For the past decade, itâ€™s been in almost an apocalyptic tone that the media and marketers have been discussing the Baby Boomer target audience and the profound impact they will have on the American marketplace, economy, etc.Â Phrases like â€śan American turns 50 every 7 secondsâ€ť would suggest a massive marketing shift to consumers born before 1965, leaving Gen X, Gen Y and the like stranded. Sure, thereâ€™s a lot of lip service being given to the â€śBoomerâ€ť audience or â€ś50+ consumers (with a skew to 50-55, of course),â€ť but target down-aging and targeting of youth continues to prevail.
First, some fun facts:
- There are 77M Baby Boomers (defined as people born between 1946 and 1965), most of whom are 50+ (US census)
- By 2015, adults 50+ will represent 45% of the population (AARP)
- 50+ consumers control 67% of the nationâ€™s wealth and 42% of all after-tax income (US Census and Federal Reserve)
- Baby Boomers will spend about $20T over the next 20 years on consumer goods (Forbes.com)
Everyone agrees that the opportunity with 50+ consumers is there.Â So why is everyone so afraid to market to them?Â Maybe we should look at some of the concerns we hear from our clients, and an alternate point-of-view.
1. My consumer is going to die off.
In 20-30 years, yes, he or she will.Â But between now and then are a lot of â€śactive consuming yearsâ€ť, and thereâ€™s a lot to be said for gaining a decade or two of consumption among the nationâ€™s largest (and most well-off) audience. And importantly, if you become respected as a brand that gets and serves the 50+ audiences in a fresh, compelling and honest way, the Gen Xers who will be turning 50 really soon will be right in line to adopt your brand.
2. I donâ€™t want to be an old personâ€™s brand.
Havenâ€™t you heard? 50 is the new 40 (or something like that).Â One of the most dramatic demographic and psychographic changes weâ€™ve seen in the past decade is the redefinition of what â€śoldâ€ť is today. The notion of a 60 year-old woman, sitting in a rocking chair knitting a sweater for her 10 grandchildren is ancient history (so to speak).Â So is the idea of a 58 year-old man, retired in Florida, wearing black socks and sandals, playing shuffleboard, murmuring to himself about the good old days.Â Itâ€™s just not the case any longer. Â Â The typical Boomer believes that old age doesn’t begin until age 72, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey. In fact, while half of all American adults say they feel younger than their actual age, 61% of Boomers say this. In fact, the typical Boomer feels nine years younger than his or her chronological age.
3. We need to refresh the brand.
Iâ€™ve heard this one a lot and really donâ€™t get it. I guess what this assumes is that if you target 50+, youâ€™re advertising is going to look like the Geritol ads of the 80s or that â€śIâ€™ve fallen and I canâ€™t get upâ€ť infomercial.Â OK, so you might not want to use Justin Bieber in your marketing if you are going after Boomers, but reallyâ€¦who cares?Â 50+ consumers are also interested in marketing communications and packaging with a fresh and contemporary tone, feel and message.
4. Iâ€™m not targeting ageâ€¦Iâ€™m targeting an attitude.
We love this sentiment and agree totally. A 52 year-old divorced womanâ€™s needs and attitudes will more likely mirror that of a 31 year-old single woman than a 52 year-old married woman with 2 teen-aged kids. This approach should be used with planning product portfolios and marketing communications. But this doesnâ€™t mean that a 52 year-old woman is sourcing MTV for influence. Nor does it mean that sheâ€™s going to use, consume or wear products in the same way as her 31 year-old â€śpeer.â€ťÂ Target the age; Position and market to the attitude.
5. Older adults just want to be young anyway.
Sure, the back pain, loss of vision and dry skin of 50+ suck, and Iâ€™m sure most Boomers would kill for the body they had when they were 20. But it stops there. Boomers donâ€™t want to be young â€“ they want to be youthful and they absolutely do not want to be told they are old.Â Like younger consumers, Boomers have dreams and goals. They have passions. They are still looking to improve. They want to participate in trends. They want to have lots of new experiences. Phil Goodman, co-author of the Boomer Marketing Revolution, describes Boomers as â€śAdult Teenagersâ€ťâ€¦â€ťthey will try to act younger than their chronological age.â€ť
To close, I donâ€™t for a second disagree with targeting the massive Millennial generation or Gen Xers.Â But sometimes Boomers are also an ideal audience for your brand, and importantly, they want advertisers to acknowledge they are still alive and still spending. The headline from an article I found on the Internet articulates this really well: â€śThe Boomer Consumer: Stop Ignoring Me, Da*&^it!â€ť
Sara Schor, EVP – Strategy