Let’s set aside the philosophical debate over mobile marketing for a moment. I detest the notion of companies co-opting a private communication channel for commercial use, but it’s swiftly becoming a fact of life. Emerging media appear to begin with the consumer in mind but end with a deluge of marketing messages. Rather than waste my time fighting the trend – that would be a bit like stopping to bail water on the Titanic – I’d like to make the case for expanding the target demographics of these unholy, but effective strategies.

 

Most mobile marketing efforts appear aimed at the coveted 35 and under crowd. That stands to reason as this age bracket is the most familiar with the technology. However this approach is a bit short-sighted, ignoring three important factors: Changing accessibility trends in other demos, acceptance of marketing messages and discretionary income.

 

It’s time to dial up some deals with the gray-hair set!

 

Accessibility

Baby Boomers – the largest single generation in the American market – are dialing on the go in droves. Seniors report using their cell phones an average 30 percent more in the second half of 2008 than the first part of the year [see included graph]. This explosive growth rate is likely to continue as usage benefits spread via word-of-mouth and improved technology eases adoption concerns. The adoption rate in Baby Boomers may not out-pace the younger segments, but it certainly sets the first stone in a case for leveraging mobile tactics in reaching the group.

 

Acceptance

The segment is far more accommodating in its time with marketing messages than younger demos. Several years ago, we conducted a split telemarketing campaign seeking donations from two distinct market segments – young professional (26-35) and near retirees (52-65). Hang ups and angry statements were far more common among the younger set than the older group. The near retirees were more likely to at least allow the telemarketer to finish their appeal before declining. It’s a generational thing – Baby Boomers came of age in a time when the telephone was an instrument of personal communication, not a sales tool. As such, they view the voice on the other end as a person not a faceless corporation or organization. That level of personalization, at least in the minds of Baby Boomers, demands a modicum of respect. That’s a fact mobile marketing campaigns can take to the bank.

 

Big spenders

Baby Boomers, by and large, have far more discretionary income than younger professionals on the upswing of their career paths. Even relatively affluent young professionals face steeper financial commitments than most Baby Boomers. Many Baby Boomers have paid for their houses, own their cars outright and have empty nests. After working so hard for so long, the segment is now in a position and mindset to spend a little.

 

The Final Bark

Proponents of mobile marketing appear avowed to fielding the strategy only in campaigns aimed at younger market segments. They do so to their own peril. As evidence shows, the rather invasive technique may also work to differentiate a firm looking to reach other lucrative segments, like Baby Boomers.

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