Enough With 'Why'; Let's Focus on 'How'

When we started the Boomer Project back in 2003, we decided to focus on what we called "the second question." The first question was, of course, "Why market to today's older Boomers?"

Recent contributors to this column have addressed the "why" quite effectively.

Our point-of-view from the beginning was that marketers who woke up to the economic power of the Boomer generation, even beyond age 50, would then ask the next question: "How do we engage Boomers now?" We wanted to be there to answer it.

Fortunately, there were enough healthcare and financial services clients to springboard our marketing consulting and research business forward from those early days, but precious few marketers beyond those categories. Until recently.

It seems that pain is a great motivator. The economic pain created by the recession has triggered more marketers across more categories into thinking about how to engage the Boomer consumer today. They have moved beyond the "why" and want help on the "how." Good for us, and good for them.

Let me share with you some of the key ideas we help marketers understand about communicating effectively with today's older Boomer.

1. Boomers are only in the third quarter of life, not at the two-minute warning. They have lots and lots of years to go as active, vibrant, relevant consumers for virtually everything anybody sells in America.

2. They represent one of three adults alive today, so they're not a niche. In fact, being a "Boomer" is meaningless in their lives -- it's just a demographer's or marketing label, not an affinity group. You better understand their diverse life stages and lifestyles, and do not lump them into one homogeneous group.

3. They worry about many more things than just their age or health. Almost all Boomer-focused marketing today is to help older Boomers with age- or health-related maladies, real or imagined: bladder control, cholesterol, osteoporosis, hearing loss, erectile dysfunction, constipation, prostate issues, arthritis and countless others. Enough already. Boomers want to know about cars, travel, electronics, packaged goods, electronics, home improvement and other products you have to sell that they want to buy.

4. Boomers do still consume traditional media, but they go online to research what they buy off-line. The latest data from BIGresearch's Consumer Intentions & ActionsTM survey, from August, reports that 94% of Boomers regularly or occasionally research products online before buying them in a store. Similarly, 96% of Generation X consumers, those ages 28-44, report doing the same. The top five product categories researched by Boomers are, in order: electronics, home improvement, appliances, apparel and medicines/vitamins/supplements.

5. Your marketing doesn't have to be exclusively targeted to Boomers; it just should include them. Most companies and organizations don't have the marketing budget to develop separate marketing efforts to older Boomers. So they focus on younger consumers and ignore, irritate or inflame older Boomers by excluding them altogether. The goal should be to instead find ways to include them in your overall marketing approach.

It is this last point where the rubber meets the road. The most cost-effective way to engage Boomers is by developing marketing strategies, advertising creative materials and media strategies that reach and connect with Boomers. Not exclusively, but inclusively.

Our message to marketers is to take your mass marketing and make it universal marketing. Find the universal truth in your brand, message or positioning that cuts across age or life stage. Use the principles of universal design in your creative, packaging, Web site and on-site materials. Develop messaging with universal appeal, not limited appeal.

How, you ask?

That, my friends, is the third question.

Tags: baby boomers
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3 comments about "Enough With 'Why'; Let's Focus on 'How' ".
  1. Larry Czerwonka from happinessu , September 28, 2009 at 12:41 p.m.

    so nice to see someone else gets it too. i have been asking for 9 years why we keep ignoring older consumers and instead concentrate all our efforts on the fad chasing youth.

    by the way there are millions of boomers on twitter and it is quite easy to market to them there.

  2. Ruth ann Barrett from EarthSayers.tv , September 28, 2009 at 1:38 p.m.

    Ageism.

  3. Larry Czerwonka from happinessu , September 28, 2009 at 1:52 p.m.

    here are some good quick boomer stats: http://bit.ly/2C9gt
    why would anyone NOT market tot his large demographic?