Unlike other cultures that revere the wisdom of their elders, American society is quick to devalue its adults as they age. While we're putting loved ones into nursing homes, other cultures are taking their parents into their households. While we're dismissing their opinions and advice, other cultures are leaning on them for the wisdom and insight that comes from a life well-lived. And while we're trying to reverse the aging process in its tracks, others are mastering the art of aging gracefully.
These attitudes may start at home, but they trickle down and are perpetuated by our marketing and advertising messages. While Boomers are far from elderly, the messages that many marketers use to reach them often tell a different story -- one marred by preconceived notions of retirement and aspirations that come with age.
Working side by side with a national organization dedicated to retired people on its upcoming house party, we've learned a lot about speaking to the commonalities of their vast and diverse target demographic. While there are several buyer personas that comprise the group "Boomers," they all tend to take one concept seriously: respect. The respect they have for their peers and the respect they expect from those they talk and listen to. When speaking to this demographic, there are seven golden rules marketers should uphold in order to respect their audience.
Respect their differences. Before I spend the rest of this article speaking in generalities about a group comprised by millions of people, with so many different attributes and desires, I want to preface it by saying that Boomers are more diverse than they are similar. They choose to spend their money in a plethora of different ways, from the decisions they make on luxury items and vacations to healthcare plans and investment opportunities.
As with any group, the first step is to understand the specific segment you're speaking to. Are they empty-nesters? Are they two-income families? Are they in a position to buy a second home? What do they value? Are they on the older or younger side of the generation? Because boomers tends to be treated as one unified mass of people just waiting to spend the rest of their lives, well, spending, gaining this type of insight will allow you to differentiate your messaging from that of those who are speaking to all of the above. All at once.
Respect the fact that they've been around the block. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can shock them. Or even worse, that they're strangers to the ways of the world. Remember, after all, that this is a socially conscious group, one that became sexually aware in the 50s/60s/70s and laid the groundwork for equal rights, women's liberation, and a whole host of other causes that mean something to them. Instead of relying on aged fear tactics, take a stand, be transparent, and show them some appreciation for what they've done.
Respect their wisdom. Some might say that one's BS detector becomes more fine-tuned with age. While there are always people who are easier to fool than others, don't tailor your message to the lowest common denominator when it comes to boomers. And assume that they'll be onto you if you do.
Respect their real lifestyle. Boomers lead active lifestyles. When determining how to speak in their language, imagine your audience as embarking on new challenges, not settling into the tired roles associated with the "retired" archetype.
Respect their work ethic. Unlike younger generations that value their leisure time, members of this generation tend to work hard and even work far past the government-defined retirement age ... because they want to.
Respect their digital savvy and communication skills. While Boomers haven't been quick to adopt texting, they've been quick to adopt other digital platforms like email and mobile. One thing we can say for certain of many boomers is that they're comfortable communicating in long form -- which these days, can mean any message that's longer than 140 characters. Start a conversation with them online by piquing their interests or giving them information that will bring value to their lives.
Follow up with them by email, and offer them tools they can access on their mobile phones. Keep the conversation going, in other words. Not just because they're comfortable with, and even crave, it, but because they're more apt to spread the words to their friends in real-life conversations and become reliable "recommendation engines" for you in the process. Or, alternatively, they're more likely to tell everyone about their horrible experience with your brand. Paging basic customer service ...
Respect their desire to make a difference. The final lesson we've gleaned as we work with our client is that Boomer-centric marketing efforts should tap into their desire to be a part of their local communities and make a difference. They want to be involved in volunteer work, see the tangible results/effects of giving back, and get down and dirty in support of grassroots initiatives. Is your brand helping them connect to their values and helping improve lives and communities? If so, they're more likely to try your products.