What Matters Most Is What Matters To 'Me'

Not too long ago, an article we wrote about companies marketing to Boomers generated several emails from a "GrammyCarol" somewhere in cyberspace. To put it mildly (and she didn't), she felt most companies missed her by a country mile:

"I can tell you I know for SURE what is the death of marketing for Boomers.

"It's when any company or product which claims to be 'for Boomers' will mix me in the same group as people 14 years younger than me. A Boomer at 48 is very different from a Boomer at 62.

"I'm 62 and graduated from HS in 1965. I graduated college in 1969. I could care less what most people in their late 40's are doing nowadays, but companies which pander to me are usually trying to pander to women in their late 40's also. Big mistake.

"If I read another magazine or Web site 'for Boomers' which tries to tell us what to do with our 'parents,' for example, I'm going to scream. Parents??? I'm 62 and working myself into a hole just trying to take care of my husband and myself. My parents have been dead for years!



"In other words, the LEADING EDGE of us Boomers is ME. I'm the 'Class of 1965,' and if you're not talking to ME, then you're missing the boat. If you are trying to also talk to me AND some bunch of little girls in their late 40's? Get lost.

"I simply don't care about all the issues a young, active, still-has-teens-at-home mom of 48 has. I want to talk about my concerns. Death, mobility, health issues, how to access the 'system' at my age."

The three additional emails from GrammyCarol covered more "Boomer" topics she felt were wrong for her. She doesn't want to know how to grow retirement savings ("I'm spending it, not saving for it. Tell me about reverse mortgages."). Ditto on memory exercises ("Brain health? How about general health at age 62?"). She wants to learn more about actively caring for her older husband. And she wants marketers to know she's still buying products and services, just not from ones that "are missing the boat and lumping all eighteen years of us together."

In all of this, GrammyCarol is right.

At age 62, she is in a completely different place than a late-40's Boomer. But all generations are, by definition, about 20 years from start to finish. GrammyCarol just happened to be on the front edge. The typical Boomer today is 55. Not at the end, but not still at the starting gate. Firmly in "midlife."

It is difficult to design any single product, service or even media vehicle -- Web site, magazine, TV show -- that appeals to a typical 55 year old, much less a typical Boomer. That's because there are 55 year olds with kids in middle school and there are 55-year-olds with grandkids.

Truth be told, being a "Boomer" doesn't really have much significance. It's just a demographer's label, not an affinity group. Generational labels, and even age, don't matter for most people when making connections with others. Connections are usually made with people at similar life stages, or living similar life styles, or with similar interests and hobbies.

Unwittingly, GrammyCarol's emails reveal one generational trait that does cut across many Boomers, which is the underlying question fueling her: "What's in this for me?" She's interested in topics relevant to her life right now.

Companies and organizations that understand this Boomer trait are the ones that will most likely appeal to GrammyCarol and the rest of the cohort. They will be the ones that matter most to Boomers.

11 comments about "What Matters Most Is What Matters To 'Me' ".
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  1. Steve Little from ThePerfectBizFinder, November 22, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.

    Hey Matt - Great piece. This is indeed one of the greatest challenges marketers face, and one of the most frequent errors made, especially now during this 'economic crisis'.

    The concerns of a 62+ year old retiree or soon to be retiree are indeed completely different from those of some someone 20 years more junior.

    Marketers need to recognize that the "boomer generation" is not homogeneous and focus a particular value offer to the portion of the boomers for whom it is relevant.

    For instance, here at ThePerfectBizFinder, we help people find and build income generating businesses. As it relates to the 'boomers', the income and lifestyle needs or desires of the 60+ professional looking to generate income without the other complexities and commitments associated with commercial business ownership are often very different from those of the 50 year old looking for a way to fire his or her boss and chart a different professional course in life.

    We server both communities but with very different services and for with very different intended outcomes.

    It is a challenge to market in a way that reflects this.

    Thanks for your insights.

    Steve /

  2. Carolyn Hansen from Hacker Group, November 22, 2010 at 10:52 a.m.

    "Truth be told, being a 'Boomer' doesn't really have much significance." AMEN!! Even finding people EXACTLY the same age has very little significance for marketing. "What's in it for me" is also not generational --that's a topic relevant for everyone from birth on and always has been. In fact, "what's in it for me" is pretty much the definition of "relevant."

