Don't Think Gray, Think Green

I signed up for Facebook five years ago and today spend more than 20 hours a week there and on Twitter and LinkedIn interacting with friends, professional contacts, other moms and 20 of my favorite brands. I read and write blog posts. I have a smartphone. And -- surprise, surprise! -- I'm a Baby Boomer.

While many advertisers have caught on, many still believe Boomers -- adults aged 45 to 54 -- are digital laggards who lack high-speed internet access, online shopping savvy, digital cameras, DVRs and cars with GPS systems. In fact, according to Forrester Research's annual benchmark tech study, adults my age now spend more money on technology than any other age group. We lead the pack when it comes to purchasing e-readers. The iPad? We love it. Don't dare call us old and set in our ways.

So should advertisers try and reach us on social sites? You bet. Baby Boomers control more than 50% of the discretionary spending power and pay for 80% of all leisure travel. We also like to play games and product deals online. We strive to look and feel our best. And, according to Social Code, Facebook users over the age of 50 are 28.2% more likely to click an advertisement than 18 to 29 year-old users.



We are a generation that likes to get things done. Social sites give us a forum for voicing political views and for supporting causes that are dear to us. And Boomers who are empty-nesters now have the time to support them. Meanwhile, social dating sites have given widowed and divorced Boomers a whole new way to build meaningful relationships.

So, what ad content is best for Boomers? It needs to be intuitive and easy to navigate. And above all, advertisers should focus on a quality product and customer service. Here are four great examples of marketers who understand what Boomers want:

  • NBC Digital is doing a terrific job of reaching Boomers through their Life Goes Strong channels, an online destination for the active over-50 crowd. Its verticals represent the audience's passion points, from health to technology to style. The age perspective is downplayed, as the site is focused on generating content that Boomers are genuinely interested in, and delivering this content in an entertaining way (some good examples are "The Ugliest Houses in America" or "Being Addicted to Words with Friends"). Every article is shareable and can be commented on.
  • Harley-Davidson is another brand that has been doing an excellent job reaching Boomers through social media. Its target demographic of riders over 50 cherishes two things: community and adventure. This company puts mobile social at the heart of its marketing efforts. Riders carrying around mobile phones can connect with other riders, learn about special events, and share their adventures on social sites. Rather than phasing out its older consumers, Harley- Davidson provides them with a voice they can use to build the brand with their stories and opinions.
  • Socially savvy Boomers are transforming the healthcare industry, and pharmaceutical pioneer Johnson & Johnson is taking note. Its extensive social network includes a number of blogs, a robust YouTube channel, an active Facebook page, and a Twitter feed. The diversity of this company's content runs the gamut from interesting historical tidbits about the company, to touching videos about its efforts in developing countries, to multiple platforms where J&J representatives can quickly respond to comments and questions about their products -- from a generation that is becoming more and more acclimated to seeking customer service through social media.
  • The Dove Movement for Self-Esteem campaign won us over with its portrayal of women with all their flaws, and it continues to choose topics that are ageless with its "Who Inspired You" initiative.

The brands that continue to deny the influence of Boomers on social media will lose out on a marketing opportunity that continues to grow. Instead of seeing gray, brands should see green.

5 comments about "Don't Think Gray, Think Green ".
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  1. Rocky Longworth from Integer, September 8, 2011 at 2:44 p.m.

    Amen Holly, Amen!

  2. Sharon Sultan cutler from Once Upon Our Times Publishing, September 8, 2011 at 3:48 p.m.

    Social media connections are keeping us all on our toes - and mine are 64 years old! We need to see ourselves-boomers between 47 and 65- in the ads themselves. Intergenerational groups, older men and women -that we can relate too.Also the nostalgia pull of our "good old days" as we see every day with reminders of "remember when" that toy, that song, that detergent, etc. were around when I was little. It shows histosry as we reclaim our past. Our upcoming book, Once Upon Our Times: 65 Years Growing Up Baby Boomer relects much of baby boomer philosophy along with facts, figures, history, topics important to our lives, etc.

  3. Keith Yagnik from Honor Health, September 8, 2011 at 10:59 p.m.

    Good catch Sharon. Boomers are now 47 - 65 (born between 1946 - 1964), not 45 - 54 as indicated in this article.

  4. William Price, September 10, 2011 at 7:23 p.m.

    Thanks for the kudos of J&J, Holly. We appreciate it and continue to experiment, learn and grow in social media lessons every day.

  5. Anne-marie Kovacs from Boombox Network, September 12, 2011 at 12:44 p.m.

    Indeed. Everyone is interested in targeting Gen X & Y, but we feel a shift coming on and definitely an awareness that this (huge & powerful) market segment needs to be addressed in a more relevant manner, online and off.

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