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How to sell “The Silent Generation” on cannabis products

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series by generational marketing expert Chuck Underwood. It began with an introduction to how to apply generational marketing strategies to the cannabis industry. This week’s article is focused on how to market to The Silent Generation, and may be of particular interest to retailers who operate in areas with large elderly populations. 

The Silent Generation

Born from 1927 through 1945

Current age in 2021:  76 to 94

The United States is in a golden era of anti-aging science and medicine that is beginning to lengthen lifespans and enhance quality of life at later ages.  If you think Silents aren’t worth your trouble, you might need to erase some obsolete tapes looping in your brain about what ages 75 and 85 and, yes, even 95 truly mean today.

Here is the thought process that marketers go through to understand any generation:  (1) their formative years’ times and teachings; (2) their core values: (3) their adulthood; (4) their lives today and tomorrow; and, (5) how to use this knowledge to effectively connect with them. 

SILENTS’ FORMATIVE YEARS:  1930s through early 1960s

Silents came of age in a conservative, don’t-rock-the-boat America. For most older Silents, the years of the Depression and war were not a time for domestic protest or rebellion. From these formative years’ times and teachings, the Silent Generation molded core values of conservatism, hard work, loyalty to employers, loyalty to family, and other values that, to this day, guide their decision making.

They married soon after high school, bore their kids quickly, bought a used car and rented a house and settled in to begin the rest of their lives. White Silent husbands went off to work each day and instantly enjoyed the smoothest career passage in US history, and middle class white women – except for teachers, nurses, and secretaries – stayed home because “being there” full-time for children was the value. These generalizations can not be applied across the board to all classes and races, but these values dominated mainstream popular culture and thus influenced most people on some level–even those that were excluded from this narrative because of race or socioeconomic background.  

And this is the generation that just missed the astonishing social activism of the 1960s and ’70s, which the next generation propelled forward: the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the war protest movement, the environmental movement, the sexual revolution, and the drug revolution, some of which had “percolated” in prior decades but now reached full force.

The drug revolution rammed America just after the youngest Silents had departed their formative years and formed most of their core values.  As younger Boomers and Gen Xers – the Silents’ own children – experimented with a long list of mind-altering substances, Silents saw the consequences and became terrified of drugs.  

THEIR LIVES TODAY AND TOMORROW

During 2022, Silents will be ages 77 to 95. They are the healthiest and wealthiest generation ever at their age.  Because the world is in a new golden era of medical advancement, they face new opportunities for wellness and longevity.  And they want to live those extended years vitally, and without aches and pains and illnesses and mental fog.  

All of these truths suggest they are a lucrative target for cannabis products, if only you’ll market to them generationally.  

HOW TO MARKET TO SILENTS

Silents were roughly ages 25 to 45 when the drug revolution erupted in America with the younger Boomers. The majority of our population  knew so little about pot,  hashish, LSD, cocaine, heroin, “speed” and “downers” that we tended to lump them together and view them all – including marijuana – as very bad. The majority of Silents avoided them; their generation’s drugs of choice were alcohol and nicotine. “Drunk” they understood; “stoned”, they didn’t.  

So for the cannabis industry, Silents are unlikely to be a big market for recreational pot.  However, they should embrace medicinal  cannabis if you market it to them scientifically and factually.

Tips for making Silents comfortable

Remember, their sight and hearing are probably diminished.  So:  large type on your product containers and store signs. Choose a font that is plain, not fancy. Use strong color contrast so the type clearly “pops.” And have good lighting in your store!  

When you’re talking to them in the store, kill any background music or other competing noise. Keep your store on the “quiet” side. Place products that target them at eye level on the shelf, not higher or lower. Don’t make them bend, squat, stretch, or try to squeeze through narrow aisles. 

Common courtesy is IMMENSELY important to Silents, so your store clerk should be respectful and polite, talk clearly, be patient, answer questions thoroughly, and never rush Silents.

And this is also key:  Look at them when you’re talking!  People with diminished hearing become very skilled at reading a speaker’s facial expressions and lips.  So don’t turn your head from them while talking; let them read your face. The mask-wearing of the Covid-19 crisis has been a nightmare for people with hearing loss:  the mask muffles the speech and prohibits face-reading.  

Silents came of age before the hippie look, tats, and piercings, so “clean-cut” store clerks go a long way with this generation.  

Silents love to read.  Offer them pamphlets and other takeaways that will educate them further on your products.  They will become cannabis experts.

Are you guilty of this?  If a young, good-looking person walks into your store, do you look at them and give them a bright “Hi!”?  And if an older, less attractive person enters, does your enthusiasm drop, even if only a little, and do you tend to NOT look at those older customers with the same warmth?  It’s human nature.  But older people recognize it.  Catch yourself! Greet elderly customers enthusiastically and with sincere eye contact.

This generation is giving its best to fight off the aches and pains and mood swings of aging.  They’re trying so hard.  So help them.  Explain the benefit of your products. Prove their safeness. Be their partner.  

Here’s a significant opportunity:  a special event; find a way to host a Silent Generation Cannabis Night.Teach them about your products.

Your industry is in a one-time-only teaching moment.  You carry the opportunity, but also the obligation, to teach the masses accurately and thoroughly about your product. Generational strategies will help you in this effort significantly.

Embrace the Silent Generation.

Chuck Underwood has been the keynote speaker at two international cannabis conferences. He is a pioneer in generational study and wrote the book “America’s Generations In The Workplace, Marketplace, And Living Room” and hosts the PBS television series “America’s Generations With Chuck Underwood.” He trains American and Canadian business, government, education, and religious organizations in generational strategies.

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