Friedemann Wolf, Magdalena Bekk, Philipp Sandner, Isabell M. Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? How Retirees Develop Group Identification and Evaluate Age-Related Labels in:

Marketing ZFP, page 79 - 89

MAR, Volume 37 (2015), Issue 2, ISSN: 0344-1369, ISSN online: 0344-1369, https://doi.org/10.15358/0344-1369-2015-2-79

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Friedemann Wolf, Research Fellow, Chair for Strategy and Organisation, TUM School of Management, Technische Universität München (TUM), Arcisstr. 21, 80333 Munich, Germany, Tel: +49 89 289 24800, Fax: +49 89 289 24805, E-Mail: friedemann.wolf@ gmail.com Magdalena Bekk, Doctoral Student, Department of Marketing and Brand Management, University of Cologne, Albertus- Magnus-Platz, 50923 Köln, Tel: +49 221 470 2599, Fax: +49 221 470 5648, E-Mail: bekk@wiso.uni-koeln.de Dr. Philipp Sandner*, Post- Doc, Chair for Strategy and Organisation, TUM School of Management, Technische Universität München (TUM), Arcisstr. 21, 80333 Munich, Germany, Tel: +49 89 289 24800, Fax: +49 89 289 24805, E-Mail: philipp.sandner@tum.de * Corresponding Author Prof. Dr. Isabell M. Welpe, Professor for Strategy and Organisation, TUM School of Management, Technische Universität München (TUM), Arcisstr. 21, 80333 Munich, Germany, Tel: +49 89 289 24800, Fax: +49 89 289 24805, E-Mail: welpe@tum.de Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? How Retirees Develop Group Identification and Evaluate Age-Related Labels Friedemann Wolf, Magdalena Bekk, Philipp Sandner and Isabell M. Welpe It is essential for marketers to understand which situational and individual factors influence how retirees evaluate age-related labels and which age-related labels (e.g., “Retiree,” “60+,” or “Senior”) they can effectively use to address retired consumers. Based on social identity theory, this study shows that retirees’ evaluation of age-related labels depends on their level of identification with the social identity as retiree. This identification in turn depends on situational factors related to the transition to retirement, including the availability of reference persons who are already retired as role models, retirees’ willingness to retire, changes in their financial resources, and their previous work hours. Our findings contribute to a preliminary understanding of how these factors influence individuals and their evaluations of age-related labels. We also present suggestions for marketing to aging consumers using age-related labels. 1. Introduction Marketing to retired consumers is becoming increasingly important for many companies as retirees are growing in number and account for a substantial share of the wealth and consumption expenditures in developed countries (U.S. Census Bureau 2012). Mature consumers have different needs and requirements which products and services have to fulfill, such as larger font size or easier to open packaging (Sudbury-Riley 2014). For example, Sundar et al. (2012) found a difference between how mature and younger consumers are sensitive to prescription warning labels on drugs, which might in the end even impact their health status. They state that it is important to focus on attracting mature consumers’ attention, as prescription warning labels failed to grab the attention of the latter group. As a result, mature consumers might take the wrong dose of medicine. Thus, studying consumer behavior in later life and understanding the role marketing plays over a person’s entire life are important (Moschis 2012; see also Helm/Scheunert/Landschulze 2012). To specifically address the growing number of mature consumers, some researchers have proposed that companies should consider age-related labels as segmentation cues that reference age group membership, such as “Senior,” “Retiree,” or “60+” (Tepper 1994; Weijters/ Geuens 2006). However, marketers must be cautious when using such labels as consumers’ reactions to age segmentation cues are diverse and can range from positive attitudes to the explicit avoidance of certain products and services labeled with such age-related cues (Moschis/Mathur 2006; Tepper 1994). Therefore, it is essential for marketers to understand under what conditions retirees evaluate age segmentation cues positively and under what conditions they may interpret such cues negatively. MARKETING · ZFP · 37. Jg. · 2/2015 · S. 79–89 79 Fig. 1: Social identity theory As an initial aim of this study, we address this question by looking at the individual and how he or she acts and reacts in social contexts. We focus only on social (not private) contexts, as age-related labels are used in such contexts. Using social identity theory (Tajfel/Turner 1979), we assume and find that retirees’ identification with the social identity as retiree (i.e., with other retirees) plays a significant role in their evaluation of some age segmentation cues. This finding contributes to marketing practice, as marketers should try to address or even better increase identification with their target group’s social identity as retirees when using specific age-related labels as segmentation cues. However, with regard to this task of increasing retirees’ identification with the social identity as retiree, one important question remains open to marketers: What are the factors that increase or decrease a retired person’s identification with other retirees? Previous research indicates a lack of knowledge regarding the factors that cause retirees to identify with their new peer group of retired people. As a second aim of this study, we address this research gap by examining under what conditions retirees do or do not identify with other retirees. We examine situational factors, such as whether this person has a retired spouse or the number of hours the person used to work before entering into retirement. Using such situational factors offers great managerial relevance, as managers