Marketing in the Future
American Economy:
Baby Boomers, Aging Millennials and Advertising Strategies

 

Seniors and Aging Millennials Will Shape the Future of the American Economy

In a world where a customer-centric approach to marketing and advertising reigns, nothing is as important as understanding one’s target market - from their age, location and lifestyle, to their motivations, aspirations, challenges, and more.

But what if the face of your main target demographic shifted? What if what they cared about changed dramatically - would you, as a creative professional, be ready to pivot?

The influence of senior citizens is rapidly growing - and is set to have a major impact on the structure of the economy. Current estimates show that by 2060, one in every four Americans will be over 65 years old. To give perspective on how fast the change is happening, in 2010, that figure was closer to 1.3 in every 10 Americans.

So what does this mean in terms of the shape of the economic future?
On the one hand, some predictions are positive. For example, longer life expectancy may lead to longer careers (with many working past the age of 65), which could drum up more business for educational and training organizations, financial institutions (retirement planning), and travel and tourism as many are able to take advantage of their golden years in good health.
On the other hand, there are also concerns over the country’s ability to provide health care and other support services to an aging population.

Why Voice Over is Important to the Future

The human voice is an incredibly effective communication vehicle, able to convey and provoke emotion, as well as bring a brand voice to life. Voice over has long been a useful tool for creative professionals who aim to increase information retention, encourage audience engagement and increase accessibility. It is highly-useful for connecting and communicating with those who are visually impaired.

Additionally, as voice integration and activation becomes increasingly prolific, the human voice will find even more applications - providing the backbone of information delivery for a myriad of products and services, ranging from verbal health records, and medication reminders, to continuing education materials.

Vocal characteristics and voice over applications will vary by industry, hinging on who the target demographic is and how the voice over is being integrated to support a product, or service.

“For a long time, there were limited opportunities for senior voices, as the trend was for younger, middle aged-sounding voices. However, need for the experience, sincerity, and reassurance of a senior voice seems to be bucking this trend. Many clients are finding the older voice often carries more character, weight, patience, and reassurance, and less ‘sell’.” - Mike Drew, Voice Actor, Auckland, NZ

Industry Advancements, Impacts and Predictions

The following outlines both current products and services with voice over applications, and provides future predictions on what is to come, within select industries that will see drastic changes as the population structure of the U.S. morphs. Those industries are:

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Technology & Communications

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Health Care

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Education

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Marketing & Advertising

Technology & Communications

Additionally, this move to specialization will also bode well for freelancers, such as voice over actors, who will be able to differentiate themselves from others by virtue of their honed skills and training.

Of all the industries that are mentioned in this report, technology and communications is unique in that innovation in this sector will help to feed products and services in all others - from health care to education and beyond (both for seniors, as well as caregivers, friends and family).

Voice-activated tech, as well as technology that communicates with the user through voice, are also of particular interest. Not only is communicating with one’s voice a natural inclination, it also provides accessibility for those who face the barrier of visual impairment.

Creative professionals are also excited about the possible applications - Voices.com’s survey revealed that 95% see the emergence of voice-activated devices and voice internet searches as an opportunity and not a threat.

When it comes to tech devices for communications, such as cell phones, tablets and computers, adoption by seniors is on the rise. In 2000, 14% of seniors were Internet users, but today that number is 67%. Historically, it has been common to market tech devices towards younger age groups, but this statistic is just one indicating that marketing can and should be directed towards seniors as well.

Health Care

As life expectancy improves, and the number of seniors also grows, so does the discussion around health care system improvement - as well as interest in strategies for enabling individuals to manage their own health. For instance, this could include improved health monitoring, at-home care, hospital management, improved assisted-living resources, as well as patient and caregiver education, and more.

Products and services that empower individuals to protect and manage their health may reduce the number of visits to the doctor. Additional resources for medical professionals may help alleviate challenges of communication and reduce burden in ERs from readmissions.

