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Marketing to Baby Boomers: 3 Myths and Strategies

Marketing to Baby Boomers: 3 Myths and Strategies

With a penchant for the finer things in life, and armed with the money to make them a reality, brands can’t afford to miss out on the opportunity to win over Baby Boomers.

By the end of 2015, Americans 50 and older will represent 45% of the population and are expected to control 70% of the wealth. The sheer might of the purchasing power of this demographic is indisputable, but preconceptions that have developed around the Baby Boomer generation have encouraged brands to shift resources from this gold mine to the more glamorous Millennial generation. Fervent brand loyalty, thriftiness, and technological illiteracy are wrongly, but often associated with this demographic.

Dispelling the Myths 

Penny Pinchers

Far from thrifty, the Baby Boomer generation was fortunate to have been born after WWI, WWII, the Dust Bowl, and Great Depression. The hardships and tragedies these events brought to those that lived through them left a lasting impression and encouraged saving for the next rainy day. Baby Boomers however, have had their behavior and tendencies shaped by the post-war culture of affluence and optimism. The development of credit cards only further encouraged spending and consumerism that even the recent Great Recession hasn’t tapered. In fact, every year, the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey shows adults 55-64 outspend the average consumer in nearly every category, from food, household furnishing, entertainment, personal care, gifts, and more.

Strategy:

This demographic is often referred to as the “Me Generation.” Growing up with aspirations for self-fulfillment and self-realization, Boomers want to enjoy life to the fullest. Their heightened focus on healthy living, looking great, and feeling good means they don’t consider themselves as “old.” Considering themselves special, they don’t appreciate when they’re lumped into the same category as their parents. In a recent survey by SeniorMarketing.com, nearly half of Boomers felt they personally had been unfairly treated as "old," while 72 percent said they knew someone who had been. Likewise, they feel more refined than the incoming Millennial generation with their quick fads.

Your marketing material should focus on connecting with them as unique, and as individuals, while communicating the benefits of your product and the experiences it can provide, rather than its features.

The designs of the product, packaging, website, and marketing material should be modern, while communicating quality and luxury. A clean layout is also important. Although they still feel young and invincible, eyesight deteriorates with age for everybody; so all marketing material should be easy to read without extraneous information and have ample negative space. For example, if a Boomer picks up a package of coffee, they should be able to determine within seconds what brand it is, whether it’s normal or decaf, whole bean or ground, and anything else that differentiates it from it’s competitors.

Computer Illiterate and Technologically Inept

Perhaps even more surprising is that this propensity to spend extends to the online world, and not just brick and mortar stores. Boomers are outspending younger adults online 2:1 on a per-capita basis and are spending nearly 40 hours a month online. For this generation, using the Internet is becoming common throughout the purchase process with 66% of people over 50 in the U.S. routinely making purchases from online retailers and researching major purchases before hand.

It would be a grave mistake to assume Baby Boomers are out of touch with technology and the digital world. However, it’s important to know how their online use and social media activities differ from other demographics. Less concerned with how many friends, followers, and likes they receive on social media than Millennials, Boomers prefer to use the Internet for keeping updated on news, local events, and emailing friends or family.

Strategy

Clearly, writing off any marketing to Baby Boomers via digital and online channels would be a mistake. However, using the same strategy to target this generation as you would Millennials or Gen Z wouldn’t be as effective. Younger Americans routinely get their information from social media, but Boomers tend to use a search engine to gather info on topics of interest (82%). Referrals are an important part of the purchase process, but Boomers skew towards spending time online reading and writing product reviews rather than using social media to “ask around.” In fact, this generation contributes the most to product reviews online. Being able to be easily found and having validating words written about your product or service is crucial to getting in with the Boomers.

Other ways to help increase trust in your brand and boost online sales from Boomers include:

  • Respect Their Privacy: Unlike Millennials who are used to giving access to their personal information regularly, Boomers are more cautious. Asking for their personal information before establishing trust and a relationship with them can turn them off to your brand.
  • Safe and Easy: While they are from the generation of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that invented the modern day computer, it can be difficult for them to stay current with all the nuanced technical developments of the Internet. Communicating the security of the purchase process and their personal information during checkout is important to make Boomers feel comfortable with your website.
  • Be Accessible: Texting or messaging over social media is preferred to calling for Millennials today (Who even leaves voice mails anymore?), but Boomers are still comfortable communicating “the old fashioned way” through telephone. Make sure that your brand is accessible by online chat, email, social, and phone in order to not let any opportunities to connect with your customer slip away.

Zealously Brand Loyal

Millennials have taken the mantel as the quick moving and hard to pin down generation with preferences changing by the week. Therefore, anybody older must be set in their ways and fiercely brand loyal with a fear of change, right? Wrong. A study done by the AARP showed that consumers 45 and up are as likely to change brands as younger consumers. Business Week even stated that baby boomers are more likely to try unfamiliar products than customers in the 16-34 age group.

Strategy

Clearly under the proper approach, it’s possible to sway Boomers to try your brand over one they already know. The key is to not treat all members of this generation alike, and to be a brand that is relatable.

There is nearly a two-decade difference between the youngest and oldest of the Boomers. This wide range in age means there is a significant difference in expectations, preferences, needs, and communication channels. Rather than casting a wide net over this whole age range, figure out which segment is most likely to purchase your product or service, and then craft a message on their preferred communication channel. For example, an online strategy for a new healthy cereal should lean heavier on boosting organic search rankings in order to target older Boomers, whereas a Facebook campaign would likely gain more traction with the younger portion of Boomers. 

Being relatable can tip the scales in your favor for gaining a sale from this generation. Growing up with much more face to face interaction than Millennials, gaining a feeling a trust was important to making a big purchase. Including a robust “About Us” page on your website, with photos of your team and pictures of Boomers doing business with your brand can help them relate to you. Local happenings and philanthropy is important to this generation, so show what you’re doing for the community or environment to show that you genuinely care about giving back. 

©2015 IMPRESS COMMUNICATIONS INC.
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