Landis Homes to bless residents and co-workers.”

How can you emulate this in your organization?

Zook advises that servant leaders should listen intently to what team members are passionate about, and then be a conduit of vision and necessary resources to support the team as they carrying out their mission.

Source: Landis Communities

Source: Landis Communities

This is exactly what happened with Landis Communities “living green ” initiative. A humble recycling program has grown into a culture of “being good stewards of natural resources” for employees, current and future residents.

A recent Landis Homes Facebook post illustrates how this offline engagement translated into online, marketing engagement. The shareable content shows the passions of residents involved in the living green initiative and invites others to join them in eradicating invasive plant species from a small woods on the campus of Landis Homes.

Good for the environment and an illustration of how living at a Landis Community fosters a sense of purpose among residents, employees and others engaged with the organization.

What advice can you give for reaching people not yet involved with your organization?

Engage your greater community, says Zook.

When Landis Communities was planning to build Steeple View Lofts – urban loft-style 55+ apartments in walkable downtown Lancaster, Zook says they “connected with the local “village movement” group, the Lancaster Downtowners, and invited them to fill two of four focus groups.” The Lancaster Downtowners are persons age 62+ who live throughout Lancaster City. They engage with each other in social and educational activities, plus they have an on-call volunteer support coordinator to help each other as needs arise – the ideal folks to give Landis unique perspective on a new type of housing for their organization to sponsor.

The Downtowners shared insights that were ultimately incorporated into the design of Steeple View Lofts. One such suggestion was including community rooms, each with a unique purpose on every floor.

These rooms have been a significant contributor to the sense of community among the residents. For instance residents use them for pot lucks  they organize to get to know their neighbors from every floor. Those pot lucks demonstrate the vibrant community spirit, and have become a marketing point for Landis.

Please leave us a comment below with your creative marketing engagement stories! And subscribe to this blog for more inspiration on how to keep engaging ALL of your stakeholders.

Laboring Baby Boomers

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Yesterday, the United States celebrated Labor Day. According to the United State Department of Labor, “Labor Day … constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Each year, fewer of those workers are baby boomers, as millions of the cohort have retired in recent years. 

With the aging of baby boomers, we see three labor force trends.

Decline in labor force participation by people 55+

Between the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2013, about 5.5 million more people retired. Business Insider reported this as a 16% increase. Despite this, the publication notes, “the labor force participation rate for those 55 years of age and over has only been falling for the last year, whereas the total labor force participation rate has been falling for over five years.”

Chart - baby boomer labor force participation - Business Insider

Source: Business Insider / Matthew Boesler

USA Today reports:

About 76% of those leaving the workforce in 2013 last year represented people over age 55 who say they don’t want jobs, the Labor Department estimates.

“Arithmetically, the Boomers will keep pushing (participation) down done for another 15 years,” said Dean Maki, economist at investment bank Barclays.

Rising 55+ entrepreneurship

Many of the baby boomers who are “retiring” may actually be redefining employment by starting their own ventures. Their age group (born 1946-1964) has had the largest increase in entrepreneurial activity over the last decade, per the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. A 2011 study by Civic Ventures found that  25% of Americans ages 44 to 70 were interested in starting businesses or nonprofit ventures within 5 to 10 years.

Encore careers – a match made in economic heaven?

Boomers are also pursuing new jobs, whether full- or part-time, often called “encore careers.”women-wPlant

Non-profit organization Encore.org reports that boomer interest in encore careers rose 17% between 2011 and 2014.

“More than 25 million Americans 50 to 70 years old are eager to share their skills, passions and expertise in encore careers that address social needs, typically in education, health care, human services and the environment, according to a 2014 study by Encore.org and Penn Schoen Berland. Of this larger group, more than 4.5 million, or 6 percent, are already working for social impact. Another 21 million are ready to join them, nearly six in ten within the next five years.”

Why should boomers want to try a second act, a new chapter in employment? As we noted in a 2012 post called “Re-Thinking Retirement: 6 Lessons For Marketers,” “Work during retirement provides a paycheck … and much more.” 

Baby boomers pursue these encore careers for a mix of reasons, primary among them a sense of purpose. Meeting financial needs and/or earning enough to maintain their lifestyle are also important. 


