Things are looking up this holiday season, and not just because of the annual prospect of mocking your awkward uncle’s unusual taste in holiday sweaters. Black Friday saw record numbers in terms of retail spending, and Cyber Monday went down in history as the biggest online shopping day ever. It seems as though there’s holiday cheer to spare this year.
But, as we all know, the gifts will soon be unwrapped, the trimmings will be untrimmed, and the last of the fruitcakes-from-people-who-still-haven’t-realized-that-nobody-likes-fruitcake will have been discretely discarded. Not to be a Grinch, but we will soon find ourselves back in a state of economic uncertainty.
There is hope, however, and it brings with it the prospect of prosperity for years to come. It can be found, perhaps not surprisingly, in the power of the Boomer-and-older consumer.
It’s been well documented that this segment owns three-quarters of all U.S. wealth. It also accounts for 57% of all consumer expenditures, according to the recently released 2010 US Consumer Expenditure Survey. This includes more than half of all spending in categories such as food, home furnishings, automobiles, entertainment and personal care products.
But, spending is only one part of the story. There’s another chapter that demands more attention, one that demonstrates that Boomer-and-older consumers are truly the gift that will keep on giving, due to their ability to drive sales beyond their own households.
Boomer-and-older consumers comprise a significant block of Category Influentials, those individuals who GfK Roper defines as highly trusted, well-informed consumers who make frequent recommendations across broad social networks. Older Category Influentials exert their influence by generating “buzz” through word-of-mouth marketing across a wide variety of big spending categories.
Percent of Category Influentials Boomer Age and Older
||New Food Items||47|
Source: GfK MRI Spring 2011
Even in areas such as new technology, home electronics, music and movies, older consumers represent at least one out of four Category Influentials.
In an age where digital media has made sharing one’s knowledge and opinions exponentially more prevalent and powerful, word-of-mouth marketing has exploded, and Category Influentials have become more important than ever.
Given the fact that Influentials are significantly more likely than other consumers to pay attention to marketing messages, particularly when making purchase decisions, smart marketers will seek out strategies to maximize their Influential reach. With Influentials comprising a mere 10 - 20% of all adults, directly targeting the influence-heavy Boomer-and-older population makes all the more sense.
While there’s been a meaningful shift in recent years toward doing so, many brands still rely heavily on “spill” from youth-targeted marketing plans. This strategy may have made sense fifty or sixty years ago when older Americans accounted for just one-third of the adult population, but the Boomer-and-older crowd now represents nearly half of all adult consumers. In today’s fragmented media environment where targeted marketing rules, it is increasingly difficult to capture this, or, for that matter, any secondary audience through spill.
Targeted messaging has been proven to work for people based on race, sports affinity, sexual orientation and life stage (think parenthood), and we have seen that it can be highly effective among older consumers.
Boomer-and-older marketing has the opportunity to be significantly more successful when it clearly portrays the older consumer’s vitality, priorities and relationships, as well as the crucial roles that they play in their families, communities, workplaces and in society at large.
Not long ago, Jeep specifically targeted grandmothers with a magazine campaign, placing the personality, lifestyle and priorities of the consumer front-and-center.
The ad featured an image of a fashion-forward woman along with the following copy, “I know you’re only as old as you feel and I still feel 30. I can text but I prefer to talk. I’ll do a bake sale and hit a few trails, too. The grandkids say I’m ‘really cool now’ but what they don’t know is, I always was.” Just below that copy appeared Jeep’s tagline, “I live. I ride. I am. Jeep.”
Jeep recognized its potential consumers as individuals, speaking directly to their interests, needs and passions, and validating their individual worth. It was a brilliant marriage of Boomer mindset and brand identity that produced sales.
If you want to influence the older Influentials, you need to demonstrate that you understand who they are, acknowledge their value, and then follow the other best practices we already know to be effective among older consumers—providing information, being transparent, developing multi-media marketing plans, etc.
Brands willing to adopt this approach will unleash not only the unrivaled spending power, but also the vast influence of the Boomer-and-older consumer market.