The Perfect Storm For Marketers

Reluctant to be defined by anyone but themselves, Baby Boomers continue to create new norms for what it means to be age 50+. At the same time, medical science and healthier living have made it possible for Boomers to expect to live active, healthy, productive lives well into their 80s, 90s and beyond. As a result, rather than marking the beginning of the end, Boomers are recasting age 50 as a midpoint to an adult life that can easily last 30 to 40 more years. 

This is a game changer, as it creates an opportunity for marketers to influence spending for three or more decades beyond the three encapsulated by the 18-49 year-old consumers they exalt. These decades are marked by need for new products, services and guidance from marketers that is perhaps stronger than at any other stage of life. 

Boomers will certainly buy more daily necessities during this second adulthood, and can afford to splurge more on bigger-ticket items, such as vacations, cars and home remodeling, than younger consumers. But, their spending will be triggered by a multitude of unique life stage milestones that provide marketers with a wide variety of opportunities to cash in—all of which involve spending.

Consider these significant milestone events likely to occur after age 50:

  • Changing jobs
  • Starting a new business
  • Going back to school
  • Child going off to college
  • Getting divorced/separated, or widowed
  • Adopting a healthier lifestyle
  • Selling a primary home
  • Buying a second home
  • Becoming a caregiver to a parent
  • Child graduating from college
  • Taking a big trip
  • Child getting married
  • Becoming a grandparent
  • Retiring
  • Developing a new hobby or volunteering
  • Surviving a major illness
  • Becoming a caretaker to a spouse

The nature and rapidity of change that lies in store after 50 can be exhilarating and rewarding, but it can also be exhausting and confusing. Boomers are looking to marketers for assistance in making the right purchase decisions for themselves, their families, their futures, and ultimately, their happiness. 

Their north star is a newfound sense of urgency to lead a more meaningful life after age 50. We recently commissioned Cymfony to conduct a social media listening project to document Americans’ thoughts and feelings about turning 50 and the prospect of the years that follow. Cymfony tracked over 17,000 conversations. One in particular perfectly captures this new outlook on life:

“I do recall being very aware that life was no longer limitless. I felt a renewed urgency to re-evaluate my life. Whatever I was going to do with my life I better get started. Gradually, I made a commitment to take better care of my body, initiated a move to a new community, and began new business ventures. My journey had its share of setbacks and frustrations along with the joy of growing by expecting more of myself.  What really matters is that I pursue what is important to me and live with gratitude.”

The crossing of life stage milestones with a desire to make the most out of life after 50 creates a perfect storm for marketers. A prime example can be found in how Boomers handle turning 50. 

Happiness is the overwhelming emotion underlying social media discussions about turning 50, according to AARP/Cymfony. In fact, 70% of the discussions tracked by Cymfony reflected happiness, compared to just 10% who expressed concern and 5% who expressed sadness. Looking to make the most of the “big day,” celebrants take positive action. They lose weight. They quit smoking. They run marathons and skydive. They go on vacations. They buy new cars. Some even get tattoos. 

Just imagine the potential revenue-generating opportunities the wide array of milestones experienced beyond age 50, stretched across 30-40 years, creates for brands. 

A new career could mean new learning, new technology needs and new tools. Graduations, marriages, and grandchildren often require big-ticket gift spending on items such as automobiles and iPads. Improving one’s health could mean enrolling in a weight loss program or purchasing new workout gear and joining a gym. Developing a new hobby could mean purchasing a camera, or buying golf or tennis equipment. Taking a big trip could mean buying new clothes, in addition to airfare and accommodations. 

Companies who intelligently develop the products and services that allow Boomers to maximize the upside of life after 50, help them minimize the challenges, and generally contribute to their overall happiness will stand apart from their competitors. We may or may not ever see a tipping point for mainstream marketing to Baby Boomers, but those that take the plunge will reap the rewards, and both they and Baby Boomers will be better off for it.

Tags: baby boomers
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4 comments about " The Perfect Storm For Marketers ".
  1. Alison Hill from CurrentPR , April 5, 2012 at 10:38 a.m.
    Great piece! I was particularly overwhelmed by the list of milestones awaiting me as I've just entered my fifties. Scary yet exciting times ahead of me. I need those great products you described, Mark, to support my journey! Thanks for sharing.
  2. Michal Clements from Insight to Action, Inc. , April 5, 2012 at 11:29 a.m.
    Very good piece Mark- an important wake up call for the Boomer's Spending and Life Event triggers that cause spending and behavior change found in Boomers. Taken a step further, Prime Time Women (Boomer women) control huge purse strings as Marti Barletta explores in "PrimeTime Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds, and Business of Boomer Big Spender". Thanks!
  3. Omri Duek from Cymfony , April 5, 2012 at 11:43 a.m.
    We were so pleased to conduct this study with AARP; they are an incredible organization to work with! We look forward to continuing to leverage our social media research expertise to uncover insights such as these! Sincerely, The Cymfony Analyst Team
  4. Laura Riemer from Valpak of Greater Houston , April 7, 2012 at 2:56 a.m.
    I like it. Well said. I just hit the big 60... so am right in the thick of this list of life experiences happening in my life, my siblings and my family during this time.