Baby Boomers: Still the 800-Pound Gorilla

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 48 to 66.

One Baby Boomer turns 50 every seven to ten seconds.  Additionally, according to the U.S. Census, 50 plus households controls 45 percent of all discretionary income, totaling more than $200 billion.  Finally, people over 50 comprise approximately 70.2 million (one-third) of the adult population.  In the next 20 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 with 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 10 percent of ads toward 50-plus customers.

So How Do You Connect

Marketing communications should be easy to read and be experiential in nature.  They should reflect and understanding of and empathy for the values of this demo and positioned as a gateway to desired 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 & country)
  • Personal growth (gain knowledge)
  • Revitalization (need to rejuvenate)

are all values and motivators for this demo.  The more marketing 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

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 its 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.

 

Comments

  1. Hello there…fascinating article. (Fascinating blog, actually.) Could you please give an example of a message that does, and one that does not, connect with the subjective mind? I’m struggling to understand this concept. Thx, Michael.

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for visiting our site and for your question.

      As I wrote, “Marketing communications should reflect an understanding of empathy for the values of this demo and positioned as a gateway to desired 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 & country)
      • Personal growth (gain knowledge)
      • Revitalization (need to rejuvenate)

      are all values and motivators for this demo. The more marketing approaches that reflect the product or service is in harmony with these values and motivators the higher the success rate.”

      Taking a “less is more approach” to this demo is more effective. Presenting your company or product in a manner that is more suggestive than descriptive allows the target demo to interpret subjectively the message based upon his/her needs, values and motivators (sometimes characterized as “Conditional Positioning” vs. “Absolute Positioning” cramming ten pounds of copy into a five pound page). Research shows that a product’s message succeeds when it connects with a customer’s subjective identity (allows for individual interpretation).

      One of the best ads that reflects this concept was generated by American General Finance several years ago. The ad reflected a man, appearing to be in his 60s or 70s standing in the water of a beach with his pants rolled up. He was looking at a sunset/sunrise. At the bottom of the ad the message simply said “Live the life you’ve imagined” and under that line Henry David Thoreau. Under that message was the company logo and a line “We can help you to live it.” The ad allowed each reader to subjectively determine its meaning to them touching upon the values (see above) of this demo and positioning the company as a gateway to desired experiences.

      As I also said, another good communication tactic is the greater use of story-telling techniques. Every company has a story(s) to tell. Stories are generally quicker to arouse emotions than straightforward propositions about a product’s features. And they be several sentences long. Think hallmark cards – they surpass most in using stories to present its products. 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. Touch their heart and they’ll give you their mind.

      Any other approach is “pushing” the product rather than “pulling” the customer through the gateway of meaningful experiences your company will provide them.

      Good luck,

      Jim Gilmartin

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