Paging Dr. Best Buy? A Creative Challenge Facing Retailer’s Push Into Remote Health Tech
Unfair as it may be, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” has been the punchline of jokes for decades. A commercial from the ’80s and ’90s shows an older woman in obvious distress calling for help, using an emergency button on a device from Life Alert. And Best Buy’s health tech offerings to aging consumers seem to be comprised of similar tech — a button device, mobile and app options, and a call center.
So Best Buy Health’s creative challenge will be to make remote health tech seem cool — or at least not laughable. But so far, the electronics retailer seems to be taking the same tack as Life Alert, of playing into fear and guilt. It might be better to go the route of "salvation." More on that later.
Because even now — on Thursday, specifically — a Google search on the phrase “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” has a top result of “meme,” and the images mock sports stars, pets, and Kim Kardashian.
So as Best Buy pushes into Life Alert’s wheelhouse in its goal to corner the market on consumer health tech, it’s got the challenge of making aging Baby Boomers who mocked remote health tech take it seriously now that they need it. (Simply telling them they need it, which is what Best Buy’s press releases seem to be stressing, may not work so well. Emotion, as Target Marketing thought leaders repeatedly stress, is the main motivator of purchases. And Boomers likely don’t want to be laughed at for buying health tech. They are, after all, the generation that once didn't trust anyone over 30.)
So, as Denny Hatch used to advise Target Marketing readers, these seven things drive emotions and motivate consumers:
“Logic” is not in there. Best Buy may be able to appeal to investors with the logic of its remote health monitoring being necessary, but it has to appeal to consumers. That means, it probably shouldn't use the tactic that attracted Boomers' parents to Life Alert in the '90s. So Life Alert’s site showing its device saves lives “every 11 minutes” makes sense — it’s clearly valuable and necessary in American society. Yet … the joke remains among Boomers and their kids.
Still, there is a need. Life Alert handles more than 2 million calls a year, provides “protection” that enables “a sense of security” and “a 2004 ACNielsen study showed that 87% of Life Alert members stated that Life Alert’s protection is a main or important factor in their decision to keep on living alone at home.”
And yet the meme remains. The need to appeal to Boomers, a demographic that thinks of itself as full of independent, relevant individuals, remains.
The messaging on Life Alert’s site seems to reflect that those seeking out its products and services have come to terms with their ages and abilities. A tab titled “Avoid a Retirement Home” shows a smiling older woman gardening below the sentence “An audited study showed that if a Life Alert member goes to a retirement home, it will be five years later than an equivalent-aged senior.”
The company’s got a lock on “fear” as a motivator. And "guilt" of burdening kids.
That’s why so far, Best Buy Health’s message seeming so similar about the health tech company leaders want to ensure is covered under medical insurance doesn’t seem like the message the company should continue to push.
Life Alert’s already done what Best Buy’s “2019 Investor Update” mentions on Sept. 25:
“Our mission is simple: enable seniors to live longer in their own homes with the help of technology and support,” said Asheesh Saksena, president of Best Buy Health.
Sure, Best Buy Health’s acquisitions of GreatCall, Critical Signal Technologies, and BioSensics likely differentiate its products and services from its competitors. But its target audience likely doesn’t know that or care — yet.
And here’s why:
Best Buy may want to tout its healthcare products in a way that evokes a "salvation" response.
- Salvation. Bodies may be failing these independent individuals, so messaging that shows them triumph over that may be best. How will this tech get out of their way so they can continue to live their lives? But still be there, if they need it? How can they make sure it's not obvious to their friends and families? Show and celebrate the salvation of their individuality, personality, personhood, personal space, freedom, independence, free expression, and that they're busy living — not busy dying. Perhaps show them — alone, because many are alone — setting their own schedules, making their own rules, binge-watching their favorite series, meeting friends who never know they use Best Buy Health, and being someone others rely on — rather than dependent on others. A 2003 Wall Street Journal piece is a little more brutal about the reasons for this: "Boomers also coined the phrase 'Don't trust anyone over 30,' and helped create a youth culture that diminishes input from elders. In their lifetimes and with their help, TV programming went from 'Father Knows Best' to countless shows with sensibilities like 'The Simpsons,' where father knows nothing. Generation X-ers know only this youth culture, and have trouble trusting elders. Many grew up feeling abandoned by their parents' divorces, deceived by political and corporate scandals, and ignored by self-involved Boomers." (So the Boomers may not feel the guilt about burdening their offspring that Boomer's WWII-era parents did.)
- Flattery. So far, Best Buy is beating the drum of telling Boomers they’re old. “Approximately 50 million Americans are 65 or older, and that number is expected to grow more than 50 percent within the next 20 years.” This generation doesn't like being told they're old. They find it depersonalizing, reductive, demeaning, and condescending. Find Boomers' strengths and flatter them.
- Guilt May Not Work. Best Buy is telling Boomers the health tech will make their children feel better, which may not be their first concern. (“Providing peace of mind to their loved ones.”)
- Exclusivity. What happened to this 2017 vision from Hubert Joly, former chairman and CEO of Best Buy, that seems to hint at “exclusivity” as a motivator? I wrote in January 2018:
[Joly] told Bloomberg his company would compete in an Amazon age by finding ways to ensure aging Americans could stay in their homes. He says it’s a $50 billion market in which 45 million younger people will be caring for 117 million senior citizens, so he “envisions rolling out a broader business of sensor-based senior services, sold through health-and-wellness departments in Best Buy’s more than 1,000 stores.”
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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