can easily assess these factors in their target group and use them to decide whether their target group can identify with the social identity as retiree (leading to a positive evaluation of specific age-related labels, e.g., “Retiree”), or whether no identification with this social identity is likely (leading to a positive evaluation of different agerelated labels, e.g., “Senior”). In the latter case, marketers could also try to use campaigns to create identification, to still target specific, identification-dependent agerelated labels to this group. Prior research has shown that inappropriately labeling mature consumers may have detrimental consequences for businesses, as mature consumers may ignore or even boycott the products, services, or even companies in question (Moschis/Mathur 2006; Tepper 1994). Thus, it is important for managers to know which age-related labels they can use, especially when attempting to appeal to retirees, who typically belong to several age-related groups. Thus, in addition to determining factors which influence retirees’ evaluations of age-related labels, a third aim of this research is to examine which age-related labels retirees like best. Our comparison of commonly applied labels (i.e., “Retiree,” “60+,” “Senior”) provides guidance to marketers with regard to the labels that they should use. 2. Theoretical background and hypotheses 2.1. The influence of identification with social groups Social identity theory contends that people psychologically connect with persons or groups to which they believe that they belong (Hogg 2001; Tajfel/Turner 1986; Tajfel 1982). The theory states that individuals have a set of social identities, like their gender, ethnicity, age or job (for a graphical representation of the social identity theory, see Fig. 1). These social identities can be activated at any point in time, for example, through external cues or other causes (Markus/Kunda 1986; Reed 2002). Take, for example, the case of a person who finds himself surrounded by people from the opposite sex. In this situation the social identity of gender will very likely be activated, and is then part of the person’s self-concept, that is, the “totality of the individual’s thoughts and feelings having reference to himself as an object” (Rosenberg 1979, p. 7). Once a social identity is activated, it determines a categorization of people into two groups: the ingroup, which includes all people who possess this social identity, and the out-group, which consists of everyone else (Hogg et al. 1995; Stets/Burke 2000). The theory argues that once people are assigned to one of these two groups they will try to dissociate themselves from the other group. However, it is important to note that indi- Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? 80 MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 Retired partner Retired friends Changes in financial resources Work hours prior to retirement Involuntary retirement Group identification with other retirees Evaluation of age-related labels Determinants Mediator Outcome Fig. 2: Conceptual framework viduals try to achieve or maintain only positive social identities and to avoid negative ones (Tajfel/Turner 1979). Thus, the activation of a social identity and categorization of people into in- and out-group will generally only occur when a positive social identity is activated. An activated (positive) social identity describes and prescribes what an individual should think or feel or how he or she should behave (Hogg et al. 1995). It is the person’s attitude whether he or she belongs to the in-group, leading to identification with this group (Stets/Burke 2000). An activated social identity can profoundly influence consumer behavior and judgment, such that they perceive marketing stimuli addressing the “in-group” more positively than stimuli addressing the “out-group” (Chattaraman et al. 2010; Forehand et al. 2002). For example, consumers reacted more positively to advertisements picturing spokespersons with the same ethnicity as their own (Forehand/Deshpande 2001; Grier/Deshpande 2001). Social identities referring to age are important elements of people’s self-concepts, influencing their behavior (Mathur/Moschis 2005; Sirgy 1982). Thus, transferring social identity theory to the context of retirement (which is associated with older age) as social identity and the acceptance of age-related labels, we believe that retired people will identify themselves with the group of retirees (i.e., they will perceive themselves as members of this in-group) upon activation of the (positively associated) social identity as retiree. Age-related labels on products or services to which the person is exposed can and will function as activation cues of the social identity as retiree. Due to this activated social identity, these individuals will think and act in line with the norms and stereotypes of this in-group of other retirees, thus evaluating age-related labels positively. Furthermore, as age-related labels, such as “Retiree,” “60+,” or “Senior,” are characteristics which differentiate this in-group from the outgroup of non-retirees, retirees will accept those labels as a means to communicate their in-group membership and to differentiate themselves from members of the outgroup. Wolf/Sandner/Welpe (2014) showed such a positive effect of identification with the in-group on the acceptance of age-related labels. Thus, we expect that the identification of retirees with other retirees (resulting from a positively associated social identity as retiree) will positively influence the evaluation of age-related labels. Fig. 2 shows this and all following proposed relations in one conceptual model. H1: When retirees exhibit greater identification with other retirees, they are more likely to evaluate agerelated labels (“Retiree,” “60+,” and “Senior”) positively. 