Nielsen Study Shows Multi-Sensory Differences Between Young and Old

While many consumers seem to be racing to keep up with the latest and greatest in media, a new Nielsen study revealed that today’s modern multi-sensory messages may be easier for younger consumers to understand. The irony of this revelation is that multi-sensory media may be easier for Millennials to process, but it’s the Baby Boomers who have the disposable income to continually purchase the products and devices designed for them. This presents a major dilemma to online advertisers trying to reach these affluent older consumers because their multi-sensory online ads may be getting lost in high-tech translation. provided additional insight on this digital discrepancy.

This new Nielsen study called “The Me Generation Meets Generation Me” highlights the psychological differences in the way that multi-sensory media is processed by younger and older consumers. It notes how younger brains have a higher multi-sensory processing capacity, which makes them much more able to interpret multi-sensory messages and interaction, as well as perform search tasks and navigate interactive sites.

Nielsen NeuroFocus research shows that neurological changes that come with age result in certain types of communication being more effective,” the study cites. “Millennials can equally deal with the bleeding-over communication we see in most dynamic banner ads on Web portals, while older generations need a clear-framed separated communication to be able to engage.”

The report attributes this difference to physiology and explains that changes in the body and brain as we age affect our ability to process both information and experiences. The body produces less serotonin and dopamine over time, which affects the way we respond to various stimuli, while the brain slowly loses the ability to suppress distraction.

Basically, the way that multi-sensory media accelerates the rate, intensity, and impact of messages is in direct conflict with how older consumers are able to process it all. Yet despite this reduced physiological capacity, the aging brain actually has a broader attention span and is more open to new information.

Still, there’s no denying that Millennials are driving the technology and trends in media, which is making these advances even more desirable among Baby Boomers trying to stay young and hip. With Boomers controlling 70 percent of the disposable income, they’re keeping the market for digital media going strong, even though they may not be as agile and adept at using it.

This is good news for the tech companies creating the devices, but it also presents challenges to digital marketers and programmers trying to create ads on these multi-sensory platforms targeted to these affluent older consumers. Their high-tech, high-impact messages may be poorly processed or completely overlooked by their target audience.

While there is no simple solution to this digital dissonance, the study offers some insight on the kinds of messages that resonate better with older consumers. It cites their preference for clever and light-hearted humor, which is in total contrast to Millennials who favor sarcasm and slapstick. Of course, all ages respond best to characters that are relatable to them.

Multi-sensory media may present some marketing challenges, but as long as marketers are aware of the abilities of each audience, they can design digital messages that their consumers can comprehend.

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