“Erickson Award of Excellence” Gives Voice To America’s Fastest Growing Consumer Population

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CATONSVILLE, MD — From e-mail to exercise, older adults are often sited as the fastest growing demographic in almost any market. They also have a larger disposable income than all age groups combined. Yet, while they may be the irrefutable demographic juggernaut of our culture, the voices of older adults are too often overlooked.

Marketers and manufacturers continue to design products and services for adult males in the 18-to-34 age group. Most Web pages are created with small type and technically complex design. Automation is quickly taking over personalized, high-quality service. And installing or configuring any new technology frustrates and confuses people of any age.

John Erickson, president and founder of Erickson Retirement Communities, not only recognized this problem, but is taking steps to resolve it. This month, the company unveils the Erickson Award of Excellence, a project that will give a voice to America’s older adults.

“Erickson has over 20 years of first-hand experience with this market, and the most valuable thing we’ve learned is to listen,” says John Makowski, Erickson’s director of new media. “By tailoring our product to our customers’ suggestions, wants, and needs, we’ve become the industry leader.”

Erickson hopes to guide other companies with its approach to help improve product quality and customer satisfaction for this important demographic.

“This project is about people saying, ‘I’m frustrated with the way products are made. I’d love to embrace technology, but it’s never tailored toward me,’ which is the most important part,” Makowski says.
The Erickson Award of Excellence will channel the power of the more than 18,000 people who live at Erickson-built and -managed communities and the national readership of The Erickson Tribune. “We have access to what is probably the largest focus group ever assembled for this demographic,” Makowski says.
Volunteers will evaluate products and services by completing surveys and sampling items before they even go on the market. Products will come from industries such as fitness, beauty, clothing, cleaning and household products, health, travel, technology, and food, among others.
In essence, those who participate in the project will help transfer the creation and design of a product from industry assumptions to known consumer values.
Initial surveys will allow people to choose what factors would make a particular product or service ideal for them and express what options are currently unavailable. The survey results will then be used to define a testing structure in the design and creation of a product. A finished product will be available for panel members to test and evaluate in their own homes. Results will be tabulated, ranked, and used to select one product per industry category to receive the Erickson Award of Excellence.
And while many companies sell focus group participants’ personal information, Makowski says the data collected will always remain safe and secure with Erickson. “We are spending a lot of time and money setting up a database that will keep all of this information secure. We will be able to poll results and use responses, but never let anyone have access to it,” he says.
“The ultimate goal of this project is not to provide companies with information that will help them grow; it’s about making those companies react to the power, needs, and values of older consumers,” Makowski says.
People who would like to become an Erickson Award of Excellence panel member can sign up at www.EricksonTribune.com.

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