2.2. The influence of retirement transition characteristics Older people weigh negative aspects more heavily than positive ones (Hess/Pullen 1994) and thus have a tendency to focus on the positive (Carstensen/Fung/Charles 2003). This is also true for the adoption of social identities: people are motivated to identify with positive social identities and to avoid negative social identities (Weiss/ Lang 2012a). For many people, retirement and old age, and thus the social identity of old age, both in itself and specifically when being confronted with one’s age, is negative and generates thoughts about their own mortality, limited days left, and negative stereotypes associated with old age (McTavish 1971; Weiss/Lang 2012a). To protect themselves from these negative associations older adults frequently do not identify themselves with their Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 81 own age group (Weiss/Freund 2012). Dissociating themselves from their own age group is an effective way of coping with a negative social identity (i.e., old age and retirement), and prevents people from thinking of the negative aspects of aging (Weiss/Lang 2012b). Thus, this coping mechanism prevents people from identifying with the social identity “old age” and from accepting age-related labels. It is therefore important to examine what factors will help people to avoid seeing retirement, and with it old age, as negative, and thus lead to identification with their age group, and what factors related to retirement will lead to a dissociation from one’s own age group due to negative aspects. With regard to mature consumers, no studies have investigated such factors. In the following, we will use age-based theories to identify factors of this kind, which might be present when an individual is retiring. The importance of reference persons: Selective optimization with compensation (SOC) theory suggests that people who age successfully make use of three basic strategies: selection, optimization, and compensation (Burnett-Wolle/Godbey 2007). Selection refers to the process of identifying, reprioritizing and committing to goals. Optimization refers to the maximization of performance, for example through modeling the behavior of successful others. Compensation refers to the adaptation to current or anticipated limitations, for example through modeling the behavior of others who compensate well. Compensation occurs in response to the loss of means and resources. Going into retirement can be classified as such a loss. It is the loss of one’s work life. Thus, people entering into retirement will try to compensate for this loss. As (older) people view loss as something negative they will dissociate themselves from their age-group (Weiss/Lang 2012b), unless they are successfully able to compensate this loss. One way to compensate is to model the behavior of reference persons who compensate well (Baltes 1997). Such reference persons could be spouses or close friends who are already retired. This is also in line with socioemotional selectivity theory, which states that as the perceived time people have left to live diminishes, they tend to focus on important relationships with reference persons like their family (e.g., spouse, children) and close friends (Carstensen 1995). Thus, these relationships will become increasingly important with old age, making these people ideal role models for compensation processes. Combining these two theories, spouses and close friends are reference persons to mature people, and are thus ideal role models for the compensation of their working lives if they have already managed to compensate the loss of their working life and adapt to retirement. We propose that a retired individual should be able to compensate more easily when taking these important others as role model and should thus have a less negative view on retirement and old age, leading to identification (rather than dissociation) with retirement and the agegroup of retired people. H2: Retirees who live with a retired spouse during the transition to retirement will identify more strongly with other retirees. H3: Retirees who have more retired friends than friends who are still working will identify more strongly with other retirees. The importance of the working role in life: According to activity theory, people derive meaning from the roles they occupy (Lemon/Bengtson/Peterson 1972; Longino/ Kart 1982). One role every individual who is about to retire occupies is their role as a working member of society. For some individuals, this role is more important and relevant to their lives than for others. These people will experience retirement, and hence the loss of this role, even more negatively. Looking again at SOC theory (Burnett-Wolle/Godbey 2007), selecting new goals and compensating for the loss of this important role will be even harder for these people, compared to people who have other important roles in their lives which are not taken away from them during the transition into retirement. In this study, we look at two factors which determine the importance of the working life role and with it the amount of negativity individuals experience when loosing this role. These two factors are peoples’ individual workload and the voluntary vs. involuntary decision to retire. One important characteristic of workload is the number of working hours (Byron 2005). The more hours an individual works per week, the fewer hours he or she can spent on other activities and roles in his or her life, for example, on leisure activities or the roles as a friend or family member, leading to work-life conflict (Greenhaus/Beutell 1985; Skinner/Pocock 2008). In such cases, the working life role of this individual will be more important to this person than other roles, such as their role as spouse, friend, or golf player. Loosing this important role will therefore have a highly negative impact on this person’s life. As these people