One rewarding aspect of being involved in marketing to a changing and burgeoning segment is developing business relationships worldwide with like-minded colleagues. My travels have afforded me opportunities to meet and collaborate with Boomer marketing notables such as Dick Stroud in the United Kingdom, Arjan in't Veld in Holland, Jean-Paul Tréguer in France, and Hiroyuki Murata in Japan.
Following Dick Stroud’s referral last year, I met Kim Walker, an Australian at birth but a globetrotter who has spent much of his career living elsewhere. Kim and I have had numerous email exchanges and long video teleconferences via Skype.
He asked me to be part of his board of advisors (joining Dick Stroud from the UK), and I have appreciated playing a small role in the development of Kim’s marketing consultancy, appropriately called SILVER.
First, let me explain why this firm exists and share with you some background about its founder.
Like many of us who come from the advertising agency industry, Kim spent his advertising career targeting young consumers, from teens to young adults in their late 30’s — but rarely those over 45.
Then, in May 2005, something dramatic happened that shook him to the core: He turned 50. And around the same time, so too did many of his peers, clients and friends. Yet he noticed that advertising continued to focus on younger groups.
He studied demographic research and realized the marketing industry had become blinkered by habit. Marketers were obsessed with younger markets, but executives were missing a phenomenon unique in the history of the world. Kim decided to help companies capture this overlooked opportunity, and he is well-equipped to be such a trailblazer.
Working mainly in the marketing communications field, Kim has held local and regional C-suite positions in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo. Most recently he was President and CEO for M&C Saatchi in Asia. He has also been a senior executive with Carat Asia Pacific and Bates Worldwide. He has launched new operations or led acquisitions in most Asian markets. He’s also an entrepreneur, having founded three successful start-up businesses of his own. His Japan business was awarded Ad Age Global Media Innovator of the Year 2000 for creating transparency in the Japan media marketplace.
So, I'd like to introduce you to an Australian, songwriter, adventurer, photographer, philanthropist, speaker and dad (two teen girls). He’s a marketer’s marketer who has some innovative ideas for business development in the Asia Pacific region.
SILVER is the realization of Kim’s dream following his jolting wake-up call. The firm is the first strategic business and marketing consultancy in Asia Pacific focused on Boomers. The firm has accumulated unique insights and knowledge into this market segment using a brain trust of global advisors and partners. SILVER has three primary areas of service:
1) INFORM with unique research, data and downloadable SilverMatters™ insight reports.
2) ADVISE to help companies grow and to increase understanding through a proprietary SilverBullet™ strategic process, training, executive briefings and speeches.
3) CONNECT businesses to the senior market through refined brand positioning plus relevant and targeted communications strategy.
I interviewed Kim Walker to gain a better understanding of the opportunities awaiting US and European companies that develop strategies to target Boomers in the Asia Pacific region.
What defines and describes the Asia Pacific (APAC) Boomer market?
Contrast. We have the oldest, largest and fastest growing 50-plus populations in the world. Yet these regions reflect remarkable diversity: Anglo-Saxon cultures of Australia and New Zealand; the Confucian cultures of Japan and China; the Indian (filial piety) cultures; and the advanced city-state cultures of Singapore and Hong Kong.
What are some significant similarities between Western born Boomers and Boomers born in APAC?
We know very strong similarities exist with Australian/New Zealand Boomers but as for the truly ‘Asian’ countries, the primary similarities would be world-event related. APAC Boomers have heard much of the popular classic rock music: The Beatles and Rolling Stones, for example. And they were certainly aware of the Boomers’ major defining war: Vietnam (although few Asian countries were involved in the conflict).
What are some significant differences?
APAC Boomers usually have an extraordinarily strong sense of family and responsibilities to their families even in retirement. These countries typically venerate the old. (But this perpetuates a negative stereotype!)
Why should marketers become more knowledgeable about Boomers in Asia Pacific?
As in the USA and elsewhere, Boomers across Asia represent a lucrative and virtually ignored market opportunity. But that’s where the similarity ends. Even within and among the Asian countries, attitudes and opinions vary — as our survey data demonstrates.
APAC 50+ spending power will hit US $2 trillion by 2015. The 50+ group is growing five times faster than overall population growth. They have the money and the time to spend it. They have been largely ignored and are therefore fertile ground for businesses to make inroads — particularly attractive in these tough economic times.
What is an example of a major “ah-ha” that your research analysis has revealed so far?
Attitudes and behaviors of Boomers in a particular country will be strongly influenced by the average age of the country and its economic and social maturity. In some ways, there are more similarities between Boomers in ‘older’ countries like Japan and Australia than between Boomers in many ‘Asian’ countries.
Is ageism a problem in APAC countries?
Very much so. Society and the seniors themselves must jointly shoulder the blame. Some views of aging are born from Confucian values that place older people on a pedestal: as decrepit but wise. Boomers in many Asian countries see themselves as being the ‘same age or older’ than their real age. This is a total contrast to Western society where, on average, Boomers see themselves as being 13 years younger than their real age.
What can US consumer brand marketers gain from understanding Boomers in Asia Pacific?
Asian boomers are not the same as their Western counterparts, and even among Asians they differ greatly. The one thing they have in common is their relative wealth and the time to spend it.
Culture will affect the way they spend discretionary assets, so it’s critical for marketers to understand these nuances. Consider travel and tourism as an example. Rather than taking an extravagant dream vacation, Asian Boomers are more likely to pay for the entire family to travel somewhere together. Their consumption will be less conspicuous as they feel the need to justify any self-indulgence to their family and peers.
Kim Walker is a man who has traveled far, both as a marketing executive and as the father of two nearly grown daughters. He has developed a unique perspective of the opportunities waiting for businesses that learn how to tap the wealth of Boomers in APAC countries.