Google “Marketing to Baby Boomers,” and you’ll be overwhelmed by search returns that use different words to arrive at the same conclusion. Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 (the last of the boomers turned 50 in 2014), do not fit the stereotype of retirees (and those nearing retirement) who are looking only for comfort and stability as they slow down.
Baby boomers have been called the most active retirees in history. They typically have energetic lifestyles and report feeling younger than their age. The phrase, “60 is the new 40” is supported by reports of a generation looking for adventure, change and activity as they leave the workforce and embark on a new phase of their lives.
While their retirement income may have been significantly reduced by the Great Recession, Forbes reports boomers will represent half the U.S. population by the end of next year and will control 70% of disposable income in the U.S.
The Consumer Expenditure Survey says the 50+ population has $2.4 trillion in annual income. That’s 42% of all after-tax income in the U.S. and the survey indicates boomers outspend the average consumer in every category from food to personal care. Nielsen says boomers purchase 55% of consumer packaged goods (CPG). Another study shows boomers dominate 119 out of the top 123 CPG categories.
Despite Buying Power, Boomers are Often Ignored
What are they buying? Research shows that as boomers age, their interests and lifestyles have more in common with younger generations than with older ones. Based on all of these statistics, it’s surprising to read that AARP reports Americans age 50+ account for half of all consumer spending but are targeted by just 10% of marketing. A University of Michigan survey reports that marketing campaigns that target boomers are twice as likely to be successful as those targeting millennials.
So why are marketers avoiding and ignoring boomers? Forbes calls it the “Ponce de Léon Effect,” which they define as “the obsessive search for a fountain of youthful consumers and catering to them.” They speculate that marketers worry that targeting older people will cause their brands to be perceived as old. Boomers remember the last ads of Oldsmobile that proclaimed, “Not your father’s Oldsmobile.” Buick currently appears to be trying to send the same message without using the parental reference.
Tips for Marketing to Baby Boomers
So how can marketers do it right and take advantage of the opportunities that boomers offer? First, recognize that boomers are not a homogenous group. Some are still working, some are retired and many have started their own business after retiring (or being retired) from their first career. Second, recognize where boomers spend money. This generation spends more on travel, entertainment, fitness, cars and computers than any other age group. Now that their kids have left the nest, boomers spend more on their pets than younger generations, whose priority is their human children.
My third tip about marketing to baby boomers may be the most important. Boomers have a high direct mail response rate, but that’s not the only channel they use. They’re active on social networks and do extensive research online before making purchase decisions. In other words, it’s a multichannel world for boomer marketing, too.
If you’d like to learn more about effective ways to market to baby boomers, don’t hesitate to contact me.
P.S. Boomers don’t want to feel old. As Mike Dietz often reminds his millennial design team, avoid small, hard-to-read fonts. We don’t want to have to find our “cheaters” to take advantage of your offer
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