have comparatively fewer other, non-work-related activities to turn to, they will need more time and resources to apply the strategies of the SOC theory (e.g., selecting new activities or roles, compensating the loss by acquiring new skills) successfully, which in turn might turn retirement into a negative experience. Thus, we assume that people who have worked many hours per week before retiring will experience retirement, and with it old age (which is responsible for the retirement), as more negative, and thus turn retirement into a negative social identity, which in turn will lead to less identification with the social identity as retiree and the group of retired people. H4: The more hours retirees’ have worked prior to retirement the less they will identify with other retirees. Another situation, in which individuals will feel the loss of their role as a working member of the society strongly, Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? 82 MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 is when their retirement is involuntary. The working life role will play a more important part to these individuals compared to individuals who decided voluntarily to retire, as the former had less or no time to decrease their psychological commitment to work and prepare for a life without work. Involuntary retirement prohibits a socialization process in which people can prepare themselves for this new situation, get support from their family and friends, and restructure their lives (van Solinge/Henkens 2008). Furthermore, involuntary retirement might also lead to unfavorable social comparisons with others who did not have to retire (van Solinge & Henkens 2008). It is therefore not surprising that people who are forced into retirement experience more negative effects from it compared to people who retire voluntarily (Schultz/Morton/ Weckerle 1998). Thus, we assume that people who are forced into retirement will experience retirement, and thus view old age as more negative due to less time to compensate for an important role they have occupied. Due to its negativity, an involuntary retirement will turn retirement into a negative social identity, which in turn will lead to less identification with the social identity as retiree and the group of retired people. H5: Retirees who involuntarily transition to retirement (compared to those who voluntarily enter into retirement) will identify less with other retirees. The importance of avoiding negative change: As stated above, people try to avoid losses, especially in old age (Weiss/Lang 2012a). In addition, age-related changes threaten people’s subjective well-being and social behavior (Burnett-Wolle/Godbey 2007; Atchley 1989). One aspect which oftentimes goes hand in hand with retirement is a decrease in financial resources (e.g., monthly income). This decrease can be perceived as both a loss and an age-related change by retirees, leading to a negative experience when entering into retirement. The higher this decrease in financial resources is going to be, the more the individual has to apply selection and compensation strategies (see SOC theory, Burnett-Wolle/Godbey 2007). The greater this decrease in financial resources is, the harder it will be for individuals to compensate and select. We therefore assume that a decrease in financial resources will lead to a negative social identity as retiree. As stated above, people try to avoid adopting negative social identities by dissociating themselves from these identities and identify with positive social identities (Weiss/Lang 2012b). Thus, we assume that people who experienced a decrease in their financial resources after retiring will identify less with the social identity as retiree and the group of retired people. H6: The more retirees’ experience a decrease in financial resources following retirement the less they will identify with other retirees. 3. Methodology 3.1. Sample We used a random stratified dataset provided by a market research company. From this dataset, we contacted people aged 60 or above by telephone; individuals contacted were randomly selected from this list proportional to their residence in Germany’s federal states. Overall, 34 % of the individuals contacted agreed to participate in a telephone interview. Telephone interviewers took place in 2010 and obtained 237 completed questionnaires from retired respondents between the ages of 60 and 75. The interviewers recorded the answers of the respondents using a computer program. Respondents (59.5 % female), were 66.22 years old on average (SD = 2.29) and had entered into retirement at the age of 60 years. On average respondents had been retired for six years, ranging from two months to almost 16 years. In terms of statistical power, the sample had sufficient size for the intended regression analyses (Green 1991). 3.2. Measures We translated all of the measures used in this study into German, following the forward-backward translation recommendation of Bensaou et al. (1999). Consistent with previous research (Pinquart/Schindler 2007; van Solinge/Henkens 2008), retirees were asked to indicate whether they had a retired spouse during the transition to retirement. We used an item from van Solinge/Henkens (2008) to measure the relative number of retired friends (“Most of my friends entered into retirement around the same time as I did or before me”) on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = “completely disagree” to 5 = “completely agree”. To assess the number of hours participants had worked per week before entering into retirement, we used another item by van Solinge/Henkens (2008). Involuntary retirement was measured in a manner that was also consistent with the methods of van Solinge/Henkens (2008) by asking respondents whether the decision to retire was entirely voluntary (answer categories: 1 = “yes” or 2 = “no”). To assess changes in financial