It is about how Elderhostel, a travel and educational organization for older adults, is trying to reverse a decreasing enrollment trend that has led to the organization losing millions of dollars this past year.
One problem is the age of their average customer has risen to 73 from 68 over the last ten years. In other words, through attrition alone they are on a downward spiral as they are losing relevance to the market they desperately need to sell product to - older Americans. And ironically, this is the fastest growing, largest and wealthiest demographic in the US.
So what are they doing?
A lot but the three biggest changes are:
- A name change. They are now Exploritas.
- Their top line messaging is now "Educational Travel in the U.S.A." with a tagline of "Adventures in Lifelong Learning".
- They removed their age restrictions. No longer do you have to be at least 60, now anyone 21 or older will be able to participate.
I am in my forties but I am quite familiar with Elderhostel because my mom was a loyal customer up until her death last year. She loved Elderhostel! It was basically an educational vacation where you went to nice destinations and learned something by taking courses. She had a blast and enjoyed meeting new people.
But I'm not sure she would have enjoyed hanging out with 20 somethings - or even forty somethings. And vice versa. So this is a risky marketing strategy. In fact, I was surprised to see on Exploritas web site that in the section "Browse by' my choices were:
- Activity Level
Anyway, I do hope their marketing strategy works because they have a great product.
Just about every business in the US needs to pay attention to this "case study" because:
- If you don't currently include older American's in your target market you need to. The aging population is the largest, wealthiest and fastest market segment in the US. You can't grow your business by ignoring this demographic.
- If your target market is limited to "older American's (like Elderhostel's was) you need to realize that today's older consumers make buying decisions far different than yesterdays older consumers. Continuing to market today like you did yesterday will lead you down the same path as what Elderhostel has experienced. I'm not saying you need to do a 180 degree turn like Elderhostel did and include all age groups in your target market but you do need to repackage your products, branding and marketing to remain relevant to the Boomer market.
Interesting stuff - and a challenge all marketer's should love and embrace.