Marketing to “Boomers” has been the call for many of us for a very long time. That call has been made, though perhaps not received! The truth is that consumer spending is found in discrete consumer segments and the media that target them.
Take a look at the grandparent market. The nature of grandparenting is evolving. For the first time in human history, there are three distinct generations of grandparents in the United States. This continuum of the grandparenting lifestage is based on dimensions such as the age of grandchildren, affluence, and household structure. In this economy, grandparents are contributing to their children and grandchildren’s lifestyles in unprecedented ways.
The changing nature of families
Many factors are affecting the structure of families and the role of grandparents. Divorce frequently puts the grandparent/grandchild relationship at risk, often with no legal recourse for grandparents. The high percentage (40%) of children born to unmarried parents creates a dilemma when parent relationships change, leaving grandparents wondering about their own rights. Multi-generational households are growing, either as a result of economic pressure on the grandparents or the parents. One in five grandchildren is living in households led by a grandparent, which creates a unique set of social, legal, and advocacy needs.
Regardless of the living situation, grandparents across the age continuum provide for grandchildren; this reality, in turn, provides a new target for many consumer products and services. While much consumer attention is focused on the first-time grandparent and their spending, research shows that grandparents are financing everything from daily expenses to tuition, cars, auto insurance and college expenses. The ability to do this is reliant on the grandparents’ access to financial resources. Research from MetLife Mature Market Institute reveals one-quarter of grandparent age households report an income over $90,000, while another quarter report income of less than $25,000. (Read more at The MetLife Report on American Grandparents: New Insights for a New Generation of Grandparents [July 2011].)
Trends driving the grandparent market
Key trends emerged in our research into the grandparent market, and are shaping our approach to a larger study. These trends and their implications unlock new consumer needs, desires and values. Among these are:
The very nature of status symbols and the act of leaving a legacy are shifting. This is driven by Baby Boomers entering this lifestage. Becoming a grandparent has become a new form of status; one that is driving smart businesses to focus on this lifestage. Not surprisingly, the experiential Boomer generation prides itself on the breadth of their hobbies, interests, skills and stories, and seeks ways to share these with their grandchildren.
The idea of legacy is experiencing a similar change. Adults over 40 are responsible for the majority of charitable giving. Younger grandparents are focused on providing for their grandchildren daily, while older grandparents focused on leaving assets like cash and real estate to grandchildren. Senior generations gave quietly, while the new generation of Boomer grandparents share their causes with children and grandchildren as a means of sharing their values.
Not like our grandparents
The arrival of the Boomer generation into the grandparent lifestage is driving great change. These new grandparents are educated, working, relatively affluent, and more diverse than any previous generation. They are harder to spot, as the actual age of people becomes harder to identify, and generations begin to blend seamlessly into each other. As they were with their own children, Boomer grandparents seek involvement in every level of their grandchild’s life. Long-distance grandparents are adopting technology to get and stay connected with their grandchildren.
Many lifestages for older adults create consumer moments. Most of those are decisions made from the head. Grandparenting is a lifestage of the heart. When we engage consumers’ hearts, we have the ability to create bigger stories and build stronger brands.