resources, we used the item used by Hopkins et al. (2006): “Do you have more or less financial resources available since entering into retirement?” (assessed on a five-point scale, ranging from 1 = “much less available” to 5 = “much more available”). Consistent with previous studies (e.g., Reed 2004), our measure of identification with the social identity as retiree assessed the degree to which the respondents identified with other retirees. To measure the identification with other retirees, we adapted a measure by Sirgy et al. (1997) to the context of retirees using the following six items: “I can identify well with other retirees;” “I feel my personal profile is similar to the one of a retiree”, “I am a typical retiree”, “I am not at all like a retiree;” “The picture of a typical retiree is very dissimilar from how I am;” and “I have nothing in common with a typical retir- Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 83 Variable M / % SD (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) Evaluations of labels: (1) “Retiree” 3.28 .94 .16 .37 .24 .05 .01 -.09 .04 .09 -.10 .07 .11 (2) “60+” 3.54 .81 – .28 .15 .06 -.06 -.10 -.02 -.16 .11 -.06 -.12 (3) “Senior” 3.58 .83 – .10 .06 .06 .03 .06 -.10 -.06 .11 .03 Driver of label evaluation: (4) Group identification 2.94 .94 – .20 .19 -.14 -.05 -.12 .01 .12 .08 Determinants of identification: (5) Retired spouse (0=No, 1=Yes) 48.5% – .21 -.04 .06 -.05 .10 .05 .13 (6) Retired friends 3.83 1.46 – .06 .09 -.08 .13 .14 .20 (7) Working hours per week 28.26 20.58 – .02 .00 -.18 -.02 -.03 (8) Changes in fin. resource 2.08 .85 – -.22 -.05 .08 -.07 (9) Involuntary retired (0=No, 1=Yes) 25.7% – -.03 -.04 .20 Control variables: (10) Female gender (0=No, 1=Yes) 59.5% – -.10 -.07 (11) Age (years) 66.22 2.30 – .48 (12) Retirement duration (month) 73.38 48.08 – Tab. 1: Descriptive statistics and correlations ee” (five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = “completely disagree” to 5 = “completely agree”). Social psychology research uses similar measures to assess identification with a social group (e.g., Spears et al. 1997). Our measure showed good reliability (α = .83). To assess retirees’ evaluations of the age-related labels we used an item created by Weijter/Geuens (2006). Respondents were asked to evaluate the three labels “Retiree,” “60+,” and “Senior” on a five-point scale ranging from 1 = “negative” to 5 = “positive.” Following Weijters/Geuens (2006), we omitted further age-related labels, such as “Elderly” or “Third age,” because these labels clearly evoke negative associations in retirees, and thus the investigation of these labels is unnecessary for marketing purposes. In addition to these variables, we used three control variables in our model, namely age, retirement duration, and gender. We included age as control variable, as age has been used as an explanatory variable for responses to age segmentation cues in previous research (Moschis/Mathur 2006; Tepper 1994; Weijters/Geuens 2006). We included retirement duration as a control variable, as prior studies have also suggested that responses to age segmentation cues follow a multistage process with increasing acceptance of segmentation cues according to the duration of group membership (Tepper 1994; Weijters/Geuens 2006). Finally, researchers have argued that gender plays a pivotal role in the retirement transition process (Barnes/Parry 2004). Women and men differ in their work histories, role expectations, exposure to life events, and attachment to their jobs (Richardson/Kilty 1991). Women may identify less with their working life roles as they often display fragmented careers due to family and caregiving roles they have to fulfil (Barnes/Parry 2004; Richardson/Kilty 1991). This has led to two opposing assumptions in prior research about how women perceive retirement (Barnes/Parry 2004; Pinquart/Schindler 2007; Szinovacz/Washo 1992): Some authors have argued that women may perceive retirement more positively, whereas other scholars have posited that these aspects may lead to increased problems to transition to retirement because women may feel that they did not achieve their employment goals due to the aforementioned constraints. Thus, to control for possible effects of retirees’ gender, we included this factor as a control variable. 4. Analysis and results 4.1. Descriptive results Tab. 1 displays the descriptive statistics and correlations for all variables. Regarding the age-related labels, the descriptive results indicate that the evaluations of all three labels were positive and similar to those of the study of Weijters/Geuens (2006). Retirees’ identification was close to the indifference score on the scale (i.e., at the value of three); this result indicated that most retirees do not have significantly negative or positive perceptions of being a retiree. Approximately half of our sample lived Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? 84 MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 a 1 = “negative” to 5 = “positive” Dependent variable Group identification Evaluation of “Retiree” Evaluation of “60+” Evaluation of “Senior” Independent variable B SE B SE B SE B SE Group identification .24*** 0.07 .11 .06 .06 .06 Retired partner (0=No, 1=Yes) .31** .12 .02 0.12 .06 .11 .06 .11 Retired friends .11** .04 -.03 0.04 -.05 .04 .02 .04 Fin. Resource changes -.13† .07 .09 0.07 -.03 .06 .03 .07 Work hours per week -.01* .00 .00 0.00 .00 .00 .00 .00 Involuntary retirement (0=No, 1=Yes) -.26† .14 .24† 0.15 -.26* .13 -.15 .13 Age .04 .03 .00 0.03 -.01 .03 .03 .03 Retirement duration .00 .00 .00 0.00 .00 .00 .00 .00 Female gender (0=No, 1=Yes) -.11 .13 -.19 0.13 .13 .11 -.10 .12 R2 .12 .10 .08 .03 F 3.80*** 2.63** 2.01* .89 N 235 235 234 235 Note. Unstandardized regression coefficients (B) and standard errors (SE) are reported. No evidence of collinearity in any of the four models (tolerance • .67; variance