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Marketing your brand to the Boomer consumer


What do Civil Rights, the Women's Movement, Vietnam and the first steps on the moon have in common? Baby Boomers.

This is the same generation that drove the growth of bell-bottoms and hula. It's also the generation that witnessed the dawn of space exploration, and participated in some of the greatest, unprecedented social advances in our country's history.

Don't forget -- the progress Boomers' have seen in technology and communications is beyond electrifying. They have lived through the age of the computer, the advent of the world wide web and mobile, and they've seen the explosion of communication in a wide range of channels, including telephone, radio, TV, and the internet.

Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers are entering the "senior" category. However, unlike their predecessors, this group of 77 million Americans refuses to believe that it's aging or -- in any way, shape or form -- losing its edge and vigor.

While many marketers seem to believe that Baby Boomers aren't tech-savvy (or barely use computers), according to Pew Research Center, at least 65 percent Boomers, ages 50-64, use Facebook, and a Google Study shows that more than half engage with their community through video or by supporting causes online.

Today's marketers need to get past antiquated notions that older adults are baffled by high-tech devices and shun the digital world. In fact, a large segment of this population actually tends to fully adopt most popular, emerging technologies.

Despite typical "senior" stereotypes, Boomers spend considerable amounts of time online: roughly 78 percent report using the internet, according to Hanover Research, and those that do spend an average of 39 hours a month online. As a result of the increasing adoption of digital media by the Baby Boomer generation, many direct marketers are pushing for direct marketing campaigns to implement digital techniques for Boomers as well as other generations, presenting significant opportunities for today's brands.

If you want to reach Baby Boomers, you also need a robust and defined social media strategy. One of the biggest misconceptions about marketing and advertising to Boomers is that social media and online marketing only appeal to a much younger crowd. Yet, Baby Boomers make up one-third of all online and social media users, and there are more than 8 million that spend more than 20 hours a week online.

In other words, this is not the selling environment of your grandparents' generation. Just as marketers and agencies have always employed specific tactics to engage the younger generations --  Gen X, Y, and Z -- to capture a piece of the youthful in spirit Boomer pie, things now need to be served up a little differently than in the past.

The fact that Baby Boomers are also a wealthy segment controlling nearly 70 percent of the disposable income in the U.S., or $2.3 trillion according to a Nielsen study, cannot be ignored. They represent 44 percent of the population and purchase 49 percent of total consumer-packaged goods (CPG). In fact, Boomers dominate purchases in 119 of 123 CPG categories, and have the money to spend. They also enjoy their work and work past the traditional retirement age -- 63 percent of Boomers still have at least one person in the household working full time. Finally, they're on track to inherit an additional $6 trillion (for a total of $8.4 trillion), according to MetLife.

And when it comes to spending their money, Baby Boomers are known to seek out products across a few key categories. According to U.S. News and World Report's "How to Profit From Aging Baby Boomers," these categories include items that help them age safely (to adapt to changes in vision, strength, hearing, dexterity), cater to their youthful attitudes (travel and recreation), maintain independence (transportation services, in-home care), absorb lifelong learning (online courses), and leverage smart technology (alert systems that notify first-responders of medical emergencies).

So how can brands effectively reach out and market to this very unique demographic? As marketing teams craft their advertising and digital campaigns around the Boomers, it's important to remember that they are what we refer to as a "product consuming" group. Unlike their younger counterparts -- many of whom make their buying choices based on information shared via social networks -- the Boomers actually want to be the recipients of advertisements.

However, to reach them most effectively, advertisers must truly understand just how youthful, vigorous and energetic this group perceives itself to be. It also takes some creative messaging, selection of the most appropriate media outlets, and overall understanding of the things that Boomers enjoy -- like exercise, travel, entertainment, and other inspiring activities.

Naturally, what ultimately works best will vary depending on your product and services, but many experts agree that effective marketing strategies need to get the message right and be authentic. This approach also sometimes includes applying "ageless marketing" techniques, when applicable.

How can this be accomplished? The key is to focus on values and life experiences, rather than a specific age group or demographic. Generally, successful ageless marketing campaigns focus on areas such as health and well being, productive living, the importance of autonomy and empowerment and the value of relationships. The goal is to develop a message that resonates with multiple generations.

How a product is named also can have a dramatic effect on results. A successful ageless marketing campaign should present a positive, mindful image of aging that is consistently applied to all marketing materials. Remember, mature adults feel anywhere from 15-25 years younger than their biological age, and they don't want to be presented with images and phrases that suggest aging is undesirable. Ageless marketing must be careful to avoid stereotypes, buzzwords and negative connotations associated with aging. Specifically, marketers must avoid words like "elderly," "retirement," "senior citizens," or "nursing home." The goal should be to find the right balance between portraying active, yet realistic images.

People are living longer, and turning 65 no longer means you sit in a rocker to read books or knit all day. This market is active and engaged. Forget sending flyers and brochures through snail mail -- Baby Boomers are tech savvy, and require new and innovative marketing strategies.

The bottom line: There are 77 million Baby Boomers in our national market with money to spend and a desire to spend it on products and services that reward them, or make their lives easier or better. Given their sheer size and economic clout, Boomers will remain the most influential and forceful consumer group for years to come.

Smart marketers will embrace this untapped potential by offering innovative product develop-ment, tailored customer services and unique marketing strategies. Successfully targeting Boomers with effective and engaging advertising is like serving any other specific consumer group: you have to get to know the demographic, understand their likes and dislikes and speak to the group in a way they can relate to.

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is the CEO of Hawthorne Direct.

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"Attractive man enjoying his morning coffee on his computer outside his hotel room" via Shuttestock.

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is the Chairman and CEO of Hawthorne Direct, a leading analytics and technology based agency that has specialized in accountable brand advertising for nearly 30 years. ...

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