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Baby Boomers Are Still the 800-Pound Gorilla

by Jim Gilmartin –

Let’s Revisit The Opportunities

The media is currently promoting Millennials as targets to pursue. It’s very clear the numbers are impressive, but numbers don’t buy anything. It would be short-sighted of marketers to ignore Baby Boomers in favor of Millennials.

In 1946, Baby Boomers began their tremendous influence on the world. No one could have predicted how this generation would reshape America. From 1946 until 1964, 78 million Baby Boomers were born and nothing has been the same ever since. Their current chronological age span is 51 to 69.

According to the U.S. Census, 50-plus households control 45% of all discretionary income, totaling more than $200 billion. And, people over 50 comprise approximately 70.2 million (one-third) of the adult population. In the next 15 years, that number is estimated to increase to 115 million. Aging Baby Boomers are determined not to be ignored by America, or, at the very least, to maintain their buying-power recognition.

For ad pros, the 18-to-49 age group has been the Holy Grail since the 1950s. Today, television networks work to attract that coveted demographic with shows such as “Survivor” and “The Bachelor,” to name a few. Moreover, companies are willing to pay big bucks to advertise products during station breaks and between programs to a young audience. 

The Baby Boomer generation makes up about one-third of the U.S. population but it controls three-fourths of the wealth. It wields $2 trillion in annual buying power. Nevertheless, frustration is mounting because the $275 billion ad industry still gears only 5 to 10% of ads toward 50-plus customers.

So How Do You Connect?

Marketing communications should be easy to read and understand and be experiential in nature. They should reflect and understanding of and empathy for the values and motivators of this demo and your company should be positioned as a gateway to desired, meaningful experiences of the target.

  • Autonomy and self-sufficiency (independence/participation)
  • Social connectedness (relationships/friendships)
  • Altruism (opportunity to share wisdom and ability to do for others: family, community and country)
  • Personal growth (gain knowledge)
  • Revitalization (need to rejuvenate)

These are all values and motivators for these markets. The more ads and sales approaches that reflect the product or service is in harmony with these values and motivators, the higher the success rate.

Aging-related changes like poor vision need also be considered. For example, as we age, we need more light to see, pastel colors become distorted and blend to dark, etc. Large font serif type, vivid colors, etc., are recommended.

We See What We Want To See

There is also evidence that communications that take a “less is more” approach to this demo are more effective. Presenting your company or product in a manner that is more suggestive than descriptive allows the target demo to subjectively interpret the message based upon his/her needs, values and motivators. Most marketing and sales center on customers’ objective identities (demographic and psychographic) and research show that a product’s message succeeds when it connects with a customer’s subjective identity (allows for individual interpretation). Brilliant messages and sales presentations not connecting with the subjective mind are usually unproductive.

Stories Work Well

Finally, another good communication tactic is the greater use of story-telling techniques. Stories are generally quicker to arouse emotions than straightforward propositions about a product’s features. Think Hallmark cards; they surpass most in using stories to present their products.

Today’s customer universe is age-weighted toward midlife values. Resistance to emotionally neutral information (mainly processed in the left hemisphere of the brain) increases in midlife. Receptivity to emotionally enriched information – such as stories – increases in midlife.  Storytelling has become an important part of market strategy.  Whoever tells the best story and tells it best will most likely win.

Contact Coming of Age for more information about connecting with the Baby Boomer and 50-plus audiences.

View this article and discussion on MediaPost.

Comments

  1. Pingback: Boomers Lost In The Creativity Gap | 15th Nation

  2. Here are two reasons why I believe Boomers are still the 800-pound gorilla.

    The first is that while the Boomer generation may hold three-quarters of the wealth in our nation, socioeconomic data and media reports indicate that the wealth is not in the hands of the majority of Boomers and the percentage with wealth is projected to decline.

    Reports indicate that a sizeable percentage of Boomers are ill-prepared financially to handle retirement. Median retirement savings, excluding a house, among those 62 to 69 just a couple of years ago was only $105,000. Over the next 20 years, projections are that nearly 40% of those over 62 will have $25,000 or less in retirement savings; 20% will have less than $5,000. Nearly 30% of households headed by individuals 55 and older had neither a retirement nor a deferred pension plan.

    According to the Washington Post, home foreclosures among seniors are on the rise. Their income and assets are not sufficient to cover their living expenses, and they have used up their capacity to tap into the value of their home through a reverse mortgage.

    The financial challenges especially increase with age. Projections indicate that as of 2019, nearly 60% of households in the United States headed by individuals 75 or older will have annual household incomes of less than $35,000. For households headed by individuals 85+, the percentage rises to nearly 68%.

    The other factor is the life expectancy of Millennials versus Boomers. This is a factor that I believe politicians have discovered as well. If I can appeal to and capture a Millennial as a consumer, I potentially have a consumer for 50, 60, 70 years or more. For a Boomer, 25 to 40 years.

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