inflation factor ” 1.46). † p ” .10, * p ” .05, ** p ” .01, *** p ” .001 (two-sided) † Fig. 3: Mean evaluation scores of age-related labels Tab. 2: Results of the OLS regression for group identification and the evaluations of agerelated variables with a retired spouse during the transition to retirement. Furthermore, our respondents indicated that most of their friends were retired, that they had worked an average of approximately 28 hours per week prior to retirement and perceived that they experienced some decrease in financial resources subsequent to retirement. Consistent with previous research (van Solinge/Henkens, 2008), a significant minority of our respondents (26 %) perceived their transition to retirement as involuntary. Notes. M = Mean, % = percentage of the category coded with 1 (only for dichotomous variables), SD = Standard Deviation, SK = Skewness, KU = Kurtosis, N = 237. For Pearson correlations (above main diagonal): |r| & .13, p < .05 (two-tailed), |r| & .18, p < .01 (two-tailed). 4.2. Overall evaluations of age-related labels The use of age-related labels can only be recommended to marketers if mature consumers (or at least an identifiable and significant subset of them) tend to evaluate such labels positively. Following the approach of Weijters/ Geuens (2006), we performed t-tests comparing the actual mean with the theoretical midpoint of the scale (i.e., the indifference score, value = 3) to confirm the statistical significance of respondents’ positive evaluations of age-related labels. The evaluation of all three labels under investigation in our main study was positive and significantly different from the indifference score (“Retiree:” M = 3.28, SD =.94, t(235) = 4.59, p < .001; “60+:” M = 3.54, SD = .81, t(234) = 10.35, p < 0.001; “Senior:” M = 3.58, SD = .83, t(235) = 10.68, p < 0.001. Fig. 3 illustrates the mean evaluations of the three age-related labels. Paired-sample t-tests assessing the differences between the evaluations of the three labels showed no significant difference between the evaluations of the labels “60+” and “Senior” (t(234) = .53, p >.05), whereas both the label “60+” (t(234) = 3.52, p e .001) and the label “Senior” (t(235) = 4.57, 5 e .001) were evaluated slightly but significantly more positively than the label “Retiree.” 4.3. The influence of retirees’ identification on the evaluation of age-related labels To assess the influence of retirees’ identification with other retirees on their evaluation of the three age-related labels, we used three OLS regression analyses (one for each label) including identification, the determinants of identification and the control variables as predictors. We expected that the identification of retirees with other re- Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 85 tirees would positively influence the evaluation of agerelated labels (H1). The results of the OLS regression analyses show a significant positive effect of retirees’ identification on the evaluation of the label “Retiree” (B = .24, SE = .07; p < .001). The effect of identification on the label “60+” was only marginally significant (B = .11, SE = .06, p < .10). There was no significant effect of identification on the label “Senior” (B = .06, SE = .06; p > .10). 4.4. Determinants of retirees’ identification We used another OLS regression analysis to predict retirees’ identification with other retirees, using the determinants and the control variables as predictors. The results can also be seen in Tab. 2. As proposed in H2 and H3, the identification with other retirees was stronger when the person had a retired spouse (B = .31, SE = .12, p < .05) or many retired friends (B =.11, SE = .04, p < .05) when entering into retirement. Also in line with our hypothesis H4, there was a negative effect of the number of working hours per week on retirees’ identification (B = -.01, SE = .00, p < .05): The more hours a person used to work before entering into retirement the less could this person identify him- or herself with other retirees. In line with our hypotheses H5 and H6, but only marginally significant, were the effects of an involuntary retirement decision and of a decrease in financial resources subsequent to retirement. Individuals identified themselves less with other retirees if they were forced into retirement (B = -.26, SE = .14, p < .10). They also identified themselves less with other retirees if they experienced a decrease in their financial resources after entering into retirement (B = -.13, SE = .07, < .10). 6. Conclusion 6.1. Discussion of results The purpose of this study was to understand how retirees evaluate different age-related labels, whether this evaluation depends on retirees’ identification with the social identity as retiree (i.e., identification with other retirees), and to identify the situational factors that facilitate versus impede a retiree’s identification. The mean evaluations of the labels “Retiree,” “60+,” and “Senior” were positive and similar in size to the results of Weijters/Geuens (2006). This result supports the contention that properly selected age segmentation cues are evaluated positively by mature consumers, and contradicts the earlier findings of Tepper (1994), who concluded that senior discounts evoke negative feelings of selfdevaluation and stigmatization. This contradiction may be attributed to the differing age-based stimuli considered (i.e., age-related labels vs. senior discounts) and the varying socio-cultural contexts of the studies (i.e., the U.S. versus Western Europe). The differing result of our study may also be an indicator of a positive change in the perception of mature age in recent decades. From the three labels examined in this study, the labels “60+” and “Senior” were evaluated even more positively than the label “Retiree.” When choosing an age-related label, marketers are thus well-advised to use the labels “60+” or “Senior” instead of the label “Retiree.” Identification with other retirees was significantly related to the evaluation of the label “Retiree” and marginally significant to the “60+” label. This indicates that when retirees exhibit greater identification with the social group of retirees, they are more likely to evaluate these labels positively. We did not find a significant relationship between retirees’ identification and the label “Senior.” An explanation for why the labels “retiree” and “60+” are influenced by retirees’ identification with the social identity as retiree (i.e., identification with other retirees) but the label “Senior” is not might be because the first two labels are linked to the retirement process. When the social identity as retiree is activated and the individual perceives it as something positive, and thus identifies with it, an age-related label addressing exactly this activated social identity (i.e., “Retiree”) will be evaluated as something positive. Even though the label “60+” makes no such explicit reference to retirement, it is implicitly linked to it as most people enter into retirement at the age of 60+. For the label “Senior” no such explicit or implicit links to retirement exist. Thus, our results show that activation of and identification with the social identity as retiree influences how retirees evaluate some of the commonly used age-related labels. These findings may assist in explaining the varying results of previous research. For example, Weijters/Geuens (2006) found a positive effect of retirement status on the evaluation of the label “Retiree”, whereas Moschis et al. (1993) did not find a significant influence of retirement status on the evaluation of age-based marketing stimuli. Our study suggests that the evaluation of some age-related labels can be influenced by retirees’ identification with the social identity as retiree and this identification is dependent on individual factors accompanying the transition into retirement. Thus, it might be that participants could identify with the social identity as retiree in the study by Weijters/Geuens (2006), but that no such identification occurred in the study by Moschis et al. (1993). As expected, all the hypothesized situational determinants influenced the identification of retirees with their peers. People who had a retired spouse or many retired friends identified more with retirement (i.e., other retirees). People who experienced a cutback in financial resources after retirement, were forced to go into retirement or had worked many hours per week before entering into retirement, identified less with other retirees. These results provide important information, which will be discussed in the next section. Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? 86 MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 Label Average evaluation Linked to identification Linked to determinants Implications Retiree Positive Yes Yes ƒ May be used to address retirees. However, “60+” may be better because the evaluation of “60+” is significantly more positive. ƒ Identification with retirees influences the evaluation of this label, thus use this label to target groups who identify with the social identity as retiree. 60+ Positive Yes Yes ƒ Recommended to address retirees. ƒ Identification with retirees influences the evaluation of this label, thus use this label to target groups who identify with the social identity as retiree. Senior Positive No No ƒ Recommended to address retirees. ƒ Identification with retirees does not influence the evaluation of this label, thus use this label for all target groups irrespective of their identification with the social identity as retiree. Tab 3: Practical implications for the use of age-related labels 6.2. Implications Our results contribute to research in several ways. The results indicate that age-related labels are worthy of consideration in consumer research. By establishing the importance of individual characteristics (i.e., identification with the social identity as retiree), our results significantly extend the understanding of the drivers of responses to age segmentation cues that have been limited to the influence of age and group membership. Moreover, by demonstrating the importance of retirees’ identification with the social identity as retiree for the evaluation of age-related labels, our findings provide empirical support for the propositions of social identity theory, which has only rarely been used in the context of mature consumers. As a further contribution, we theoretically derived and empirically tested which situational retirement-related characteristics support the development of a new identity as a retiree following retirement. To the best of our knowledge, no study has investigated the influence of such retirement transition-related aspects on the progress of identification with a new social identity (i.e., retirement) and linked these aspects to consumers’ evaluations of age-related labels. Our findings on the influences of retirement transition-related factors on consumers’ evaluations of age-related labels are in line with research on the life course perspective and extends its application to a different aspect of consumer research. This perspective proposes that life changes and trajectories influence the behavior of individuals and that the contexts of a person’s transitions have a substantial influence on the outcomes of such transitions (Szinovacz 2003). The application of the life course perspective (Elder 1995) to consumer research has been advocated by authors in recent years to explain changes in consumer behavior over time (Mathur et al. 2008; Moschis, 2007). In addition to these research contributions, our findings provide immediate managerial implications. This study suggests that age-related labels are meaningful tools for marketers to promote services or products targeted at