Focalyst: Baby Boomer Misconceptions Die Hard

by , Apr 18, 2008, 5:00 AM
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2 boomers on a benchGiven the amount of research and media coverage focused on Boomers in recent years, you'd think marketers would be far past viewing them as an undifferentiated mass of country club-goers who can barely operate their Jitterbugs.

Alas, you'd be wrong, according to the folks at Focalyst, the Millward Brown/AARP Services, Inc. enterprise devoted to researching Boomers and "Matures."

"You'd be surprised by the Boomer misconceptions that still exist in today's top companies, and even more so by how many are simply not paying attention," says Heather Stern, Focalyst's director of marketing and client development. For many, "it's still about educating them on the basics," she says. "It can be difficult getting this message across--not only for us but for clients who are having difficulty in rallying their organizations around appealing to this market."

Media stories about those born between 1946 and 1964 are ubiquitous, but most treat the generation as a 77-million-member "monolith" that thinks, acts, behaves and buys in a single way, using headlines that paint either a very positive or very negative picture, say Stern and her colleagues.

Fighting fire with fire--actually, media with media--Focalyst this week dramatized the facts about Boomers with a release on the "Top 10 Boomer Myths," each refuted with data based on the 17,000+ Boomers surveyed as part of its 2006 Focalyst View study or other studies of the cohort.

"While much of this is not new news, we felt this research deserved repeating," says Stern.

"The Today Show," among others, picked up on the report, which summarized attention-getting stats such as: 72% of Boomers plan to work part-time or full-time when they reach retirement; a third are single; 37% have children under 18 living at home; 40% have virtually no net worth outside of home equity; one out of three have no basic retirement savings account; nearly four in 10 have no life insurance ... yet 74% plan to make a home improvement in the next year (average cost:$6,000) and 92% plan to buy a major household item (average cost: $2,200).

The effort also drove home Boomers' active lifestyles and comfort with tech products and the Internet (82% of Boomers use the Net; almost half of those 50 and older visit video-sharing sites; nearly a third of bloggers are over age 45; more than 8 million women over age 45 use the Net to play online games ... and so forth).

There were also some points aimed squarely at marketers:

* Boomers are just as likely as younger generations to be motivated to buy a product or service based on an Internet ad (according to a new Focalyst/Dynamic Logic study, highlights from which are also soon to be released);

* 67% say they're less likely to buy a product if the advertising is offensive to them;

* 66% say that ads have gotten cruder in the past few years;

* 61% wish that ads had more "real information" about products, and

* 23% find ads geared toward their age groups insulting.

Most pointedly, the firm stressed the diversity within the generation, noting that more life events occur between the ages of 50 and 65 than in any other time in one's life. The typical Boomer experiences two major life events around career, family, finance or health each year--ranging from buying a new home to starting a new job to retiring, they report.

The opportunities for marketers who take a segmented approach to Boomers "are wide and varied," but those seeking a single "Golden Rule" for approaching this generation are misguided, says Stern. "There simply isn't one," she says. "It depends on the product, the category, the medium and, most important, the segment you are trying to reach."

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