Here are some of the considerations around health care for seniors, and how voice over offers potential benefits or enhancements:

Interactive Voice Tech Devices and Health Care Information Delivery

There’s no doubt that from a patient’s perspective, information on what they need to do before or after surgery can be overwhelming - especially when one is emotional or worried over their health or recovery. Pamphlets and written instructions can be helpful, but these may be easy to misplace or hard to read. For the health care system, this may mean that patients miss critical information and either contact the hospital to ask questions - or worse - are admitted/re-admitted because their health begins to suffer.

However, a pre-recorded message or set of instructions from the hospital, fed through a tech device like an iPad or Google Home, might be just what the doctor ordered.

According to a 2017 Forbes article, “[Interactive voice tech has] potential to deliver important medical information to seniors living at home and older patients recently discharged from the hospital, to reduce costly readmissions, along with a means to complete vital preoperative checklists, are just some of the uses…”

The article also explores the possibility of having health care workers gain access to an audio version of a patient’s electronic medical records by verbal command, which would increase speed of delivery of potentially life-saving information.

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Medication Management

Devices like the MD2 Medication Management System can help seniors manage their prescriptions by alerting them of when to take their pills through a vocal reminder. Plus, it can also be setup to dispense the proper amount, as well as provide ‘caregiver alerts,’ which are voice messages sent to the senior’s caregiver, if a dosage is missed. Health Monitoring with Verbal Status Read-Outs

Imagine the state of our health, if we had better and more affordable detection systems and devices that helped us live better, longer? Technology companies are paying attention now, meaning that the not-so-distant future may contain product and service offerings beyond our wildest dreams, many of which may contain voice integration (e.g. think verbal health status readouts or reminders).

For instance, a company called Scanadu is currently working on FDA clearance for their diagnostic technology, which would allow in-home consumers to monitor their health in the comfort of their homes using urinalysis. According to the company website, ‘results can be read and analyzed using the Scanadu app and the camera on a smartphone. It all happens in a minute, and the information is designed to be displayed, stored, and shared via the Scanadu app.’

A Japanese company called Toto has a similar product, called the Flowsky, which was featured by Daily Mail (UK) alongside a number of other health care and accessibility technologies.

If the popularity of wearable technology has proven anything, it’s that individuals welcome the opportunity to measure and monitor their progress - especially when it comes to health and fitness. In the not-so-distant future, health-monitoring devices will provide an even greater wealth of information.

Education

Seniors are loving tech - such as iPads, tablets, computers and cellphones. Along with this proficiency comes the potential to gamify self-care (e.g. fitness) as well as education for seniors. One study even shows how telemedicine could be gamified for seniors, to increase adherence to health practices.

Voice Over Trends in Technology for Emerging Senior Market

Over the past 3 years, voice over jobs posted on Voices.com seeking a senior voice in the Internet category, has increased by 47%. This number is steadily growing and has increased at a rate of 18% from just last year alone.

Why might this be happening?

Typically, senior voices are requested as a way for businesses to appeal to a target market that is also senior. The increase in demand for senior voices in these categories is a key indicator that seniors are increasingly developing their technological skills, and becoming of higher interest to businesses.

Baby Boomers who were born at the tail-end of their generation - referred to as Generation Jones - as well as Gen Xer’s who were born at the beginning of their generation, are currently in an education prime-time. They’ve expressed interest in working longer, reinventing themselves, chasing corporate training, and taking post secondary courses on interesting subjects for pure enjoyment. They’re simply not ready to stop learning.

All over the US, colleges and universities are partaking in a movement called ‘Plus 50’ to actively recruit older students seeking opportunities to further their education for the purposes mentioned above.

By 2030, newly-minted seniors will be part of a population that’s well-accustomed to the education industry’s many consumption avenues including self-led elearning courses, instructor-led online courses, in-class courses, etc. all of which incorporate components of voice over.

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Senior Voices in Education Will Play an Increasingly In-Demand Role

Over the last three years, the Voices.com marketplace has seen 88% growth in demand for senior voices for educational projects.

While voice over jobs for senior voices currently account for 2% of the total U.S. education voice over market on Voices.com, its predicted that this proportion will also increase.