mature consumers. There appear to be significant differences in the evaluation of different age-related labels by respondents over the age of 60 years. To improve the effectiveness of marketing to mature consumers, companies should obtain a more accurate understanding and definition of their target customers and choose adequate labels. Marketing departments and advertising agencies may consider the situational determinants of retirees’ identification with the social identity as retiree, identified in our study, as support for their choice of an appropriate age-related label and of messaging strategies. They may leverage the recently increased availability of consumer data to customize meaningful marketing approaches to mature consumers. For example, retirees who live with a retired spouse or have many retired friends will identify more strongly with retirement, which in turn will lead to a more positive evaluation of the label “Retiree”. Retirees, however, who were forced into retirement or experienced a decrease in financial resources will identify less with retirement and, in turn, will evaluate the label “Retiree” less positive. As the label “Senior” is not influenced by retirees’ identification, this label might be best suited to address these retirees who show less or no identification with the social identity as retiree. Thus, individual differences related to the retirement transition may help marketers to identify the best fitting age-related label for their target group. Tab. 3 provides an overview of the three age-related labels used in this study, how they are influenced by retirees’ identification, and first implications on when to use each label. 6.3. Limitations and future research Our results do not come without limitations. Following Weijters/Geuens (2006), we used the evaluations of agerelated labels as independent measures. This approach is advantageous because this measure is not biased by the actual availability of products and services to mature consumers and other contextual factors that may be important in the context of age-based marketing stimuli (Moschis et al. 1993). However, the evaluation of age-related labels may not be a precise reflection of actual be- Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 87 havior. Based on our results, we cannot be certain that consumers who evaluate age-related labels positively would actually purchase the products and services targeted at them, particularly when competing labels not referring to the consumer’s age are available. Thus, future research should use experimental studies to examine the reaction of mature consumers to age-related labels on actual products or services in comparison to products or services not labeled with age segmentation cues. A second limitation comes from our results. We are the first to link situational factors which come along with the transition into retirement to the individual identification with the social identity as retiree (i.e., identification with other retirees) and the evaluation of age-related labels. Even though our results show that such situational factors drive a person’s identification with the social identity as retiree, and that this identification leads to a more positive evaluation of some of the age-related labels, we can only explain a small amount of variance of the evaluation of age-related labels with our model. Thus, there will be other factors in addition to identification which have an important influence on mature consumers’ evaluations of age-related labels. Looking at our results, it will be especially relevant for future research to find factors which influence the label “Senior”, as it is not at all influenced by retirees’ identification but is evaluated as more positive than the label “Retiree.” Future studies should thus continue this research by examining additional factors and their impact on mature consumers’ evaluation of age-related labels. Such additional factors may be derived from different age theories and studies on age-group dissociation (Carstensen/Fung/Charles 2007; Lang/Staudinger/ Carstensen 1998; Weiss/Freund 2012; Weiss/Lang 2012b). 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R. (2012b): “They” are old but “I” feel younger: Age-group dissociation as a self-protective strategy in old age, in: Psychology and Aging, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 153–163. Wolf, F./Sandner, P./Welpe, I. M. (2014): Why do responses to agebased marketing stimuli differ? The influence of retirees’ group identification and changing consumption patterns, in: Psychology and Marketing, Vol. 31, No. 10, pp. 914–931. Keywords Retirement transition, social identity, life status changes, age-related labels, age segmentation cues, aging society and economy Wolf/Bekk/Sandner/Welpe, Do You Like Being Labeled a 60-Plus? MARKETING · ZFP · Heft 2 · 2. Quartal 2015 89

Abstract

It is essential for marketers to understand which situational and individual factors influence how retirees evaluate age-related labels and which age-related labels (e.g., “Retiree,” “60+,” or “Senior”) they can effectively use to address retired consumers. Based on social identity theory, this study shows that retirees’ evaluation of age-related labels depends on their level of identification with the social identity as retiree. This identification in turn depends on situational factors related to the transition to retirement, including the availability of reference persons who are already retired as role models, retirees’ willingness to retire, changes in their financial resources, and their previous work hours. Our findings contribute to a preliminary understanding of how these factors influence individuals and their evaluations of age-related labels. We also present suggestions for marketing to aging consumers using age-related labels.

References

Abstract

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