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The Future is 60+: How Brands Can Target Seniors Through Packaging Design

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 11/02/2016 | 4 Minute Read

The millennial generation certainly gets a lot of attention from companies and businesses. But for a truly loyal base of customers who are willing to pay for quality products and services, brands should be looking elsewhere.

As part of their annual Consumer Generations Whitepaper, Tetra Pak shifted the focus from people in their 20s and 30s to those who are 60+. Currently, this age group is massively underserved with only 1% of global innovation directly targeted towards them. But by the year 2050 they will make up over 20% of the world’s population. How can brands improve their packaging to market to seniors while also solving the particular problems experienced by this rapidly growing demographic?

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In a fast-paced world, brands must fight to constantly engage consumers or they risk being forgotten once something better comes along. However, Tetra Pak’s research discovered that once seniors find a brand that satisfies them, 30% don’t bother to experiment to find new ones. Whereas younger generations may seek out less expensive or trendier options, the 60+ audience prefers familiarity and finds a certain comfort in products on which they can rely.

Not only are they more loyal, but this age group desires a certain level of quality that they’re more than happy (and able) to pay for. In the United States alone, the disposable income of those 55-64 is twice as much as those under 25. Libby Costin, VP Global Marketing at Tetra Pak, mentioned, “[Seniors] have more disposable income than previous generations, and are poised to become one of the most important consumer groups over the next decade with a total spending power of US$10 trillion by 2020. This creates a huge opportunity for manufacturers to respond to their needs.”

While seniors have disposable income, they want to spend it primarily on goods and services that will vastly improve their lives. Those over 60 cited good health and strong family relationships as the most important factors for a healthy life, while material possessions ranked significantly lower. To truly appeal to seniors, a product or service cannot merely be outstanding or innovative; instead, it must also tie into some of the core values of the 60+ crowd, such as healthy aging, an active lifestyle, tradition, and family.

Packaging design for seniors

It’s hard to imagine how aging genuinely affects the body, but for seniors it can pose an everyday challenge to simply generate the necessary force to open some of their favorite products. The next time you struggle to open a jar, bottle, or box, imagine the frustration an 80 year-old woman (who averages half of the grip strength of a 30 year-old woman) must experience in the same situation. In addition to strength issues, loss of focus and decreased light transmission lowers the ability to read labels.

“The key point is that we know seniors may have some challenges, so keep it simple,” advised Julia Sotera, Director Marketing Services, Tetra Pak Americas. “The clean label is something that should play a role here, but also don’t forget that the design is part of the value proposition. Link this with the proposition of the whole product—this is key in design.” Research proved that effective packaging for those over 60 possesses five important attributes that seniors want and need:

Visual communication - Graphics, colors, images, and typography should take the consumer on a journey, but in a clear and defined way.

Legibility - Text must be easy to read. Small fonts, pale colors, and low contrasts negatively impact label readability.

Opening - Not only should it be physically easy to open and close, but it must be incredibly clear to the consumer how to open the item.

Handling - Due to decreased strength and rheumatic disorders, package shape and weight should make it easy to hold and use.

Perishability - For food and drink items, innovative seals can increase shelf life and lead to fewer trips to the store for those who struggle with mobility.

Most importantly, though: seniors don’t want to be marketed to as “seniors.” Ask anyone over 50, and they’ll likely tell you they feel younger than their actual age by 10 years or more. “They don’t feel old and they don’t want to be treated as old,” Costin stated. To target seniors, brands must focus on their needs and values rather than how old they are. After all, age is just a number.