Currently, a major trend in voice over casting shows preference by producers for voices that sound like a peer to the target audience. As this casting trend continues, it will do so alongside the projected growth in the number of older Americans partaking in continuing education. This means that producers of educational videos, games, courses and other media are expected to ramp up demand for senior voice over.

Advertising & Marketing

Finding a way to position products and services to seniors, their family and friends, and their caregivers, is the new challenge for marketers and advertisers. However, it seems that the industry is already taking notice of the age-shift. Over the past three years, the demand for senior voices in advertising projects on Voices.com has grown by 25%.

Advertising projects incorporating senior voices include those within the categories of internet, radio, video games, podcasting, documentaries and movie trailers, most of which have seen individual growth of 50% or more over the past 3 years.

Priscilla Hagen

“The Senior work that I do really spans several categories. I have recorded most for documentaries, educational e-learning, internet videos, and business, completing voice over work for clients like AARP and Classtracks.com.” - Priscilla Hagen, Voice Actor, Minnesota, US

Market Segments Illustrating Growth in Demand for Senior Voice Over (2015-2017)

Over the past three years, the following categories of voice over application have experienced the greatest growth in demand for senior voices:

  • 128% - Cartoons
  • 116% - Movie Trailers
  • 88% - Educational
  • 75% - Video Games
  • 70% - Documentary

Adopting the ‘Senior Lens’ - Producing Accessible Content

As the population in the U.S. ages, the advertising and marketing industries must develop a ‘senior lens’ when creating marketing collateral and content for the growing senior market.

Sight and sound, the two senses most used to glean information from our surroundings, are also the two senses most commonly lost with age. Marketing and advertising professionals can get creative in how they deliver information to this demographic by designing visuals and audio that are more easily understood by seniors. In terms of visuals, large clear fonts, contrasting colors, etc. are helpful, but so is the addition of audio, as a means of making messages accessible even for those who are visually impaired.

Voice Over Can Help Creative Professionals Connect with Visually Impaired Seniors

Seniors with vision impairments account for 30% of the entire population in the United States. These vision impairments are usually ones that cannot be easily rectified with corrective lenses - rendering seniors unable to see and read important labels, such as their medication, calendar reminders for an important event, or the verbiage written on an ad in a magazine.

This is why voice over will come to play an important role in the lives of this demographic - they can benefit from having auditory reminders instead of having to rely on their visual senses alone.

Audio Editing and Accessibility Considerations in Scriptwriting are Key

When it comes to producing audio for seniors, considerations go beyond just making it loud. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the normal frequency range that people hear is between 20 and 20,000 Hz. The frequencies most important to audible speech range between 500 and 4000 Hz. When seniors experience high frequency hearing loss (one of the most common types of hearing loss), they typically lose frequencies between 2,000 and 8,000 Hz. Because of this, consonants such as s, t, k, p, and f become very difficult to hear. However, taking this into consideration in scriptwriting and audio production can make all the difference. For example, given that “s” can be difficult for older audiences to hear, scripting could incorporate synonyms for words starting with “s,” or ensure that the script contains plenty of context around that word for clarification.

Appealing to the Caregiver

As a group that could benefit from innovative products and services, caregivers - whether they be medical professionals, or friends and family - are also becoming an increasingly important target market for advertisers.

As it stands, 65% of seniors who are in need of long-term care rely exclusively on friends and family for assistance. Additionally, caregiving often starts before the age of 65. According to the Institute on Aging, as of 2011, some 43.5 million adult family caregivers were taking care of someone 50+ years of age. As more people live long enough to experience multiple health issues and dependency, more relatives will be facing this responsibility.

Currently, women are shouldering the majority of the work. The average caregiver is a married, middle-aged woman, working outside the home for $35,000 annually - and the economic value of the informal care provided by women is estimated at somewhere between $148 billion and $188 billion annually.

