Old Is The New New

For years we have advised against nostalgic approaches when trying to engage consumers in the Baby Boomer cohort. While nostalgia has played well for seniors and the silent generation, Boomers (and I am generalizing) have not shown a longing for "the good old days." With all due respect to Bob Dylan, "the times they are a-changin'."

Before you roll out a track from the Sixties, this is very different from the longing for a simpler time. Our anxiety research, which began in the fall of 2008, shows that both leading and trailing Boomers are ringing out 2010 with more anxiety about their futures. The distrust of institutions -- government, banking, and Wall Street -- has not subsided. Distrust and fear are being translated into anger.

The outcome of this emotion is being expressed as something like nostalgia. But Boomers are not longing for their teens and early twenties. They want the warm fuzzy feeling of a world that seemed safe, of 401(K)s that were nearly funded and of jobs that were plentiful. The smug sensation before their kids applied for the six-year plan at university, Mom and Dad could still drive and live in their own home, (the late 1990s?).



As consumers, Boomers are yearning for brand experiences that help them feel safe, smart and in control again. For some, this means more connections, manifested in the growth of social media platforms. Increasingly, older adults are reaching into the past and connecting with old friends, old beaus and lost relatives. For others, this has resulted in what Faith Popcorn described years ago as "cocooning." (It was a Boomer trend then, too!) This translates into nesting, cooking more meals and entertaining at home, plus investing more time with immediate family members.

The popularity of familiar television genres, and in some cases re-hashed programs from the past, indicate a desire for "comfort food" entertainment. Even highly rated reality programs have been described as "triumph of the human spirit" and uplifting.

Values-based consumer shifts are subtle, and strategic shifts should be as well. Still, there is opportunity for brands to warm up, to be safe and trusted, and to meet Boomer consumers where they are. They must become "lovemarks" and transcend branding to live in the consumer heart and inspire "loyalty beyond reason." Lovemarks live at the crossroads of love and respect -- exactly what consumers are craving from business right now.

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