While unemployment seemed to drive millions of young adults back to their childhood homes, the fact of having gotten jobs did not result in their moving out. Recent research suggests that the adult Millennial child and his or her Boomer parents are now a permanent part of our landscape. Marketers need to face this new reality: their "coveted 18-34 year old" is probably eating food, sitting on furniture, and streaming content via wifi that has all been purchased by his or her midlife parent.
Contrary to the perception that aging brings a calcification of shopping habits, many over-50 consumers diversify their spending habits as they grow older. That diversification, plus the narrower tactics of contemporary marketing practices, makes them much tougher to reach through advertising. As older consumers and the Baby Boomer cluster move from the crowd-think of their youth to personal uniqueness, marketing messaging should also move to meet them on their new turf.
Millennials have regularly been the subject of misunderstanding, even teasing, due to their unconventional beliefs and practices. Still, since they represent the largest, most powerful generation to hit since the big bang of the Baby Boom, marketers, researchers and planners like me continue to watch this group of consumers with borderline obsession. In my own observations, I've discovered the Millennial generation is not only different than prior generations, it's contagious. Unwittingly, the rest of us are becoming more like the segment we're all trying so hard to figure out. I'm a balding, shining example.
The days are over when 10-year-old Billy down the street opened a few cans of dog food for Fido while the neighbors were on vacation. Now, pet owners look online for pricey dog sitters with fancy credentials, scour TripAdvisor for hotels that cater to pets, or even book a pet-friendly cruise. As we treat animals more and more like people, it's hard to tell pet-focused products and services from human ones. Guess which of these five pet services actually exists?
Of the many misconceptions about baby boomers, perhaps the one most perilous to marketers today is that those in the demographic aren't tech savvy. In fact, according to a 2016 Boston Consulting Group survey, boomers' top 20 favorite brands include Amazon, Apple, Dell, HP, LG, Samsung and Sony - all tech-related, and together more than a third of the list.
A few months back, we introduced the idea of the longevity economy. The convergence of new technology and the desire for boomers to age gracefully is going to generate many new business opportunities. Boomers have embraced personal technology, and they are as attached to their mobile devices as any card carrying millennial. Last week's Apple announcements provided a glimpse of where this is heading and how it plays into the longevity economy.
In a recent article, "All purchase decisions are made by people" Gavin Finn, CEO of Kaon Interactive wrote, "While data science and analytics have become an essential element of every modern marketing arsenal, it is wise to remember that people make all purchase decisions."
Marketers have successfully used real people of all ages to advertise their products, especially in the beauty and fashion realms. One campaign I really like is for Cole Haan, which celebrated its 85th anniversary with ads showing black-and-white portraits of people who were born in 1928, including poet Maya Angelou and astronaut Captain Jim Lovell.
It isn't a technology solution. It is decidedly low-tech. It's not a medical device, but it does ease suffering. And while we sometimes joke about hoarding, older adults are buried in stuff - the accumulation of a lifetime (or two). The resistance to letting go of it is an enormous issue for caregivers, senior living providers and aging in place experts. Of all of the issues of caregiving, this one is the gift that literally keeps on giving.
Riding a southbound Amtrak train home to New York last Sunday night, I was asked by the passenger next to me about a whale watching video I was posting on Facebook. I told her I'd just spent a most memorable weekend reconnecting with a college friend, Michelle, I hadn't seen in 30 years. On Saturday, we'd visited Gloucester, a small fishing town on Massachusetts' North Shore, where we ate, shopped, explored and went whale watching, my virgin experience doing so.