I have written articles on the value of targeting Baby Boomers, and now NBCU’s Alan Wurtzel goes one step further. He says that it is not specifically Baby Boomers that advertisers should target, it is the AlphaBoomers, a valuable subset of adults aged 55-64.
Who exactly are the AlphaBoomers and why are they so important? I sat down with Alan and he explained it all in a series of videos that can be viewed here.
He considers this group a subset of the Baby Boomer population because they are freshly minted Boomers. He explains: “Every 7 seconds someone in the U.S. turns 55, which immediately puts them outside the monetize-able Nielsen demo – basically forgotten but not gone. “ And yet they behave exactly as they did a year before – same purchasing decisions, same media choices – but they are no longer considered a part of the monetize-able advertising and television viewership ecosystem.
This is an issue not just for ad sales but also for measurement. Alan cited the example of CNBC, whose 25-54 ratings inexplicably plummeted from one month to the next. Nothing in the schedule changed. But what happened was that three Nielsen panelists, all heavy viewers of CNBC, celebrated their 55th birthdays that month. They were no longer in the 25-54 demo but they were still in the sample. Happy birthday, panelists! Now you are no longer valuable consumers.
Alan describes it as like “a canary in the coalmine” when he began to understand that the demography of the country is shifting. This demographic shift would not only affect news networks like CBNC, but any network that falls in the latter end of the 25-54 target demographic. The march of time will have a monetary cost for many content providers and advertisers.
So what Alan decided to do was conduct a research study to measure Baby Boomers aged 45-64, dividing the group into adults 45-54 and 55-64. The study consisted of 1,500 online questionnaire interviews, as well as some in-person ethnographies. The results confirmed a distinct difference in the two age groups. Adults 55-64 were more likely to be empty-nesters. And because their family structure was changing, they had more discretionary income, experiencing a life transition that likely resulted in manyi more purchasing decisions. They also tended to be starting new homes or refurbishing their current home to be more to their personal liking rather than a compromise to children’s needs.
Alphaboomers who are 55-64 confound all the myths we hear about older adults. Alan calls them Urban Myths, and they are as follows:
Myth: Boomers are Winding Down. That is simply not true. There are a substantial number of Boomers who keep on working. Some do it for economic reasons but most define themselves through their work and enjoy what they do. They are not prepared to go quietly into that good night.
Myth: Boomers Have Less Income, So They Spend Less. Just plain wrong, says Alan. Yes, Boomers may be out of their peak earning year,s but income alone doesn’t predict purchasing power. Discretionary income does and Boomers have more of it than any other age group -- and they need instant gratification. That is a powerful consumer combination.
Myth: Boomers Are Set in Their Ways. Alan says that this myth goes way, way back. The idea that established brand loyalties last through one’s life is no longer true. AlphaBoomers are, by nature, more cynical about brand advertising. They say, “Show me your value or I will go to someone else.” Yes, there are iconic brands but the notion that all brand loyalty is unchangeable is simply not true.
Myth: Boomers are Technophobic. No. In fact, they are more likely to spend on electronics because they have the money to spend.
Myth: Boomers are Easy to Reach. Alan’s study found that this is no longer true. The respondents were given a choice of 35 of the top channels – broadcast and cable networks - and were asked to rank their top three favorites. The result: 40% said some combination of one broadcast and two cable networks and another 40% chose three cable networks. Just as other age groups are fragmenting under the large amount of viewing choices, so are Boomers.
Will the NBCU’s AlphaBoomer study change perceptions? Let’s see what happens in this next upfront season.