By Jim Gilmartin –
There are many perspectives on how to effectively market to Baby Boomers. We’ve shared several in Part I and Part II of this series. We believe we can roughly divide Baby Boomer behavior perspectives into two approaches. The first emphasizes the objectivity of science and that the customer is considered a rational decision maker. In contrast, the subjective or emotional approach stresses the customer’s individual experience and the idea that Baby Boomer behavior is subject to multiple interpretations rather than one explanation only.
1. When making discretionary-purchase decisions, Baby Boomers tend to have:
- A decreased sensitivity to price
- Increased sensitivity to affordability
- Sharply increased sensitivity to value
Marketing Implication: Older consumers have more sophisticated ways of determining value than younger consumers. Value determination by older consumers tends to be an existentialist exercise whereby they combine soul (spiritual) values as well as mind (intellect) and body (tangible) values into the value determination process.
Not only does an item purchased symbolize some aspect of the consumer’s being, but the entire purchase experience can also be a projection of the consumer’s whole being.
For example, a person with a passionate concern for the homeless may more likely buy a product from a company with a program benefiting the homeless. To that consumer, the product has a high Meta values index, which is, an element of value unrelated to the product performance.
2. As we approach midlife (40+), we increasingly draw on right brain functions
They begin relying less on left-brain sequential and rational reasoning and more on emotions — a.k.a. “gut feelings” or intuition.
Marketing Implication: Product messages for Baby Boomers should have more affect (emotional toning) than product messages for younger people. Younger people tend to have a stronger reasoning bias. Thus product messages generally should implicitly or explicitly promote concrete reasons for purchase.
3. Information entering the brain’s cortex (outer layers) is first processed mostly in the right brain
The right brain processes information as sensory images rather than as words and numbers. The left-brain focuses on figures and words.
Marketing Implication: Product messages should be rich in sensory stimuli to increase customer attention. Even though the right brain can’t process words, words can create sensory images, as every storyteller knows. The older a market, the more important it is to present a product in story form.
4. Emotion, not reason, is the final arbiter in decision-making
Initial responses to information entering the brain are visceral. Changes in body states (e.g., pulse, hormonal flow, saliva flow, body temperature, etc.) generate emotions. When a matter fails to create emotions, a person will not take action on it. (Brain patients who have lost their emotional abilities while retaining full powers of comprehension and reasoning cannot make advantageous decisions in which they have a personal stake in the outcome.)
Marketing Implication: A cardinal rule for developing effective product messages is go with the grain of the brain or “Lead with the right; follow with the left.” The only way to get into a person’s conscious mind is via the right brain. Again, the use of sensory images is a key to getting into the right brain.
5. Gender tends to predispose responses to voice-overs in broadcast advertising
For example, research tells us that male voices are more knowledgeable when describing technical attributes of a product, while female voices are more knowledgeable when describing a product with references to love, relationships, and caring.
Marketing Implication: Choose the voice to match the content and delivery style of a product message.
6. Pictures of people in motion arouse the brain more quickly than posed pictures
Marketing Implication: Avoid posed pictures like the plague. Motion conveys vitality. Posed pictures convey lifelessness. We should mostly avoid posed pictures in marketing to Baby Boomers, although when they do market to them, marketers commonly use posed photos.
7. Our sensitivity to price in non-discretionary spending typically increases
As they age, many consumers develop higher economic “literacy” and skillfully apply it to get the best price — an objective not to be confused with “getting the best value.”
Marketing Implication: Bargains primarily reflect cost factors while implicit in the term “value” are all attributes of the product, the purchase experience, and the expected ownership experience. In purchasing “need” items, older consumers tend to be more bargain-minded, whereas in purchasing “desire” items, they tend to be more value-minded in a holistic sense.