Baby Boomer Marketing: What You Know and What You Think You Know By Ted DeCorte, M.A.21st century marketing firms palpitate at the thought of the purchasing power of “BabyBoomers” over the next 30 years. Baby Boomers, approximately 78 million of them,make up what is viewed as the largest “Big Spenders” the planet has ever seen. Yet,whereas the BBs are viewed as some monolithic tsunami gaining economic strength,ready to deluge the economic landscape with billions of pent up dollars, BBs are far frommonolithic in their political, economic and social tastes, and marketers should take note.Baby Boomers in the U.S. & Canada (and Great Britain, Australia, and some Europeancountries) have been thusly dubbed as they represent the post-World War II generationborn from 1946 to 1964 – an eighteen year period of intense domestication and familybuilding, fostered by a pre-birth control, pre-feminist era of immense conspicuousconsumerism. Add to this the post-war “leveling” effects of the proliferation of the Fordor Chevrolet, the advent of national commercial television & the standardization ofpublic education and the BB Gens becomes a generation unlike any one before it.Nonetheless, the eighteen-year Baby Boomer period represents two very distinct groups,the older BBs from 1946 to approximately 1955 and the young BBs from 1956 to 1964.Their collective experiences differed from one another much as the oldest siblings in afamily differ so drastically from younger ones. While older BBs are on the edge ofretirement, taking care of their elder parents, and beginning to experience the “emptynest” syndrome en masse, younger BBs may have children still in pre- or elementaryschool and see their selves as actively engaged in their career & family trajectories.Older BBs are beginning to transition or “shiftdown” their lives in some fashion, whileyounger BBs are still “shifting up”. The two BB groups are as significantly different asthose who listened in their formative years to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Traffic, PinkFloyd, and the Beach Boys, and those who listened to Abba, Van Halen, Air Supply, theB-52s, & Duran Duran. It’s as significant as those who watched Annette Funicello on a12-inch black & white TV screen and those who watched Star Trek on a 20-inch colorscreen. And then there are those 8 track tapes vs. cassettes, or Sean Connery vs. RogerMoore, or the Vietnam War & Watergate vs. the Iran Hostage crisis & Reaganomics.Younger BBs are the largest share of the total U.S. population, not their “elder” siblings.BBs are a much more diverse group with a different consumer pattern than the rest of thepopulation – both older and younger. The 50+ BBs have in many ways more in commonwith "their elders" than they have with the 40+ later BBs. Older BBs come from the CivilRights era and in some ways are dominated by ethnic, cultural and economic classes ofthe past. Younger BBs are the first generation that begins to experience a positive
“equality” shift. Although Older Boomers represent an “unequal” American Society, theyare the "bridge" between the "older culture" of their parents and the "newer culture" oftoday, and as a whole have adopted, and adapted to, both the old and new.Today, BBs are 42% of the workforce and they hold most of the major corporate &political positions in the U.S. In 2011 and beyond, our economy will demand that BBsremain in the labor force as there will be a nationwide labor/talent shortage. Fortunately,with the BB’s desire to mix work with play, BBs will reinvent retirement - going into“Un-Retirement” - with a hodgepodge of part-time, flex-time, telecommuting, consultingand entrepreneurial vocations.Baby Boomers will work longer as many held off on having children and thus havechildren in college. BBs are also more likely to have underage children – their own ortheir grandchildren – still at home. BBs view themselves as “younger” than their parents,so Don’t Call Them Senior Citizens! They are “elderly” or “mature” – and, althoughbetter educated than their parents, BBs have not saved enough to fully retire. Yet, overallthey have more disposable income and most will have more time to earn, save and growtheir investments.Many BBs will NOT retire to the “senior” communities of their parents; they willgravitate to smaller intergenerational communities. BBs in general have less leisure timethan their parents as they have both their children and their parents to care for. When fullretirement does arrive, BBs will regain freedom which equates into time to do otherthings.BBs are a much more diverse group with a different consumer pattern than the rest of thepopulation – both older and younger. The 50+ BBs have in many ways more in commonwith their parents than they have with the 40+ early BBs. Older Boomers are the "bridge"between the "older culture" of their parents and the "newer culture" of today. Older BBsas a whole have adopted, and adapted to, both the old and new.BBs are the #1 television generation – more than any other generation before or since.They are the largest TV viewers in U.S. as they have not gravitated en masse to otherforms of media. BBs are more eclectic than other generations, older and younger, in theirmedia choices – using TV, internet, radio, YouTube, print media. BBs stick with whatthey know, but they embrace the new – adding to their repertoire rather than replacing it,i.e. print, TV, radio, Internet, IPhone. It is important to note that BBs still use PRINTMEDIA as an information & recreation source..BBs are at the forefront of the USER REVOLUTION, and WILL adopt one-touch multi-media and technology to improve their lives and save time. BBs use of new technology
