Baby boomers – the demographic of 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – are a golden market for businesses.
According to an August 2012 Nielsen study, Baby Boomers account for nearly half of consumer packaged goods spending and will control 70 percent of disposable income within five years.
So it’s surprising that less than 5 percent of advertising targets this “most valuable generation”.
Many marketers could benefit by looking outside the traditional 18- to 34-year-old sweet spot and tapping the Baby Boom generation’s $2.3 trillion in annual spending power, says Brent Green, the founder of Brent Green & Associates marketing firm and author of two Boomer marketing books (including 2010 release Generation Reinvention)
Getting the message right
“There tends to be an overarching sense of identification that occurs in generations formed particularly during a time of turmoil because turmoil causes a lot of generational interaction and debate,” Brent says.
For Boomers, that unifying turmoil was the 1960s and Viet Nam War. As many protested, the media and authors wrote about the generation as a singular group.
The idea of their generation as a singular group is something that Baby Boomers identified with and continue to hold on to, Brent says.
1. Connect with Boomers’ self-empowered identity
A cohort, as Brent defines it, is a generational identity formed as people grow up.
“The formative years of our teens through our early twenties instills and distills sets of values that are commonly and widely held throughout a generational cohort,” Brent says.
One of the widely held tenets among Baby Boomers, Brent says, is a sense of self-empowerment that inspires them to be the best they can be.
“Self-empowerment then implies all kinds of business realities, such as late life education,” Brent says, noting the popularity of late-life education at community colleges.
“Adventure and educational travel have also ascended in a big way and will continue to do so because Boomers experienced a go-for-it period of time where they would run out to the world and explore.
“Messages that appeal to that cohort effect can be very powerful.”
2. Appeal to how Boomers feel in their current life stage
Despite having different values, people in the same generation share one thing: age.
“A generation changes in time and because of what is on their plate demand-wise, it tends to create a collective consciousness,” Brent says.
As Brent points out, it was about 40 years ago that McDonald’s reached out to young mothers because of the large participation the generation had at that moment in time.
Now companies will have to appeal to that generation in a different way. In 2013, many Boomers are grandparents. Therefore, a marketing campaign appealing to that part of their lives might be wise.
“If you’re talking to Boomer grandparents, they want to be cool,” he says. “They don’t want to just be the weathered old people sitting on the front porch passively watching their grandchildren play on the front yard. They want to be there with them. “
3. Re-invention is a fertile field
“Instead of retiring it’s ‘How are you going to reinvent yourself?’” Brent says. “Reinvention is relative to life stage. They have one career behind them almost and a period effect where they have to keep working to manage themselves financially into retirement.”
Because of the 2008 recession, the 45- to 65-year-old age group is dominant in new business creation from small consultancies to large companies, Brent says. This presents opportunities for B2B marketers.
Now that you have messaging down, check out the platforms that Baby Boomers use and customize a marketing strategy around that:
Using the right platforms
Baby Boomers may be more likely to read a physical newspaper than younger generations, but they have a very active online presence, too.
“Boomers are heavy consumers of online media [and traditional media],” Brent says. “Marketers with the budgets are wise to have a multimedia strategy, online and off.”
Brent says while about 90 percent of Millennials and Generation X-ers use the Internet, Boomers aren’t far behind, using it at a rate between 75 and 80 percent, depending on age.
Nielsen Marketing gave us a breakdown of what people in the 50- to 64-year-old age group used the Internet for in December 2012.
(Note: Boomers will be between 49 and 67 years old this year, but for the sake of simplicity Nielsen provided Vocus with the 50- to 64-year-old age group.)
1. All social media platforms apply
Baby Boomers stormed social networks and blogs at a rate of 76.1 percent (37 million). That total accounts for 22.5 percent of the total audience to those sites.
“All social platforms are fully in play for Boomers,” Brent says. “They’re almost equally engaged to the same level of younger generational groups on the major social media platforms.
“Facebook is dominant. The fastest growing Facebook segment is Baby Boomer women.”
But don’t neglect other social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
“Twitter is exploding in terms of growth and there are thousands of Baby Boomer oriented Twitter-ers,” Brent says. “Following them and getting followed would definitely be part of that strategy.
“Many Boomers have created fairly comprehensive LinkedIn profiles,” Brent says, noting they haven’t finished their careers or are hunting for opportunities to continue their careers.
“I would definitely look at YouTube as a strategy,” he adds. “Create an edu-tainment video to sell a product or service and push it on other media, such as Twitter or Facebook.
2. Email is a hot spot
More than 33.3 million (68.5 percent) Boomers used email in December 2012, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the visitors to these sites.
Though Boomers prefer email to texting as a digital means of communication, it can be difficult to engage them with email because of the amount of spam, Brent says.
It’s not impossible to engage them, though. In fact, they’re more amenable to email than younger generations, Brent says.
“Boomers are very favorable at looking at HTML newsletters that are well-written,” he says, noting unsolicited mailings also work if they have an opt-in option.
3. Connect through hobby-related groups and platforms
Roughly 42 million (86.4 percent) Baby Boomers used search in December 2012. That’s nearly the same amount (85 percent) that use the Internet to research their hobbies, Brent says.
“If your hobby is skiing, then you can probably reach 85 percent of the Boomers who are really dedicated to skiing because they will use Internet sites to fulfill that hobby.”
Note: More than 80 percent of Boomers seek health information online, especially WebMd, Brent says. Content about health and wellness will likely grab Boomers’ attention.