27 August 2008

Don't Fear 65.

An expurgated email:

Hi Chuck,

symetra I work for Bellevue-based (that'd be Washington State, Seattle area) Symetra Financial, and as we were developing our new ad campaign geared toward retirees, I came across your blog …

The Web site we’ve developed: www.dontfear65.com.

dontfear We’re focusing on empowerment and optimism, as opposed to fear mongering, and in doing so we hope to change the mindset around retirement ...

The theme of the campaign is highlighted in a couple of fun videos that depict seemingly ordinary Boomers before a crowd of retirees, rallying them to face turning 65 without fear:



Well … these folks are practically down the street from me – so I’d better be nice.

conqueredActually, I got a kick out of the site.  The videos are cute.  I’ll take cute over pandering or condescending any day.

Gee. Free consulting. This is a big chunk of what I do for a living. Meaning, I don’t do it for free. Or, I do do it for free because I’m doing it now ...

A few observations and suggestions:

I’m not a big fan of flash microsites. This one is simple and inviting, however

The graphics and layout are fine for the landing – but deeper in, the wishy-washy color contrasts and spongy fonts are dreadful for older eyes.  Also, a good rule to remember: If you think you need a text resize widget, that means only one thing - the text is too small. Bump it and forget about a silly resizer.

Things look much better when you fly out of flash hell and land on a PDF.  True - it's kind of boring, not very fun and sexy in PDF-land (it could be with an extreme makeover), but at least my eyes don't hurt and my pointer isn't fumbling around trying to grab and pull on that flimsy scroll bar.   

Now I’ve done my good, neighborly deed for the day. Back to being cranky.

25 August 2008

Goodbye, Jukebox. Hello, Jennie Chin Hansen.

WNYC Back in May 2007 I was a guest on NPR’s Soundcheck, hosted by John Schaefer. The subject: AARP's new, much-touted and promoted Music Website. Also on the show was Emilio Pardo, AARP’s Chief Brand Officer.

To listen to the show click the tiny arrow on the left:

I wasn’t impressed with the AARP's offering – and blogged about it here:

Music for Grownups?
As is usually the case, AARP’s grab for Baby Boomers is an admixture of good intentions, some top-notch stuff – and cheesy, insulting schlock.

I’d link to it so you could form your own opinion, but …

It’s gone. The link in this press release now redirects your browser to their main entertainment page.

jukebox AARP's music site was a big dud. And for better or for worse, the company that powered the centerpiece of the microsite (AARP Jukebox) may be on its last legs.

Some of the other features are still up – but they’re not linked to anything on the AARP site as far as I can tell. Merely ethereal residue awaiting a virtual dusting. Gehr

The only feature I really liked has survived: Richard Gehr’s Music For Grownups columns.

I’ve blogged extensively about AARP, their advertising, and how they present themselves. The most recent post:

AARP's Chicken Coop Coup?
I hope they develop this ad into a high-profile campaign with more stories and history. If they do, a huge chunk of Baby Boomers might decide to join for reasons other than simply that 15% Discount Card.

jennie_chin_hansen Now AARP has a new president: Jennie Chin Hansen. I can only comment from an advertising/marketing/public relations perspective. Ms. Hansen is a great choice for AARP. Her background reflects what the heart and soul of AARP once was, and should be again:

Ms. Hansen teaches nursing at San Francisco State University. She holds an appointment as Senior Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco's Center for the Health Professions and consults with various foundations. She transitioned to teaching in 2005 after nearly 25 years as executive director of On Lok, Inc., a nonprofit family of organizations providing integrated and comprehensive primary and long-term care community based services in San Francisco.

Like I said about the Chicken Coop ad:

Call me callous, superficial, jaded, deeply character-flawed, whatever - but my initial reaction was: "Great Branding!"

While I think that their Divided We Fail project is rather silly and anemic, I hope Jennie Chin Hansen becomes ‘the face’ of AARP. Here’s the only video I can find of her. She’s down-to-earth and engaging. That’s very good news for AARP. Give it a minute or two - or skip ahead:

I’m hoping all their dumb commercials will fade away fast, and Jennie Chin Hansen and the Chicken Coop ad will now be the focus and inspiration for AARP's marketing, advertising, and PR.
Follow up, September 5, 2008: An article in The Washington Post about AARP. Ken Dychtwald makes some good points.

Actually, AARP isn't attracting Baby Boomers at the same rate as it did with previous 'turning fifty' generations. That's why there's all this hoopla and silliness and sacrificing of their core values. Interesting that the article has no mention of Jennie Chin Hansen.

20 August 2008

World’s Largest Event For Active ‘50 plussers’

50PLUSB3 Last September I was on a speaking/consulting tour in Europe. One of the stops was Utrecht, The Netherlands at a private business symposium coinciding with the annual 50PlusBeurs.

The symposium was running late. Very late.  Just before I was to go on (an hour and a half after I was scheduled) they asked me to do a twenty-minute presentation instead of my usual fifty.  I did (and wasn't happy with the way it went), then headed out of the conference room with Brent Green, Carol Orsborn, and my More-Significant-Than-I-Am Other to look around.

hallWe'd never seen anything like it. I'd heard what it was, but was nowhere near prepared. Ninety-five thousand people in five days. Over twenty thousand the day we were there.  Six huge halls. Five hundred and eighty exhibits. The sheer immensity was overwhelming.  AARP puts on an Expo every year – but it’s one-quarter the size.

And with only an hour and a half to goof off we only saw about one-quarter of the exhibits, maybe.  The four of us were racing around.  That’s how big it was. Nobody could see it all in one day.

For example, there must’ve been fifteen bicycle exhibitors with at least one hundred bikes to check out - and room to ride them in a demo area.  Next, I climbed in and out of about twenty motor-homes – but never made it to the automobiles or motorcycles. No time. 

I never even entered four of the six halls.  One I just glanced in.  It looked something like this: 


Almost every exhibit was over the top, a show in itself.  Click here to watch a Windows Media Video that gives you a good idea of the quality and variety of offerings

What’s really amazing about this event is the return rate for exhibitors: 85%. They make money, they know it’s a great investment, great promotion. They know it's a great market segment.

wiiThe average age of 50PlusBeurs attendees is sixty-one. So the entertainment and general feel is for a slightly older demographic than Baby Boomers. My guess is that this will change over the next five or so years.

Time was up.  We had to fly to Munich. I was working, not playing (I kept telling myself – for practically the whole two-week tour).

I want to get back to 50PlusBeurs someday so I can really soak it in.

plusmagIf you are involved in the European 50+ Market, 50PlusBeurs is something you should see.  And don't worry about waiting a year or two if you can't make it next month.  It'll just get bigger and bigger. This year they'll break 100,000 in attendance.  My guess is that the turnout won't plateau for a decade. 

Download the English version of the 50PlusBeurs Brochure for 2008.

Update September 3, 2008: This post was picked up by the international news service Agetimes.com