OMG! Grandma’s Texting Me Older Americans embrace mobile devices By Patrick Moorhead, Group Management Director of Mobile Platforms, Draftfcb

Posted March 2012

Grabbing a cup of coffee at my usual café recently, I had planned to steal a few minutes from my overscheduled day to troll some favorite websites. Instead, I got wrapped up in a conversation between a grandmother and her grandkids talking at the table behind me.

“Grandma, did you get my text about the Dead Space game I want for my birthday?”

“Yep, I did. But you won’t know until you open your present!”

They had my attention at “Grandma” and “text.” She knew about Dead Space too?

A quick glance over my shoulder revealed a petit, average older woman sharing a table with two teenaged companions.

I turned back to my smartphone and attempted to mind my own business. My attention was instantly diverted. “Grandma,” said one of the teens, “Did you know Mom surprised Dad and is taking him away for a few days for his 50th birthday?”

Grandma’s answer: “Of course, honey. Your Mom texted me her info so she knew I was available to stay with you.”

I smiled. The conversation sounded surreal to me. I’ve spent most of the last decade trying to understand consumer behavior with mobile devices, and still I questioned why this conversation was striking me as odd enough that I needed to fire off some texts of my own about it: “Dude, just heard convo about Grandma texting her grandkids!”

Mobile as a marketing technology is not even 10 years old. In 2006, the coolest phone on Earth was the Motorola Razr. It had a color screen and you could kind of go online with it, even if it was only to a carrier portal. In a mere five years, as the family behind me illustrated, we have gone from the Motorola Razr and really no ecosystem around it to having 50 percent of the population using smartphones. That’s not just 50 percent of millennials or 50 percent of Gen Xers. It’s 50 percent of everybody carrying in their pockets a computer that’s location-aware and runs software apps and is commerce-enabled.

The adoption of mobile by early adopters has forced traditionally late adopters, such as members of the 65-plus demographic, into participation. Exhibit A: Texting Grandma.

We’ve seen  incredible growth in text messaging over the last four years because older generations had to pick up the technology in order to communicate with the early-adopting younger ones. Text messaging has essentially become ubiquitous. In fact, more than 200 trillion text messages are received in America each day.

As May marks the country’s celebration of Older American Month, hats off to the booming demographic (40.3 million 65+ in 2010 and projected to be 88.5 million in 2050, per U.S. Census stats) that is now a driver of tech-fueled conversations.

It also begs the question to brand marketers: If your Grandma is texting, why aren’t you?