It's Boomer Time! How Alcohol Brands Can Show Them Some Love

by , Dec 16, 2013, 9:27 AM
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Nearly 70% of Boomers drink—that’s 48 million men and women in the U.S. alone. Not that you'd ever know that because they are rarely featured in most alcohol advertising. For many years, those in the alcoholic beverage industry haven’t made a point of engaging drinkers age 50+; but if marketers don’t want to leave money on the table, it’s time to rethink that. 

Why? The fact is that Boomers are going to continue to account for a significant portion of spending on a variety of alcoholic beverages. According to the "50 and Over: What's Next?" Ad Age Insights White Paper sponsored by AARP, older Boomers spend the same amount as the general population on alcoholic beverages, shelling out an average of $435 annually. Younger Boomers actually surpass this amount, spending 15% more. In addition, the aging population is growing faster than the population who recently turned 21. So even if the Boomer generation decreases their total alcohol consumption, like many of the generations that came before them, the sheer size of the group makes it worthwhile for alcohol beverage advertisers to put efforts in place to maintain their appeal among Boomer drinkers. 

The key to keeping Boomers engaged in the category is understanding how their attitudes toward alcohol differ and evolve with age. Here are two key insights that affect how marketers might speak to them. 

Boomers Prefer the Familiar

According to Mintel, three-quarters of consumers age 55+ indicate that when it comes to alcoholic beverages, they like to stick with what they know. One in three also indicates they are unfamiliar with the alcoholic brands, flavors, and styles that are available today. While this may reflect their comfort and satisfaction with their favorite brands, the alcoholic beverage industry is launching new products so quickly that even a Boomer’s preferred brand has probably released a new product recently. Thus, there is ample opportunity for marketers to ensure their loyal Boomer drinkers are aware of new product extensions by leveraging packaging, CRM programs, and in-store sampling/POS. 

Marketers might also teach Boomers how to use new brand extensions in relevant occasions. Diageo did this in 2012 via an educational marketing effort featuring Food Network Chef Sandra Lee. In each ad, Lee introduces a cocktail and thematic usage occasion and then demonstrates how to mix the cocktail. This approach helps Boomers feel comfortable investing in new flavors and making the cocktail at home. For those looking to launch new products to Boomers, there is merit in tying to other known entities to increase familiarity. One fun example of this is Wines That Rock, the company responsible for Rolling Stones Forty Licks merlot and Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon cabernet. 

Boomers Drink to Unwind

For Boomers, drinking isn’t about social lubrication; it’s about relaxation. Boomers aren’t having a drink to amp up for a night on the town or to give themselves an extra shot of courage so they can talk to the cutie across the bar. They’re having a drink to unwind and even treat themselves at the end of a long day. According to recent Mintel research, Boomers are more likely than other generations to have a drink at home midweek and to report drinking an alcoholic beverage before, during, or after a meal. This means that marketers who want to keep Boomers engaged need to rethink how they are portraying drinking occasions in advertising. 

Chateau St. Michelle winery’s new campaign, “My Chateau,” likely has strong appeal with the audience because it speaks to the allure of a night in. Text featured in print and online marketing efforts uses simple math equations that combine one or more people with one or more glasses of wine to help people create their own Chateau, a play on the brand name and term for a place to relax. In social media, brand fans can generate their own My Chateau image and share it with friends. Here is an example of one post: “Me + a Glass of Wine + the Sound of the Rain + a New Book = My Chateau.” Marketing efforts like these could help to maintain Boomer engagement with a brand, encouraging them to reach for a glass of wine at the end of the day whether it’s a social occasion or not. 

In order for alcohol brands to maintain the engagement of Boomers, they need to think and market differently. Heineken has received some good press for their efforts to keep Boomers engaged with their crowdsourced 60+ Challenge: they asked filmmakers, designers and other creatives around the world to submit their concepts for targeting an older demo to Heineken’s Ideas Brewery. Winners took home cash prizes, and Heineken got some viable and cost-effective ideas for reaching Boomers. But it’s time that more brands take note of the 48 million Boomers still drinking and make a concerted effort to speak to them so that they will keep toasting long into retirement.

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