With Eons, Mr. Taylor joins a growing wave of entrepreneurs testing social networking, consumer-generated media and other newfangled approaches to consumer engagement on increasingly older demographics. "There's a huge untapped market out there, and our research is showing their openness to new technology and new ways of communicating," said 45-year-old Mr. Taylor.
Relying on sponsors
Community membership is free, and Mr. Taylor is relying on close sponsor partnerships to finance the site. Advertisers already on board include Harrah's Entertainment, Hyatt Corp., Humana Inc., Liberty Mutual Group and Verizon Wireless. Sponsorships are tied to related sections or features on Eons, which is offering standard ad units, exclusive and run-of-site sponsorships, and targeted contextual ads.
Eons has also developed its own dedicated search engine dubbed Cranky, which incorporates input from paid writers and community members into search results. Sponsored links appear above and below the search results listed on each Cranky page. (One of the top search terms yesterday was "ash scattering.")
To get the site off the ground, Mr. Taylor combined a number of marketing strategies not normally used to reach such a mature audience. First, Communispace, a market-research firm, was employed to monitor an online community of adults ranging in age from 49 to late 70s -- a first for the company.
In another first, a word-of-mouth campaign was orchestrated by BzzAgent and its CEO, Dave Balter, targeting potential community members over 50. About 5,200 agents -- 3,500 of whom joined Eons themselves -- reached an initial group of 64,000 consumers. Of those 64,000 people, 7,000 decided to join. "The rate of conversion was higher than what we see with groups targeted for much younger demographics," Mr. Balter said. "This demographic is highly active and eager to be involved."
James Overall, creative director and partner at the Boathouse Group, a creative agency working with Mr. Taylor, said Eons is part of a new school of marketers putting a more positive spin on old age. "One of the darkest days in people's lives is when they get their first mailing from AARP," Mr. Overall said. "We want people to have to exact opposite response."
Eons, in fact, could do worse. AARP posted a 21% increase in ad revenue for its AARP magazine for the first three months of the year, compared with an industry average of 0.4%. Among its new advertisers are cosmetics companies, including L'Oreal, Lancome, Vital Radiance and Aveeno.
The 76 million baby boomers -- about half of whom are over 50 -- are changing the strategies of many marketers. AstraZeneca's Nexium brand is exploring new ways to engage consumers with Oddcast, a company that develops and distributes avatars and user-generated media products.
The Nexium application, expected to launch shortly, allows people to create their own talking avatars that deliver information on hot spots to visit over the summer. The characters also talk about the purple pill and drive enrollment in Nexium's Purple Plus Program. Such programs typically run in the low six figures.