By Susan Saldibar

When I first saw the Super Bowl Google ad with the husband asking Alexa to help him remember his wife, Loretta, I didn’t know how I felt about it. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of using technology to store such intimate memories. But that was beside the point. There was way more that I liked about it, namely that . . .

  1. the husband was clearly aware of his situation.
  2. the husband was using technology to improve his life. 
  3. the husband was in control.

I realize that it was the messaging of this ad that made it memorable. It wasn’t just a pull on the heartstrings. It had intelligence.

Outside the Box

I talked about that ad recently with Rachel Fox, Creative Director for Sage Age Strategies (a Senior Living Foresight partner). Rachel agrees that messaging makes a huge difference, and she continues to be amazed at how dramatically it has changed in the marketing for senior living. She talked about the old days. “When I started, you had to fit the mold. I would submit a creative idea only to hear, ‘This doesn’t look like senior living.’ I always had to go back and make adjustments.” The goal, back then, was to never veer away from traditional words, phrases, and imagery to describe senior living. Once things started to change, however, they changed quickly. 

Being in front of the curve, Rachel has always been quick to push the creative envelope. What’s great is that her clients are “getting it” more than ever before. “I recently had interesting feedback that I took as a compliment,” she tells me. “We were doing a brand-refresh pitch for a client. He looked at the ad series with this huge, big, bold headline. He looked surprised and said, ‘This feels like an ad for a boutique hotel or trendy restaurant.’  We said, ‘We know. And you won’t miss it. It will stop the reader.’ And it did! They’ve actually been running this campaign for several months, they love it!” 

Break the Shackles

Okay. So all this is great. But the reality is that most senior living communities remain shackled to old, stereotypical messaging. I asked Rachel to share some of her wisdom in terms of what senior living marketers can do to freshen it up.

Here is what Rachel had to say:

  • Out with the “nursing home” messaging. Today’s seniors are “younger” in views and attitudes. The takeaway is to “Start by doing the unexpected.” You can always reel it back, which we sometimes end up doing.
  • Treat your audience as human beings. Because they are! Ageism is on the way out. Seniors know how old they are. You don’t need to push those buttons with copy. Everyone is different. Modify the copy to fit the person reading it. Nothing is cookie-cutter anymore. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all-seniors messaging.
  • Meet them where they are. They’re older but they still have lives. They still have likes and dislikes, like the Loretta ad shows. Here’s a man who may be 85 but you’d never peg him to be. At the end of the ad, he takes his dog for walk. He’s still living at home and caring for a pet. He just needs help with little things he’s concerned he might forget.
  • No more images of aging hands! That’s so cliché. We recently pitched collateral pieces for hospice care. At the meeting, the client said, “We’re so glad you didn’t show holding hands.” Imagery is changing. It needs to look more realistic, less staged. Actual photos of residents that are fun go a long way. Do a photoshoot. Get the right residents. Just think, no one else will have that photo.
  • Try digital ads. You can experiment and change it out if something doesn’t work. Of course, print will never die but digital is getting more popular. You can hyper-target, do geo-fencing, Pay Per Click, etc. And digital is easy to make changes to. You can easily do A/B testing. You get more bang for your buck. Besides, that’s where adult children go to research senior living. They don’t have a lot of time, so they want to find what they need right away, online.

Ultimately, as Rachel explains, it’s up to marketers to drive messaging change in senior living. “Your job is to push the envelope every chance you get,” Rachel tells marketers. “You’ll get pushed back in line. But, hopefully, not all the way. So, if you make a hard left off the beaten path but get pushed back, you’ll likely end up somewhere in between. That’s progress. Keep pushing!”

For more information about Sage Age Strategies, please visit their website.