Happiness: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Baby Boomers continue to gain momentum as a consumer group while eroding the notion that targeting people age 50+ doesn’t pay off. Increasingly, brands are seeing Boomer marketing efforts deliver meaningful ROI. In a recent survey conducted by the Online Publishers Association, a majority of ad agencies and marketers identified Boomers as a must-reach segment for brand-focused digital campaigns. 

Fellow marketers often ask me how they can meaningfully infuse their brand into the broader context of Boomers’ lives so that it becomes known, not just for its core benefits, but also for its impact on a broader and deeper level. My answer: Find a way to clearly tie your brand to the happiness Boomers crave. 

A few years ago, the organization that employs me did just that by changing the tagline of its namesake publication, AARP The Magazine, to “Feel great. Save money. Have fun.” At the time, I didn’t get it. I thought it sounded pedestrian. I was wrong.



Boomers highly value the role of happiness in their lives. According to GfK MRI, nearly all Boomers report that enjoying life (90%) and having fun (82%) are extremely important—even more important than faith, wealth, and social responsibility. 

According to a recent study on this topic from AARP, happiness hits a low point at age 50, but rises steadily over the next two decades. In fact, people age 70 are 50% more likely than those at age 50 to report being "very happy.” It is during these two decades that marketers have a unique opportunity to build consumer relationships, strengthen brand loyalty and drive sales simply by helping Boomers achieve higher levels of happiness.

To understand likely contributors to happiness, the study asked participants to identify areas of life that are most important and then assess how well they are doing in those areas. Health and relationships emerged as the top two priorities and—along with saving money—are where consumers most need marketers’ help in creating happier lives. 


 % Rating Area
"Very Important"

% Doing Opportunity
"Very Well"

Gap for


Nearly all brands have an opportunity to tie themselves to closing the health and relationship gaps. Boomers’ top health fears—including losing mental/brain capacity, and other fears related to mobility and lack of energy—open the door for a wide variety of products and services to help Boomers remove health-related obstacles to a happier life. Think games, adult education, life stage-designed automobiles, foods, medications, supplements, gyms, and any product that boasts an easier-to-read label.

Our study asked people 50+ to identify specific happiness triggers, and many of the top 10—including “kissing and hugging someone you love,” “spending time with family,” “watching your children and grandchildren succeed,”—reflect the importance of all types of relationships. Marketers will benefit from telling Boomers about their brand’s ability to enhance the relationships they so highly value. 

Marketers will benefit from developing a multi-pronged happiness strategy, including: 

  • Offering life stage-related products or services that create happiness and/or remove barriers to happiness
  • Empowering consumers to achieve greater levels of happiness
  • Developing a company/brand reputation as one that enhances people’s lives
  • Creating marketing that makes people happy when they experience it
  • Marketing through channels that have relationships with consumers that are based, at least in part, on delivering or enhancing happiness

Following are a few standout examples from brands that leveraged a happiness marketing strategy in 2012:

  • Expedia’s “Find Your Understanding” short video tells the story of a father’s “travel across the country to attend his daughter's same-sex wedding, a journey that will test him, challenge him, and ultimately change him in unexpected ways.” Without speaking directly about Expedia, it manages to say something profound about the brand’s ability to bring people closer together. See it here.
  • Toyota Venza produced a series of commercials highlighting the disconnect between the stereotypical view and the reality of life at 50+. While it misses the mark in accurately portraying the close bond Boomers tend to share with their children, it’s spot on in portraying Boomers as a generation that refuses to settle into old age and instead pursues happiness on its own terms. See it here.
  • DirecTV developed a series of ads that play out storylines that could result from having cable instead of DirecTV. One spot, featuring Charlie Sheen, begins “When you have cable and can’t record all of your shows, you feel unhappy,” and reveals a chain of events one might experience triggered by that unhappiness. The solution: “cancel cable, get DirecTV.” This hilarious spot received national recognition as one of the year’s best commercials and while it’s not specifically Boomer targeted, it is Boomer inclusive. See it here

The lesson here is simple. Want to increase ROI? Bring more happiness to Boomers’ lives.

1 comment about "Happiness: The Gift That Keeps On Giving ".
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  1. Mark Bradbury from AARP Media Sales, December 6, 2012 at 11:30 a.m.

    Note that the data table is incorrectly formatted. MediaPost is working on correcting this. My apology for the inconvenience.

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