  3. Ute Hagen from YSC Your Success Counts GmbH, November 22, 2010 at 11:13 a.m.

    Hi Matt, great article as always. I think it should make it really clear to Marketers that using age demographics or even generational demographics as a definition for target consumers simply doesn´t work. As you and Carolyn point out, for ANY person the question is "what`s in it for me?". Or as Prof. Ted Levitt has said: "People don´t want a drill, they want a quarter inch hole". So simple and yet apparently so difficult for marketers to understand.
    Thanks for being the Champion of Boomers.
    Ute Hagen, YSC Your Success Counts GmbH

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 22, 2010 at 11:32 a.m.

    Note to advertisers: The older the "Boomers" get, the more likely they are single due to death of their spouse or divorce after the kids are old enough and out of the house. There are more 60+ employees laid off than younger and suing for EEOC if the amount is significant (Lawyers won't touch a case less than $250M. They get 25-33% plus client pays expenses.) Not all boomers have the same issues, but they have the same needs as anyone. 18 and 49 years have different goals as well, but are lumped together. Well overdue for the age demographic focus changes to smaller pods. It's a beginning.

  5. Esther Surden from E. Surden Associates, November 22, 2010 at 11:38 a.m.

    I've run into this problem while writing my blog Tech and the Baby Boomer and I'll tell you it isn't easy. I started out writing for people like me, but not everyone is like me and certainly not every boomer out there is in my circumstances. What I found is if I sometimes write about tech for grandmom baby boomer, and sometimes write about tech to help the sandwich generation baby boomer, and sometimes write about just interesting tech for people who are beginners using technology, I get a good mix. My "brain game" blog might have upset GrammyCarol, but maybe she would have liked my blog on how to find health info online. What is telling is how much differentiation marketers must do these days. We are micro communities that expect our own little niches to be served.

  6. Mickey Lonchar from Quisenberry, November 22, 2010 at noon

    I'm having a hard time holding two seemingly contradictory thoughts in mind. One, that your assertion that the label 'Boomer' is a pretty much meaningless label for some diverse segments of the population (of which I totally agree), and two, the overly premise of Engage Boomers, which is 'advertisers should target this group because of its collective purchasing power.'

    One thing members of this age group have in common is that they are the fastest growing adopters of social networks, and as such, marketers have an opportunity to learn more about them as micro-niches or even as individuals. Engaging these micro-niches makes a lot more sense for most marketers than cutting a broad swath through the demographic jungle.

  7. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., November 22, 2010 at 9:11 p.m.

    Why don't marketers simply market to 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and also 70 year old people by decade instead of by labels? As I understand the label, 'Boomers' referred to a very large segment of babies born post WWI and now are stretching Social Security payouts beyond previously anticipated expanse. But as we all know, these 'boomers' are booming when it comes to discretionary cash so should not be overlooked for products and services that make them feel younger -Hair products, technology, entertainment, automobiles, travel, services etc...

  8. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., November 22, 2010 at 10:11 p.m.

    Why don't marketers simply market to 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and also 70 year old people by decade instead of by labels? As I understand the label, 'Boomers' referred to a very large segment of babies born post WWII and now are stretching Social Security payouts beyond previously anticipated expanse. But as we all know, these 'boomers' are booming when it comes to discretionary cash so should not be overlooked for products and services that make them feel younger -Hair products, technology, entertainment, automobiles, travel, services etc...

  9. David Coakley from Luken Communications Inc, November 23, 2010 at 2:31 p.m.

    A good article for marketers trying to reach "experienced adults". Just create entertaining commercials that don't alienate any group of people and worry less about reaching a tight demographic and worry more about reaching a lot of people with ads that are effective across generational lines.


  10. Todd Brewster from Media Buying Decisions, November 28, 2010 at 5:24 p.m.

    I am puzzled to why people do not know the answer. A product is targeted to a certain demographic. A media buyer may be told to reach A35+. If at a large agency, they do what they are told and buy the demo at the correct GRP, which means a low CPP. A seasoned media buyer understands the product has brands that can be further broken down to M/F and age groups 35-49 or 35-54 and 55+. They even understand the difference between W55+ who are working versus W55+ retired. An experienced buyer can produce a lot more sales for your client. Please keep in mind the W62 may be reading, listening or watching a medium that does not fit her demographic, however an experienced buyer will improve your odds significantly.

  11. Carla Moss, November 29, 2010 at 5:03 p.m.

    This is such a relevant article! I just wrote a post on my blog about how baby boomers cannot be lumped all together into the same tribe, (see, ). I'm the 48 year old that 'GrammyCarol' isn't interested in getting marketing messages about, and rightfully so. We are both in different stages of our lives, enough though we're both baby boomers. I like her spunk though.

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