Writing A Brand New Book

Somewhere in America, a baby Boomer will turn 50 every seven to ten seconds. That's more than 12,000 each day and over four million each year for the next decade. Baby Boomers and older consumers are the single largest economic group in America.

But be careful what you call them. Euphemisms like "elder," "of a certain age" or "senior" may not go over well. Many may become more than a little upset with being labeled. After all, they aren't simply writing a new chapter of their lives, they're writing a brand new book -- and each book is different.

The Average Consumer Doesn't Exist

Unfortunately, few marketers have figured out how to best target the Boomer and older consumer. While one Boomer might be gearing up to start a business, another might be taking early retirement. Everyone is different. But how deeply do marketers really want to believe that? How many marketers want to deal with consumers under the rule that every one is unique? A conflict exists between the idea of personalizing company/customer relationships, and the desire to put every consumer in some category that allows marketers to predict their behavior.

Marketers Have to Stop Net Fishing and Start Fly Fishing

Behaviorists have discovered that no two people see anything exactly the same way. No view we have of anything can be fully congruent with anyone else's view because, like fingerprints, every brain is unique as are the five senses that connect us to the world outside our minds.

Not only do we each see the physical world at least slightly differently from everyone else, we don't precisely match anyone else in anything we believe. There will always be some aspect of a belief that bears the imprint of our distinct identity. So, at best, we can only achieve an approximate matching of our beliefs with anyone else's.

Conditional Positioning

Boomers and older consumers are more resistant to absolutism. The young mind tends to see things in terms of absolute states or conditions. In contrast, Boomers and older consumers tend to have greater appreciation for the finer definition that nuance and subtlety give to a matter. This bias results from a combination of experience and age-related changes in how the brain processes information. The predisposition of Boomers and older consumers to reject absolutism means that marketing communications intended for them should generally reflect a conditional tone, allowing each reader/viewer to interpret the message based upon their needs and desires. Less is more in these markets.

Putting It Together

Just as Boomers have transformed every other stage of their lives, smart marketers can bet on one ubiquitous theme: Now that the kids are away, the Boomers are going to play. Yet, the key to the Boomer and older consumer's pocketbook is in a better understanding of their minds.

Marketing needs to be adjusted to the facts that no two people perceive anything exactly the same way. At a time when such terms as "permission marketing," "customer relationship management," and "online personalization" are widely bandied about, more serious thought needs be given to the uniqueness of each of us and why we are unique.

Tags: baby boomers
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9 comments about "Writing A Brand New Book".
  1. Charles Southworth from The Southworth Group, LLC , February 15, 2010 at 12:54 p.m.

    Jim is right on target when he referes to how easy it is to offend this most intersting group....of which I've been one for a few years.

    Interestingly enough if you hit a raw nerve and offend them you can bet for sometime they'll stay away.

    This group can be very loyal, but once tricked or disappointed (even if it's only perceived) they will go way out of their way to let others know, and it's done the old social communications medium..word-of-mouth!

  2. Marcia Chocinsky from Fahlgren Advertising , February 15, 2010 at 12:58 p.m.

    Boomers were taught how to think for themselves, find their own answers, be skeptical and a number of other things that have made them the way they are. Between the education system and your parents you were taught things in any number of ways: if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too!

  3. Lori Bitter from The Business of Aging , February 15, 2010 at 1:08 p.m.

    Jim's insights and experience with this generation are spot on. I love the analogy of fly fishing.

  4. Barbara Morris from Image f/X Publications , February 15, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.

    Boomers (or whatever they choose to call themselves) are beginning to retire, still chanting their teenage mantra, "We will never get old". Most will not achieve anything even close to their vision of "eternal youth."
    Except for those who have a plan to continue to grow and be productive in "retirement", most will quickly be sucked into the decline oriented senior culture. It's hard to avoid because of set-in-stone cultural norms and consensus thinking about aging, not to mention human nature that prefers leisure.

  5. Larry Czerwonka from happinessu , February 15, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.

    markets do not have to stop net fishing what they need to do is net fish to get a group listening and then 'fly fish' within that group to get to individuals.

    and this applies to marketing to any 'age group'

  6. Carolyn Hansen from Hacker Group , February 16, 2010 at 11:18 a.m.

    Of course, generalizations are offensive. And they're offensive across generations. I understand this is your theme -- people are unique -- but you still fall into generalizations: Young minds tend not to see subtleties. Now that the kids are away, boomers are going to play. Really? I know plenty of kids who seem destined to be lawyers with their instinct for finding the tiniest loopholes in the rules. The boomers I know who are ready to play are the ones who've been playing all along, with or without kids.

    Didn't we learn in junior high that just because people are the same age, it doesn't follow that they have anything in common? The jocks, the geeks, the goths, the thugs . . . they like different stuff. You got a musical instrument because you were in band. You weren't going to buy it just because you were in the 8th grade.

    Advertisers continue to categorize people by demographics becase that's all the information they had, back in the day. Direct marketers have never cared about age -- only common interests. That's why this obsession with discovering and trying to exploit someone's age is such a foreign concept to me. It's not about net-fishing vs. fly-fishing. It's about going where the fish are.

    In our modern world, it's much easier to group (i.e., target your marketing to) people who have common interests -- interests that might have an impact on whether they will buy your product. A 60-year-old tennis player is more likely to buy a new racquet than a 30-year-old non-player.

    Let me say it again: Age is only rarely a major factor in what people spend their money on.

  7. Barb Geldersma , February 16, 2010 at 12:15 p.m.

    Lumping Boomers into a group is just plain silly... its just like folks who think everyone on the 60's was protesting, breaking norms, having wild drig and sex experiences. We Boomers are varied, interested in lots of things, and, yes, will change how society views "aging". It's time for marketers to really think about their bottom line, talk to all kinds of Boomers and then build marketing campaigns based on our differences.

  8. Mark allen Roberts from Out of the Box Solutions, LLC , February 16, 2010 at 5:40 p.m.

    Great quote: "Marketers Have to Stop Net Fishing and Start Fly Fishing”

    It starts with market knowledge...the truth as I discuss in my blog http://nosmokeandmirrors.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/proven-steps-to-profitable-growth-step-one-establish-market-truth/

    Once you have market truth, you will know what fly to tie.

    Mark Allen Roberts
    www.nosmokeandmirrors.com

  9. Bonnie b Matheson from I Bet You Can LLC , March 2, 2010 at 1:01 p.m.

    Wonderful post. It is so true that no one of any age is like another. I have written a book for women called Ahead of the Curve, an intimate conversation with women in the second half of life. It deals with all of this. The most important thing is attitude. And of course we all need to KNOW that our lives are in our own hands. It is so important to take control of our own health and follow our dreams and simply avoid as much negativity as we can.