Now that the Labor Day cookouts have ended, and we’re all back to work (sigh), marketers should consider what impact these trends will have on boomer lifestyle and purchase decisions. Then apply those insights to your marketing program. You’ll find your own labors become more effective.

RELATED:  Re-Thinking Retirement: 6 Lessons For Marketers

Mature Marketing Links of the Week – 7/15/13

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Busy week ahead! Let’s dive right in to our round-up of links and resources useful to mature marketing pros.

1. MOST CLICKED: An interesting discussion on the average age of Facebook workers, begun by thought-leader Jeremiah Owyang. He posted:

“Am I too old to work at Facebook? Since the median age at Facebook is 28 (reports the NYT) and many start the workforce at 22, then 34 is considered one of the oldest ages at Facebook … This means I’m a few years older than some of the oldest, and would be considered elderly to the younger folks.”

The “elderly” Owyang was riffing off a New York Times article that looked at the ages of employees at successful tech companies. Only six of the 32 companies they surveyed had a median age greater than 35 years old; eight had a median employee age of 30 or younger. The technology companies with the “oldest” workers were B2B and were older companies themselves, organizations like Hewlett Packard (median age 41), IBM (median age 38) and Sony (median age 36).

The New York Times article cited an HR expert who said this age discrepancy was a function of skills, but several of Owyang’s Facebook followers took issue with that.

Snippet Facebook conversation re age of technology workers

“My brain might be getting full and bones might be a bit cracking, but my heart and passion say I’m a 20 something~ count me in!” wrote Susie Shulman Weitzman. “This might also explain why Facebook isn’t exactly scoring an A+ in execution. Lots of good ideas but not enough experience from other industries and sectors to fill the execution gap” wrote Olivier Blanchard.

My take is that Facebook and other companies are missing an opportunity when they hire so few older workers. Their business models are based on advertising; advertisers want people to buy their products; the people with discretionary income in the US are over 50. So those who sell advertising should better reflect the ultimate targets.

Why should readers of this mature marketing blog care about the age of tech workers? Because more and more the products / services they deliver are being incorporated into your marketing programs. If they don’t understand your customers and prospects, will they be able to help you succeed? Will you struggle to find 50+ user-friendly digital tools to help you meet your goals?

Read Owyang’s post & related comments: http://on.fb.me/16DOBWK

Read the NY Times article that sparked this all: http://nyti.ms/15fu380

What do you think? Share your comments below.


2. MOST COMMENTED: Customers are a marketing method if you’re smart, writes Christopher S. Penn in a post we shared on Twitter.

Photo: Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services

Photo: Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services

“Think about the oxymoron that is most companies’ customer service. It’s treated as a cost center in nearly every P&L statement at every company. How can we reduce costs? How can we get customers off the phone faster? How can we close cases faster? Then go look at a handful of companies’ Facebook pages and see what customers are saying. The ones who get that customers are not a cost, that customers are a marketing method, invest in the things that cost money and the results are strong word of mouth marketing and evangelism. The ones who don’t get it (hint: choose a telecom provider or an airline Facebook Page to look at) get lit up like a Christmas tree for their poor service.”

Several folks shared their thoughts and additional reading. @SMXchat wrote “as eksays customer service is the new PR; care about your customers & they do your marketing.” We tweeted back “How about seeing new PR as customer service? Provide relevant content that improves lives.” @cspenn himself said “Our friend jaybaer calls that Youtility.”

We’ve seen how customer service / Youtility is particularly effective in marketing to older adults, because seniors reward brands that make their lives easier. Ask any successful senior living organization how important referrals are and you’ll see the ROI.

Read Penn’s post: http://bit.ly/16DPXkq

Read Jay Baer’s post on Youtility: http://bit.ly/13Kl6HR

Read an eksays post which includes customer expectations for response times in social media (HINT: now!): http://bit.ly/18Y3MjQ


Let us know what you think below. Happy Monday!

Re-Thinking Retirement – 6 Lessons For Marketers

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Last week I had the privilege of attending an event that made me smile, think and act. The occasion was the launch of Retirement on the Line, a new book by anthropologist Caitrin Lynch based on her 5 year study of eldersourcing at the Vita Needle factory in Needham, MA.

