An Older Population Is Catching The Brand Manager's Eye

This is not another "are marketers finally noticing Boomers?" article -- at least not quite. It is, however, an effort to explain why some marketers are starting to notice Boomers in 2011.

Boomer experts (not to mention Boomers themselves) have been waiting for decades for the marketplace to recognize the value of aging consumers. And the marketplace has kept them waiting.

While it's too early to predict that this long-awaited moment has arrived, I have seen much evidence over the last year that mainstream marketers are, in fact, working to target people over 45.

Marketers at CPG giants like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Clorox, Procter & Gamble, and General Mills are now investing resources in researching and targeting Baby Boomers (now aged 47-65). Google is helping advertisers understand the ways to reach midlife consumers through search. And mainstream retailers like CVS and Best Buy are building growth strategies around consumers over 50. They're even presenting at Boomer conferences to say so!

Why now? Here's my guess.

How Boomers Are Getting Noticed

The average Boomer is now 54.

There are now more Americans aged 51 than any other age.

No matter how many futurists predict it, the average person can't act on a future trend in advance. It has to become real before most people will actually deal with something new. And what has become real now? No more Boomers are young.

For the past decades, market research showed the growing importance of aging consumers, but it also confirmed that consumers in their 30s and 40s represented the largest market to target. For that reason, it was easy to deny that consumers over 50 mattered because there so many of them were still under 50.

In 2011, market research is showing something different.

Anyone reviewing sales data has to recognize that a giant number of customers (in almost any conceivable category) are in their 50s and 60s. Not just some of them, but most of them.

This is true even in politics, and will change the way presidential candidates are marketed to voters in 2016. Census data just revealed that Americans 45 and older now represent the majority of the voting-age population. As E. Mark Braden, a political advisor, put it, "The center of American politics gets older."

The center of the American marketplace has gotten older, too, and marketers have responded -- because they've had to.

Maybe we were wrong to expect brand managers to lead the way. But we are now seeing that brand managers are really good at responding to facts that they can no longer deny.

In 2011, that undeniable fact is: most of their sales are going to consumers in midlife and older. And those consumers require a different marketing approach, demand different qualities in the products they buy, and value relationships with brands differently than their younger counterparts. They also have more money.

Maybe those of us who have spoken and written books, and commented here, trying to convince marketers to target midlife consumers should have realized: Boomers themselves would eventually accomplish this change on their own by becoming an undeniable midlife buying segment.

Tags: baby boomers
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2 comments about "An Older Population Is Catching The Brand Manager's Eye ".
  1. Kern Lewis from GrowthFocus, Inc. , May 16, 2011 at 11:55 a.m.

    I agree that Boomers have been wrongly neglected, and I have followed your and other commentary here with enthusiasm (and used some of the content in talking to my own clients about targeting.)
    It is worth noting that we Boomers have also been our own worst enemy: In our fervent need to stay young, and hold-onto-16-as-long-as-we-can, we Boomer have kept our eye on and responded to marketing targeted at younger generations. So Marketers inadvertently (I don't give us credit for thinking this up) grabbed Boomer attention merely by trying to be hip, cool, with-it.
    Think of the introduction of the Scion line of Toyotas. Who bought them? Younger kids, sure, but Boomers too.
    Think of any Apple product: Did Boomers miss the boat? Nope. We bought 'em up.
    In some sense, we did not want the attention, because it meant admitting we weren't 25 anymore.
    I think most of us are starting to throw in the towel and act 50+, while still demanding a lot of attention. Hence the "sudden" attention paid by marketers.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , May 16, 2011 at 1:07 p.m.

    18-49. The smarter programmers, stations, networks etc., can let the ones who want 18-49 keep them. There's money out thar to capture. 35-64. That's the ticket !