Baby Boomers More Loyal To Service Providers Than To Products

Baby boomers were revolutionary--but they are less brand-loyal than preceding generations. According to a study released this week by market-research firm Focalyst, a joint venture between AARP and the Kantar Group, boomers defy expectation.

The Focalyst data provides specific measures of boomer "brand loyalty" for products and services, drawing on a panel of about 35,000 consumers over the age of 42.

The baby-boomer data represents something of a departure from conventional ad wisdom. Advertisers covet the 18-34 demo in part because it's believed that lifelong brand loyalties are formed during this period. Recently, however, research has contradicted this belief.

In April 2006, an article titled "Brand Purchasing by Older Consumers" published in Marketing Letters, an academic journal, found that "patterns of buying between brands within a product category do not reveal marked age-based differences, and leading brands tend to be leading for all age groups."

Still, certain categories do score higher in terms of brand loyalty among boomers in the Focalyst study, with data suggesting relatively high degrees of loyalty for service-oriented brands, like insurance and banking, and significantly lower brand loyalty for product-oriented brands.

TVs scored the lowest brand-loyalty rank, with just 22% of respondents saying they didn't switch brands regularly, followed by computers at 24%, apparel at 27%, home appliances at 30% and prepared foods at 36%. In addition, 72% said they didn't switch auto or home insurance, and 67% were sticking with medical insurance, 65% with life insurance and 63% with their bank.

Heather Stern, Focalyst's director of marketing, remarked: "Boomers are most loyal when companies give customized service, a natural reflection of boomers' desire for personalized attention and rewarding brand experiences."

They are also willing to pay more if a product or service makes their busy lives easier. "For consumer categories such as home appliances, computers and televisions that score low on brand loyalty, marketers may be able to develop stronger bonds with boomers," says Stern. The trick: focus on the service aspect. Remember, this is the Me Generation.

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