On average, caregivers spend 13 days each month on tasks such as shopping, food prep, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and administering medications. They also spend approximately 6 days per month on feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, bathing, and assisting with bathroom breaks.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, an influx of products and services that make caregivers’ lives easier will likely be created, and will span across countless industries - from health care, communications, safety monitoring and more. In turn, businesses will require marketing and advertising resources not only for their senior audiences, but as well as their caregiver audiences.

Selecting the Right Voice Over in the Age of the Influential Senior Market

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Based on the results of Voices.com’s 2018 Voice Over Trends Report, it’s projected that two trends in voice over selection will continue to guide the sound of advertising, marketing and media as America transitions into the age of the influential senior market.

  • The preference towards a peer to peer sound in voice over will continue to be a strategy marketers, advertisers and producers lean on in order to appeal to their target markets. This means that those marketing directly to seniors will position messaging through older voices, while messages for caregivers and loved ones will match their voice-age sound too.
  • The highly-sought after deep and authoritative vocal archetype, like Morgan Freeman’s (a senior), will be used more frequently in media and entertainment industries across the board. Already a popular choice in media projects, this vocal archetype conveys maturity without sounding ‘old.’
 
David Bates

“In some cases, using a senior voice can help create legitimacy for the product experience. For example, Airbnb wants to target middle-aged or older travelers. These travelers have different concerns, most of which may stem from their unfamiliarity with the logic behind a sharing economy. Therefore, using a senior voice to help reassure them that they need not worry about who to stay with, the quality of the homes are vetted, etc. could go a long way.” - David Bates, CEO and Creative Director, Bokeh Agency, San Francisco

Demand for Older Voices Already on the Rise

Year over year (2016-2017) demand for senior voices on Voices.com grew by 17%, a signal that the marketplace is not only recognizing the importance of marketing and advertising to this demographic, but also that selecting a voice over that sounds like a peer, is important.

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Voice Acting as a Second Career for Seniors

With all of the discussion around how products and services for the influential senior market are going to ramp up in production and advertising, it also begs the question - will the availability of senior voice over match the demand?

A second (or third) career in voice over work presents a fabulous opportunity for older Americans, who are more tech savvy than ever, to continue to work past the age of 65, and join the 79% of U.S. workers who expect to supplement their income by working past retirement.

Additionally, the seniors of the future are also going to be part of a large freelancer community. Statistics project that 40% of all Americans will be freelancers in 2020. Being able to work from home will afford seniors accessible careers, on their own terms, as well as the ability to maintain a certain quality of living.

Peter Baker

“As a 62 year-old voice over professional in the UK, in the business since I was 20, I have never been busier! The global population is aging and there is more disposable income for many older people, so it’s understandable that they would prefer to be given information by a mature voice about things like cruises and other trips, or about retirement property. For scripts that are promotional messages aimed at seniors, I think they are much more effective sounding when they are from a similar age and peer group.” - Peter Baker, Voice Actor, Manchester, GB

The Future of Mature Voice Overs is Diverse

Researchers estimated that by 2050, 39 percent of those age 65 and older will be black, Hispanic, Asian or other racial minority, up from about 21 percent in 2012 (the latest available year for census projections data).

Though most jobs requesting senior voice actors on Voices.com are for English speakers, the marketplace is experiencing an increase in jobs for Spanish-speaking senior voices as well. Overall, Spanish-speaking voices are the second most sought-after language, after English.

Elenor Lindsay

“As a woman born in the Caribbean, I’ve discovered that there appears to be a growing need for English-speaking accents with a Caribbean lilt. As the world becomes more familiar with the sound of these accents, there’s a greater reach and inclusivity in speaking to people of all nationalities and all ages." - Elenor Lindsay, Voice Actor, Florida, US

Conclusion

For those who don’t see the opportunity and possibility, the aging demographic can appear more like a ‘grey tsunami’ - rather than the hopeful transition to Americans celebrating longer lives and more golden years.

No matter one's personal feelings on the subject, the trend towards an increasingly influential, vibrant senior market is indisputable and unignorable.

Creative professionals who learn how to communicate with and connect to older generations, as well as those who care for and about them, stand to come out ahead in a future where 1 in every 4 Americans is over 65 years old.

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