Are You Skipping a $2.9 Trillion Consumer Market?
You would think that a $2.9 trillion consumer market is worth going after.
But you’d be surprised how many companies are shying away.
I’m referring to baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964.
Conventional images and perceptions paint a picture of quiet, action-less, passive retirement. In short, old people. Not a market that is active at the cash register.
Nothing could be further from the truth, which is good news for those who seek markets with less fervent competition.
If anything defines the mindset and lifestyle of Baby Boomers, it is the one word that is verboten when communicating with them – old. They don’t see themselves as old, they don’t think of themselves as old, and they don’t act as if they are old. They don’t act their age.
To them, age is just a number. It has no bearing on the way they live their lives. Yes, for a portion of Baby Boomers, age may have bearing on their bodies, health issues may restrict them, and arthritis may keep them off the golf course – but they aren’t passive victims.
They are alert to their potential to do, to achieve, to accomplish for the years that remain.
They are alert to life.
As an example: This may embarrass you with your five-pound, dust-covered weights in your closet, but skydiving, rafting, and paragliding are high on Baby Boomer itineraries. Research revealed that more than 60% of BBs want to be involved with extreme sports.
Yes, maturity does play a role with activities. They’ll get an adrenaline rush participating in an extreme adventure, just as those half their age do. The difference is – they don’t forgo safety. They’ve lived long enough, experienced enough, not to dance to the tune of “it’s always the other guy.” Safety rules are followed to the “t.”
Perhaps the most telling is how they deal with being empty-nesters. They don’t dwell on what was; they dwell on what is ahead. They pursue hobbies vigorously. Whether gardening, cooking, playing an instrument, or kayaking, they pursue their interests with vigor. Personal dreams that were shelved while raising children or worrying about the mortgage are now allotted the physical and mental time, space, and interest to flourish and reach their potential.
Interestingly, a sizable percentage of Baby Boomers seek career changes rather than diving into retirement. There are any number of reasons, from financial growth to personal growth and everything in between. Irrespective of reason, career changes are challenging at any age. So perhaps more than anything, it speaks of a mind-set that life is far from over and that says, “I am still a player.”
As a business owner, you may find the above interesting, but you’re looking for something that will spur you to put more effort into marketing your products to them – or even creating products and services specifically for them.
If you’re looking to be impressed by numbers, how about this: Not only are Baby Boomers the wealthiest generation, holding 70% of the disposable income in the U.S. and spending over $548 billion a year, but they also spend more than any other generation across all categories. This includes spending the most per transaction.
Do I need to continue this column any further? Or am I free to go off and enjoy a latte?
But doing so would leave you with the question: It’s all fine and dandy that they have the financial resources, but how do I reach them? How do I communicate with them? How do I motivate them?
Smart questions. First thing is – understand that they have strong values. They were shaped by events that, depending on your age, you only read about in history books: the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights upheavals, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, presidential and important figures’ assassinations, and the growth of liberalism.
They lived through threats of atomic annihilation, the movement towards liberalism and civil rights and, today, the more profound and divisive gap between liberals and conservatives.
Their parents came through the Great Depression and World War II restrictions and made up for them through indulgence and a focus on their children, which imparted in Baby Boomers a confidence, optimism, and a belief in the right to achieve.
All this has created a lively mix of reflective cautiousness and spirited daring. They are continuously expanding their personal boundaries, but not with impulsive blindness. They read the fine print. They check prices. They don’t jump on popular bandwagons. They measure social media relationships by true value, not by “likes.”
They spend more on eCommerce, but their strong preference is via PC’s rather than mobile, though more than half own smartphones. Surprise: They spend 20% more online than millennials. 95% use search engines, so spending on SEO and such is an intelligent pursuit. Bear in mind that they are less impressed by peer reviews. They think and evaluate for themselves.
DIY – do-it-yourself – is popular. There are always dreams about what to do around the home, and now they have the time to pursue it. For some, it’s skills they want to expand, whether woodwork or gardening; for others, it’s skills that they want to nurture and take pride in their advancement.
How does this translate into marketing to this audience?
Values are key. Baby Boomers value authenticity. It’s not just your language. It’s the totality of your communications, including message, photos/illustrations, editorial environment, and of course your product or service that they scrutinize through the lens of their life experiences. There’s no bluffing your way by them.
That’s about who you are.
Now about who they are.
If you pass scrutiny, they want to know you appreciate who they are. Independent. Optimistic. Confident. Restless. Life of to be lived, but with responsibility – to themselves, their loved ones, their friends, the environment.
They are information-minded. They want to know before buying and they are willing to do the long research. For you this means no gimmicky, flashy, fast-paced videos that are mostly sizzle. They prefer straightforward videos that take time to tell your story, to explain the operational aspects, and the benefits.
Or to put it another way, they may be called Baby Boomers, but they want to be spoken to like adults.
And they read. They grew up on newspapers, magazines, and books. They don’t shy away from long copy; to the contrary, they favor long copy. They devour information.
Yes, you need to trigger their emotions. But wrapping emotions in cute and clever leaves them with a feeling of shallowness.
And perhaps to help make this even clearer, remember that they were shaped by parents who lived through the Great Depression, when 25% of America was out of work, and through World War II with its untold suffering. The Baby Boomers themselves lived through the Cold War with the world at the precipice, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era that created irreversible upheavals in the nation’s balance and equanimity, and the assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King that shattered the dreams of Americans across the nation. In short, they lived through reality. A reality that most marketers today never experienced.
If you want to market to them, you need to put aside all your old perceptions and get to know them truly and thoroughly.
Is it worth the effort?
Is a market that spends $548 billion worth the effort?
Interested in developing your creative thinking skills to grow your business? Maybe even disrupt your business category? Subscribe to my “Unleash Your Creative Thinking” free email course. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Creative Thinking” as the subject.
Chanina Katz has over two decades experience in major Madison Ave. ad agencies developing highly successful strategies and award-winning campaigns for such blue-chip clients as Colgate, RJ Reynolds, Hilton, Home Depot, General Mills, KFC and many others in a wide variety of package goods and services businesses. He provides marketing services for a range of businesses, from start-ups to major corporations. He lectures on marketing and creativity. He can be reached at Bullseyemarketing1@gmail.com.