Silverbrains

kaspersProf. Dr. Hans Kaspers

Professor für Marketing, Universität Maastricht, wissenschaftlicher Direktor Etil BV und Direktor Silverbrains BV

During your time as professor of marketing at the University of Maastricht you spent a lot of time researching the “senior consumer”. A lot of your research was focused on a useful segmentation strategy - please tell us about it.

I was looking for a way to segment the market in general and not with respect to a particular product or service. In medical and gerontological studies health or vitality is the criterion to distinguish between groups of older people. In marketing and economics being rich or poor (or privileged or under-privileged) is often the criterion to define various groups of citizens. I combined both into a simple matrix that can be used to segment the market.

 

Not-vital

Vital

Poor/under-privileged

Under-privileged and not-vital

Under-privileged and vital

Rich/privileged

Privileged and not-vital

Privileged and vital

Is your model applicable for all kind of industries?

It is my experience that companies and policy makers do recognize this segmentation and find it useful to apply. It also is an eye-opener, since this matrix shows not all older people are sick and poor and belong to the under-privileged and not-vital segment. Nor do all older people fit to the wealthy and healthy segment of the privileged and vital seniors.

We see reticence in most of the industry in dealing with the aging process and/or the mature consumer. Do you share our view and if so, what is the reason for this behavior?

Yes, I agree. And I find it strange since – on average – this is a very wealthy group of people in today’s society. But there is a general idea that we value youth and dynamics. As if older people cannot be dynamic and be useful to society with all their experience. To me it is important to realize that people’s cognitive capacity diminishes when they get older; this process becomes more and more manifest after the age of 50. This means that they process information not that quickly anymore and structure their decision making processes differently. In turn this implies that communication processes (a typical marketing issue) must be adjusted to older people. Moreover, it seems to be the idea that older people do not like to take risks and are not innovative. That is not true. They are – just as anybody else – selectively innovative, meaning that new products and services will be accepted once they provide benefits to the seniors.

In many companies I see youngsters in sales, marketing, communication and innovation who do not like to identify with seniors (as if they have to deal with their parents and grandparents). Companies should have a better age balance in these departments group of people to avoid these misunderstanding and being able to live up with the seniors.

You founded “Silverbrains”, a Dutch consulting firm. What kind of service do you offer?

Silverbrains offers consultancy and research to companies and public organizations with respect to the needs, preferences and wishes of seniors (the 50plus crowd). Market information is translated into new products and services. Often, these innovations are based on irritations about products and services (e.g. waiting times in health care or opening problems withcanned vegetables). We help start ups to start, but do not invest in them. Next we use our own network to bring entrepreneurs from various industries together to develop “Neue Kombinationen”.

Did you work for start-ups so far?

We joint forces with some start-ups yet, but also with existing firms. We did quite some projects for Philips health care for instance the past few years.

What is your assessment of the overall readiness of Dutch start-ups when it comes to building a “50plus strategy”?

We realized that quite some start-ups typically focus on 50plus people. Often this is in the area of health care. We think a lot of other domains could be used as well, especially when one thinks in a broader perspective than only health care products and service, but relates it to the 50plus lifestyle.