though is more utilitarian than younger generations. BBs use new technology to Simplifytheir lives and as an easy to use informational source. Other Boomer traits include: • Internet savvy Boomers go on-line more and stay on-line longer than younger generations. • BBs own more computers than other generations, younger or older. • Boomers do not multi-task as younger generations, preferring to stay with one medium at a time – usually for longer periods of time. • Older boomers watch more TV and listen to more radio than any other generation. Thus, retirement for BBs will mean more time to devote to media outlets.Music is central to BBs lifestyle and although not all older BBs were campus radicals,many relate to the counter culture only through commercial “mainstream” outlets –music, TV, radio. Older BBs STILL purchase CDs and visit retail music stores.Mindshare, a media consulting firm, sees two types of Boomer media consumers: 1. Leading Edge – 45 to 54 years-old – CSI, The West Wing & ER – interest in news, science fiction (from Star Trek years), and Lifetime cable network – entertainment for women. Will search for “in-depth” programming, ie. Social documentaries, challenging scientific specials, comedies with sophisticated historical or cultural references, substantive radio programming, Cable News. BBs average 21 hours per week listening to radio. News/Talk radio is #1, Rock is #5. 2. Later Boomers – 35 to 44 years-old – ER, Friends & Survivor – interest in reality shows, science fiction. Rock radio is #2 and adult contemporary #1.Baby Boomers will provide ample marketing opportunities for several generations ofmarketers & entrepreneurs over the next 30 years. Anticipating and responding to boththe first OLDER wave and the more substantial YOUNGER wave will be an exciting &potentially lucrative challenge. Either way, old or new BB, a Woman’s POV will play amajor role in how your BB marketing efforts play out.Just the Facts!Women are responsible for 83% of all consumer purchases. They are the deciding factorin 92% of vacations, 91% of housing purchases, 51% of consumer electronics, 60% ofcars, 89% of banking relationships, & 80% of healthcare decisions. NEED I SAY MORE!BBs are dominated by female decision makers. By 2030 – females will be 60% of BBs.Boomer women are better educated, more independent and more financially engaged thantheir male BB counterparts. There is a HUGE difference in the way BB women plan to
retire compared to BB men. BB women will pursue further educational, communityinvolvement & hobby venues that were “back burnered” for family and career, whereasBB men want to spend more time with their spouse.Think Sally Field (1946), Oprah (1954) - the early BBs, and Meg Ryan- (1961), SandraBullock (1964) - the late BBs! The boomer “generation gap” holds true with the ladies aswell and needs to be addressed in marketing strategies.A marketing focus involving both digital and print media will serve well to “captivate:”and “capture” a portion of the Boomer wave. BB demographic research points to a muchbroader spectrum of opportunities for those who wish to target this diverse group. AND itis a long marketing ride - some 30 years! Yet, to be successful a marketing focus mustfind the commonalities and "dissect" the differences between Old and New BBs toprovide unique, targeted experiences.More Useful Tidbits About BBs • BBs VOTE and are the single largest voting bloc • 42% of BBs state they will cycle between work and leisure during “retirement” period • 16% state they will have part-time jobs • 13% state they will start businesses • 6% state they will work fulltime • 17% will RETIRE completely • BBs will transform from “ME” generation to “WE” generation as they turn their focus onto their children, grandchildren, their parents and their communities. • BBs are more “outer directed” – 10 times more likely to “put others first”. • 2/3rds are married • BBs less likely to change their marital status at this stage of life and less likely to change jobs • 6 million BBs are already grandparents – quadrupling over the next 10 years • BBs are highly individualistic, less happy with the status quo, more skeptical and more likely to reject authority • BBs focus on education • BBs own computers – more so than other generations. • BB eating habits still shape restaurant marketing behavior as BBs move to steak, salad, soup and seafood venues. • BBs want to “have it their way” regarding prepared foods and consumer goods.
