The Same But Not Alike
In our work we've learned that Boomers on the whole are Driven, Transformational, and "Self" Centered.
- Boomers are Driven. Think rock band Queen: "I want it all and I want it now." Boomers want control and they want immediate satisfaction.
- Boomers are Transformational. They make change happen; they won't accept the status quo.
- Boomers are "Self" Centered. They believe in entitlement and personal gratification. Their main question is, "What's in it for me?" Raised as the center of their home universe, Boomers can thank Dr. Spock and their parents for this focus on themselves. In comparison, consider latch-key Generation Xers and their self-image. Many had to deal with both Mom and Dad working or single-parent homes while they were growing up. They are self-reliant and independent. Very different from Boomers.
This framework is a good starting point in understanding the large and dynamic Boomer generation.
Boomers Are 76 Million Individuals
Those generational traits offer a simple lens through which you can view other factors that complete the big picture of today's Boomer Consumer. Not all Boomers are created equal, though, and it would be a mistake to see them as a homogeneous group.
When you have any population of 76 million (roughly Canada, Australia, Cuba and Chile combined), you're going to have incredible diversity and differences. Yes, some Boomers like snow skiing and knitting and French food and social media and duck hunting and just about anything else you can think of. But not all Boomers do.
Reporters and editors have needed a short-cut to identify who they're talking about, so they just use "Boomers" as a catch-all term for people currently in their late 40s, 50s and early 60s. Ultimately, this is a disservice to marketers who, although they can tap into the shared history and culture of Boomers, must also recognize that Boomers are at various life stages and live a variety of lifestyles. Any effort treating Boomers as one-size-fits-all will fail.
Some marketers do grasp the diverse nature of today's Boomers. For example, for the last few years Carnival Cruises has been running a TV and print campaign showing the different things one can experience on a cruise, summing up the message with the line "At any one moment there are a million ways to have fun." Carnival understands that Boomers come in all shape and sizes, and doesn't try to force them into a single definition of what to do while on a cruise.
Another example is a recent ad for tourism in Panama that states, "One beautiful country. Ten inviting destinations." The ad then lists the 10 distinct areas within Panama, from beaches to rain forests to cities. The marketers understand that Boomers will look over the list to see what's of interest to them, and will ignore the other, less relevant places.
Articles, news stories and features about "Boomers" may give the mistaken impression of a single collective of 76 million. But to engage Boomers today, they should be segmented like any "Adults" audience -- by income, education, values, attitude, geography, life stage, and so forth.