For your own smiles, read what 100-year-old employee Rosa Finnegan and her fellow panelists had to say on this blog post by Kevin Burke,  CEO of North Hill Communities (a leading Massachusetts CCRC and the event sponsor).

For thinking and acting, here are 6 key lessons for marketers from the launch event.

1) Work during retirement years provides a paycheck …. and much more.

If you stopped working today, what else besides money would you miss? When Lynch put that question to the panel of Vita Needle employees last week, every single one responded “the people.” 40-something Dave Shumway said “It may be cliche, but it’s family.” This factory provides elders with people who care for them and who they can care for. The connections are strong and critical to enjoying retirement years.

Getting a paycheck is part of the equation, of course, but it often signifies something different for many of these older workers. One gentleman basically works to afford more travel!

Other benefits? 82-year-old Joe Reddington would miss “the being busy. And using the brain to work out problems.” 76-year-old Bob O’Mara said he’d miss “the chance to feel meaningful and busy and contributing.”

Marketing Take-Away: Marketing a retirement community or a fitness center or a club? To illustrate the benefits of becoming a part of that “family,” find ways to use the first-hand testimonials of the family members. Traditions of America encourages homeowners to describe what they like best about their active adult community in videos posted on YouTube and their website. The results are quite motivating when you hear a real owner like Judi Whitehouse say “we have a great family here.”

2) Retirement work needs to feel different than work at other life stages.

The median age of Vita Needle employees is 74. They include retired teachers, retired GM line workers, retired bank execs, retired architects …

Mike LaRosa is Vita Needle’s Operations Manager. He’s been with the company for about 20 years. He commented after the event that many of his employees had far loftier titles, far more important jobs and made far more pre-retirement than he may make if he stays at Vita Needle for another 20 years. Those titles and positions are not important in their retirement work.

Even for those elders who did factory or machinist work during their career, Vita Needle work is different. It offers flexible hours and different experiences.

Marketing Take-Away: If even work in retirement needs to feel different than other life stages, what is that unique benefit your product or service offers that is different than the benefits the buyer would have enjoyed earlier in their life? How will life experiences be different – how will they mean more – when your target retires?

3) Rich connections are forged when old and young work together.

Old and young working together. Photo courtesy Vita Needle.

Vita Needle’s business model is based on a workforce of part-timers. That means elders and teenagers and everyone in between. The factory has workers born in almost every decade of the last century. At the North Hill program last week, you could see the obvious friendship and respect. And you could hear them laughing frequently, together, with humor that cut across the ages.

Marketing Take-Away: Create and foster intergenerational connections whenever possible. These can be simple – Westminster at Lake Ridge has a grandparents day each year that is tremendously popular – or a bigger part of the culture – Lasell Village encourages residents to mentor and advise students on the Lasell College campus, and students work throughout the Village.

These old-young connections can distinguish you from your competitors. Fairing Way is a new community on Boston’s South Shore. One of the most unique and most motivating aspects of Fairing Way is that it is in the heart of an all-ages master-planned community. As Fairing Way put it on their website, “we prefer friendly greetings to gates … wide open spaces to closed doors … laughter to limits. We believe most active adults value these things as well.”  

4) Under the right circumstances, work arrangements can benefit employers and also workers.

It’s a win-win for employees: they get paid and do what they want in retirement. (Bob the traveler is a perfect example.)

It’s a win-win for Vita Needle: they get a dedicated, skilled workforce without having to pay for benefits/full-time perks. With the old people, they can leverage the wide experience of their workers. And they bring with them an incomparable work ethic. LaRosa said “work ethic is something people learn from experience.”

Marketing Take-Away: LaRosa says managing older workers isn’t magic. “You have to look at the individual as that: an individual. Not an older individual, not a younger individual. An individual.” What a great idea for marketers, as well!

5) Membership and mattering are key values for today’s older Americans.

Many of the workers told Prof. Lynch that outside of Vita Needle they are unrecognized or even invisible. Many old people feel that way. “Old people just want to matter,” said Lynch.