• BBs STILL visit shopping malls more than any other generation.• BBs shop quality & price and have been the impetus for “discount” stores, i.e. Costco, WalMart, Target, Ross.• BBs are notorious credit card users• BBs are more intuitive than reason oriented• First impressions are important to BBs as they are more emotionally based• BBs want more information than younger consumers• BBs are more sensitive to metaphorical meanings, nuances & subtleties; more receptive to narrative style communication – Think Hallmark Cards.• BBs are increasingly HOMEBODIES. They are NOT relocating to new economic “hot spots” and many are returning to their older more mature regions of the country where they grew up.• BBs do not see them selves as “old” but do understand the “slowing down” of their physical capabilities and want to address them head on.• BBs wish to improve brain health and fitness.• BB Trends will include retro sports, folklore/storytelling, micro housing developments, faux families, social/cultural renaissance, custom tailored health vitamins/elixers, turn “retired” time into political power, nostalgia & collectibles, automobile downsizing, household downsizing, increased household furnishings, home remodeling, multi-media centers, gamble via lottery or LV, increased need for financial counseling, personal and planetary health, aging gracefully – not youthfully (think Helen Mirren).• Huge jump in travel and healthcare marketing opportunities.• For recreation, Older BBs are heading to Las Vegas, whereby younger BBs are still active in more strenuous sports, i.e. mountain climbing, skiing, etc.• Las Vegas’ Older BB tourists stay longer and spend more money.• Other BB trends: full-service restaurants, travel, second homes, smaller homes, health/fitness,• Internet Job Banks for Older BBs will flourish, i.e. YourEncore.com. SeniorJobbank.com, Seniors4Hire.com, Dinosaur Exchange.• Where do BBs live?: New England, Eastern seaboard, upper Midwest, upper Rocky Mtn west and Pacific NW.• Alaska, New Hampshire, Vermont & Maine have the largest share of BBs.• Followed by Wash DC, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, Wisconsin & Michigan.
• The largest BB communities are Falls Church, Wash DC, Marin County, Putnam NY, Denver, Nashville, Minneapolis, Colorado Springs, Baltimore, Portland, Santa Fe, as well as former “Yuppie” communities – Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta and Wash DC. • Bach & Botticelli are out. Classical is being replaced by “show or movie theme music”, think John Williams, James Horner & John Barry. • Older BBs will still dominate the fine arts venues for a time – classical music concerts, opera, theater, ballet and art museums as they mirror their parents tastes. • Younger BBs do not. Younger BBs made up 44% of the jazz concert attendees, but that figured has now dropped to 26%.One survey identifies five different BB Groups:1. Empowered Trailblazers2. Wealth-Builders3. Leisure Lifers4. Anxious Idealists5. Stretched & StressedEach has a different “hot” buttonHow to Market to BBs? • Sell experience, not age • Use “Mature” or “Prime”, not “Older” or “Senior” • Use positive role models – don’t focus on limitations – use healthy, active, age- appropriate role models in advertising. • Use larger fonts – or give BBs ability to manipulate fonts on webpage. • Make good use of white space – copy too dense is hard to read • Use strong colors and contrasts – b & w is best – not subtle color differences. • Address BBs directly and personally, not in 3rd person. • Treat BBs like family • Identify niche opportunities/markets
• Ads need to connect to BBs idealized image of self• AND REMEMBER - FOCUS ON WOMEN! NEED I SAY MORE!