‘Senior citizens respond well to digital marketing mediums’

Piali Dasgupta of Columbia Pacific Communities, which builds senior living facilities, speaks to e4m about the 60-above demographic and what kind of marketing works for them

e4m by Nilanjana Basu
Published: Sep 29, 2022 3:41 PM  | 4 min read
Columbia Pacific Communities

In a country like India with such a large population going through lifestyle changes every day and families running as nuclear in urban towns, the concept of senior care communities like the one at Columbia Pacific Communities becomes quite a catch.

Columbia Pacific Communities is a part of Columbia Pacific Management based in Seattle, US, is a one-of-a-kind senior care community builder which is a combination of hospitality, real estate, and wellness in India. It gives home to elderly people but instead of being an old age home, it is more of a society trying to make life less lonely and more meaningful for the older generation of the country.

Speaking on this was Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice President – Marketing at Columbia Pacific Communities who shared the goal of the company, the recent campaigns and what marketing medium works or doesn’t for people above the age of sixty.

Tell us about how Columbia Pacific Communities began.

The Senior Living business is something that we started in 2018 in India. In early 2017, we acquired a company called Serene Senior Care, which was already into senior living. It's a Chennai-based company and has operations across the South of India. And then after having taken over Serene, we started our own operations and 2018 is when the company was actually formed here in India. By Senior Living, we do not mean old age homes that have nothing to do with old age. These are retirement communities for independent seniors who, by choice come to us and not by compulsion. Our main proposition is to get international standards of senior living with international standards, healthcare incorporated into it, and build communities for seniors across the country

What kind of marketing medium works for the demographic of senior citizens and people around them? Since digital needs tech savviness, is it an effective medium for people above sixty?

It is a huge myth that you can't reach senior citizens through digital means, they are digitally quite savvy today. I'm talking about the urban Indian senior citizens obviously. Rural India might present a different kind of picture. The cities that we are sort of functional in, and the city that we're targeting, which is basically the metros and a couple of tier-two non-metros, I don't think reaching out to senior citizens through digital means has been an issue for us at all. In fact, much like any other sector today, post-pandemic, 70% of our spends are allocated towards digital, we only do 30 per cent on offline. So that 70% includes SEO, SEM, Facebook, affiliate, email marketing and YouTube. Senior citizens are not very averse to technology. And I think with India’s digitization programs, the government relations program that was launched, I think this is going to get better and stronger, and we will continue to invest in it.

Having said that, mediums like newspapers, for example, still does work with this generation because this generation of people is still fond of reading a physical newspaper with their morning cup of tea or coffee. But the mediums that don't work on seniors for example are outdoors. We have actually invested a lot of money doing expos and things like that. People don't necessarily go to an expo to look for a senior living facility. I think what we have realized also is that, ultimately, it is about storytelling. Even if you're doing performance ads, where there is very little scope to do storytelling, but seniors respond more to narrative than direct messaging because there is an emotional connection. This category is all about emotions. You can't sell this category without emotion.

What about Television as a medium? Has that worked for you?

Television as a medium is something that we have tried already a couple of times. The whole point with real estate marketing, and we are a subset of real estate, is it is local marketing and not national marketing. Therefore, if you do a TV campaign, there are a lot of spillages and a lot of wastage, which we try to avoid because our budgets are very stringent.

How have your campaigns changed over the years?

I think the campaigns have definitely become more purposeful because we are always trying to solve specific problems of senior citizens. If you looked at our campaign last year, which we did with Bernie Romney, it was about eradicating loneliness among senior citizens, because we found the data was showing about 65 per cent of seniors in India was feeling lonely and isolated. We're quite proud of the way this year’s campaign panned out. #ChiefExperienceOfficer is a campaign that was born from the thought that why must seniors retire at 60? And why can’t we find jobs for them employ them that gain from them and occupy them. We've seen a fantastic response to the campaign.

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