My own  parents definitely find ways to matter. They are nearing 80 and living independently. Each is very visible in community groups, serving on boards related to historic preservation (Mom) and justice issues (Dad). But Mom and Dad are lucky – no health issues keep them from getting to meetings several nights a week or mentoring youth during the day. Transportation and health prevent many who try to age in place from being full members who matter.

Marketing Take-Away: Life can be like a funnel, where the number of people we connect with daily shrinks as we age. Does your retirement community marketing tell the story of aging like an hourglass, where social connections actually swell? Willow Valley Retirement Communities has more than a hundred clubs where you can find membership and feel you matter. The marketing team wisely features these clubs in a special brochure and on the website.

6) The lifestage called “retirement” can use some re-thinking.

Lynch described looking at retirement cards at her local pharmacy. There are cards that feature pictures of fishing, or drawings that show torn-up calendars, melting clocks, vanishing to do lists … When the reality is that people will have 30 years of “retirement,” is fishing and nothingness what they really want to do?

When asked what would happen if he couldn’t work at Vita Needle, Joe Reddington said “I’d get rotten if I didn’t work.” Rotten like a tomato on the ground. What are his plans for the rest of his retirement? “I expect to retire for real some day. And then die. I’d rather die at my bench.”

Marketing Take-Away: Make sure your marketing campaigns do not use outdated imagery to depict retirement living. Vita Needle is the right and remarkable answer to the needs of the Joe and many other retirees. However, not every retiree wants to work in retirement. Marketers must illustrate the many, varied opportunities available in retirement. Our marketing must be relevant and appealing to segments of one, each re-thinking and re-defining retirement for themselves.

What are you thinking or re-thinking about retirement? Please share your thoughts and actions in the comments below.

Happy Labor Day! The Recession and Older Workers

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Two new sources of data, statistics and insight into how the current economic conditions are affecting mature consumers.  First, the Pew Research Center finds that the majority of 65+ers (Silent Generation members) keep working because they want to and that older workers are happier on the job than younger workers.   However, as the AARP Economic Team notes in a July report, the unemployment rate for people over 55 has increased more sharply than for other age groups.

Read Pew’s report, titled “Recession Turns a Graying Workforce Grayer” at http://pewsocialtrends.org/pubs/742/americas-changing-work-force.  According to Pew:

According to one government estimate, 93% of the growth in the U.S. labor force from 2006 to 2016 will be among workers ages 55 and older.

Demographic and economic factors explain some — but not all — of these changes. Attitudes about work also play an important role — in particular, the growing desire of an aging but healthy population to stay active well into the later years of life.

WhySeniorsWork.PewResch(Did you get Labor Day off?  While the burgers cook, we invite you to search this blog.  You’ll find several posts on the desire of Baby Boomers and beyond  to delay retirement, and what that means for marketers.)

AARP’s study, “Older Americans and the Recession,” has several eye-opening charts.  It includes links to research on the impact of stock market woes and disappearing retiree health insurance benefits.  You can find it all at http://www.aarp.org/research/ppi/econ-sec/Other/articles/Older_Americans_and_the_Recession.html.

Working Longer May Delay Dementia

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

British researchers have theorized that working past retirement age can delay dementia.  The Boston Globe theorizes that this may be a benefit to older Americans forced to continue working. 

On one point there is no question: Since the start of the recession, more people nearing or just past retirement age have opted to stay in the workforce. Polina Vlasenko, a researcher at the American Institute for Economic Research, analyzed years of national data and found that the labor force participation rate of people ages 54 to 69 is now at the highest levels on record.

“It is likely that people close to or past retirement age feel the need to work because their retirement savings have suffered in the recent financial crisis,’’ she concluded in her May study.

 There are also several studies that show Boomers and beyond are continuing to work because they WANT to do so.  We call it “un-retirement.”

Whether mature consumers are working because they choose to or because they have to,  marketers need to be aware that they’ll be spending their time and money in different ways.  For example, housing communities that decades ago promoted tennis courts and maj-jong should be looking instead at business centers and home offices.  Todd Harff wrote about the “un-retirement” trend and active adult housing for a Spring 2007 50+ Housing Magazine article titled “Working for a Life (not a living)”.

UnRetirement and Active Adult Housing

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