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Courting the Boomer consumer

Baby Boomers are 74 million strong and have more disposable income than any other generation, so understanding how to reach this prized audience, and capture their hearts, is essential for any business.

It is impossible for one generation to truly comprehend the inimitable perspective of another. But understanding generational—together with cultural, ethnic and gender—differences is essential to success in business. 

From generation to generation, consumer attitudes have changed. Or have they? Isn’t it actually consumers who have changed? There are more of them. They span as many as six different generations, multiple ethnicities and cultures and more than a couple of genders. At the least, consumer attitudes reflect generational mindsets. And each generation’s mindset is unique. 

While our personalities are mostly developed by 6 years of age, a generational mindset is the result of shared social experiences and, particularly, developments in technology between the ages of 12 and 17. 

Baby Boomers, now 54 to 72 years of age watched the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on television, as well as the first moon landing. But many didn’t have color TV at the time. 

Today, it’s not so much about age as mindset. Boomers will be teenagers until the day they die. This cannot be helped; it is deeply ingrained. When the Boomer generation began turning 50, no one traded their subscription to Rolling Stone for AARP.

 The end of World War II started a ‘baby-boom’ that spanned 19 years. An air of confidence accompanied victory, and those who faced death and realized how tenuous life could be were determined their children would have the best childhood and enjoy all the good things life had to offer. 

Born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers are 74 million strong and have more disposable income than any other generation. This generation is likely to be in the upper-income group. About one-quarter of Boomers in the mass affluent category say they will spend more in general in the coming year. 

This aging population is often referred to as “seniors.” Mistake No. 1. The fact is, the senior generation this year is aged 84 to 102. When the last of this generation passes, there will never again be a senior mindset. 

Because of all the buzz about Millennials, the Boomer generation is often overlooked by marketers. Mistake No. 2. The point is, marketers must know their audience, or audiences.

The Boomer generation is redefining aging. From home to health, Boomers exhibit vastly different behaviors and habits than any other segment of the population. Actively engaged in their long-term health and wellness, Boomers are optimistic about the future and increasingly tech-savvy. 

Boomers are making more money, working (and living) longer and continue to wield a tremendous amount of purchasing power. Plus, they are inheriting a lot of money--more from their parents than any other generation. And they are spending it. 

Boomers control 70 percent of all disposable income in the United States, so understanding how to reach this prized audience, and capture their hearts, is essential for any business targeting the Boomer consumer. Consider the following: 

  • Roughly half of Boomers spend at least 11 hours a week online. Activities include news, social media, research and shopping, in that order. 
  • Boomers are placing greater importance on healthier lifestyles by making more visits to the pharmacy and purchasing more vitamins, fitness equipment and health foods. From a survey of affluent Boomers (household incomes of more than US$250,000), over 80 percent identified health as a priority.
  • Among all generations, Boomers were the most likely to write off a company if they received poor service. Plus, Boomers are the most confident of all consumers, with only 12 percent preferring assistance from others to make a purchase.

For Boomers, growing old is inevitable. But growing up is optional. Never refer to the “older than 50 market.” Boomers won’t let themselves be mass marketed. This generation needs to be marketed as “young,” not “aging.” In fact, Boomers consider themselves forever young, disguising the fact that time is inexorably marching on.

Boomers do not share an absolute universal view of themselves. They see themselves as totally different individuals, even compared to their friends and business associates. 

Females comprise 51 percent of the Boomer generation—the first where females become the majority. This generation placed more women in the workforce than any prior. These women are the decision-makers; they hold the purse strings, literally and figuratively. Woe be to the marketer who doesn’t play to the needs, wants and expectations of the Boomer woman. 

When marketing to Boomers, the first rule is there are no rules. Appeal to their intelligence. Appeal to their impulsive nature. Appeal to them with limited-time offers. Appeal to their children and grandchildren. 

Marketers who continue to shoot prediction arrows into the air while conjecturing Boomer behavior based on preceding generations will continue to miss the target. 

Generational Marketing at SupplySide West

Learn more about Baby Boomers' desires from Ed Schwitzky during the “Generational Marketing to the Health-Conscious Masses” Workshop on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 8:30 a.m. at SupplySide West in Las Vegas. 

Ed Schwitzky is a writer, content creator and storyteller who understands how to win new customers and delight existing customers in today’s digital world. Ever since the market ceased being only about the Baby Boomer, Schwitzky has studied generational mindsets, as well as how one generation influences another. After earning two degrees from University of Missouri, he enjoyed a long career with Westin Hotels & Resorts. Subsequently, he held leadership positions at two hospitality management companies, overseeing marketing and sales for hotels and resorts, both branded and independent, including restaurants, golf courses and spas. Today, Schwitzky is a marketing strategist with his own company EDited mktg and frequently guest lecturers at his alma mater and other university hospitality management programs.

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