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Successfully advertising to older consumers means finding models who look like them, K-State professor says

By Megan Wilson


Apparel advertisers should include older, more mature-looking models in advertising aimed at older female consumers if they want to be more effective, according to research by Kansas State University's Joy Kozar.

"Currently, the older population is underrepresented in the fashion media and is currently underserved by the apparel industry," said Kozar, an assistant professor of apparel marketing. "Yet, in the future, older consumers will be the largest market segment in the U.S. and will possess a significant amount of discretionary income."

Kozar said these findings are reasons for businesses to take notice of the older population.

"Businesses wanting to capture a larger segment of this population need a better understanding of the preferences and needs of older adults, including their apparel and purchasing behavior, and their attitudes toward various promotional tactics," she said.

Kozar recently examined older women's reactions toward marketing stimuli. One of the focuses of the project was to explore the relationship between participants' attitudes toward fashion models and their intended purchasing behavior.

"One major finding of this project was that perceived similarity to the model was a factor influencing respondents' reactions toward the models," Kozar said. "In this study, the more similar the participants felt toward the model, the more likely they were to perceive the model as appealing and attractive, and to view the model's clothing as being fashionable and up-to-date."

A sample of women, age 60 to 80, was used for the project. Color advertisements depicting middle-age and older female models were presented to participants. Each model was digitally enhanced to appear younger, creating two age versions of each model.

"The age of the model also had an effect on participants' attitudes toward the models," Kozar said. "Participants rated the older models significantly higher than the younger models on characteristics related to appearance and attractiveness.

"Participants also reported that the older models had a significantly greater impact on their purchase intentions than did the younger versions of the models, even though the clothing worn by both the older and younger version of each model was exactly the same," she said. "This finding suggests that marketers should consider the age of the model in creating effective advertising schemes targeted toward the older population."

Although Kozar said additional research is still needed, a greater understanding of what appeals to older consumers is being realized in projects like this one. As more research emerges, strategies targeting older consumers can be realized and advertisers will be able to reap the benefits, she said.

"With more research and effective marketing strategy developments, older consumers could be enticed to spend more money on consumable goods like apparel and beauty-related products, and could potentially increase their satisfaction with the shopping experience," Kozar said. "That really is the goal of the research; to find a way to increase satisfaction in shopping."

Kozar received her bachelor's degree in apparel and textile marketing with a minor in business administration from K-State in 1998, her master's degree in apparel and textiles from K-State in 2000, and her doctorate in textiles and clothing, as well as a minor in gerontology, from Iowa State University in 2004. Kozar's scholarship activities are in the areas of consumer behavior, entrepreneurship, merchandising and social and psychological aspects of dress and appearance.


Fall/Winter 2006