New Branding Rules

Once the poster child for optimism and categorized as the generation that boldly grasped opportunities, many Baby Boomers are feeling bruised and battered by the prolonged economic downturn and lack of governance, according to recent findings from our ongoing research initiative to help brands better understand their audiences. Many Boomers are frustrated as their belief in the future fades; at the same time they know they still have a lot left to contribute to society.

“I fear I’ll lose hope.”

Overall, early adopter, news-aware Boomers participating in our research are thankful for the basics: food, good health, a roof over their head, a job, and enough money to pay the bills. Many note that they hope to afford rather than fear retirement. However, few participants appear to be confident retirement will look similar to the picture they had painted for it ten years ago.

“Get out of debt, stabilize my finances and save more money for the financial security and stability I dream of.”

When asked, 65% of Boomer respondents named becoming financially secure and living within their means as one of their top three hopes for 2013, 54% stated maintaining and improving health, and 32% cited developing a better outlook and becoming more fulfilled. These goals are especially striking when you compare them with Boomers’ desires. When asked what they would do with infinite time to pursue any one activity, 24% of Boomers named travel and vacationing, 19% philanthropy and volunteering, and 13% sports and related physical pursuits.

According to the responses, 72% of Boomers cite continued economic uncertainty/unemployment as one of their top three fears for 2013, followed by increased violence (58%), income squeezed/poverty/bankruptcy (43%), and ineffective leadership (38%). Further, many Boomers tell us their voice is no longer being heard. Although many of their related concerns are rooted in continued partisanship displayed in Washington, which they perceive as overflowing into society, they also note that brands are inappropriately marketing to them based on clichéd images of “old people.”

Given this collective psyche, it’s essential that brand managers reflect Boomers’ need for clarity and evidence that things are genuinely progressing and moving forward in marketing initiatives targeted toward this cohort. Overall, brands need to re-establish Boomers faith in the future by making them feel individually acknowledged and valued, emotionally enriched and provide a  solution.

Based on the learning from our ongoing research, we’ve identified five rules for cultivating more loyal relationships with Boomers:

1.    I’m not a stereotype.

Rather than pigeonholing Boomers into traditional aging or senior populations, segment them based on who they are, not the life stage they represent. Acknowledge the breadth and diversity of their attitudes, ambitions and lifestyles.

2.    Help me first.

Brand credibility begins with helping Boomers address their daily challenges. Deliver tangible benefits that enable them to maximize their budgets, pay their bills, proactively manage their debt, find alternative ways to increase their income so they can provide for their kids’ college education, and contemplate or enjoy retirement.

3.    Embrace the basics.

Reliable products and excellent service will make Boomers feel more empowered and in greater control. Use your brand’s influence to advocate for a more respectful society that values transparency and sustainability and clearly communicate your progress and the benefits your actions offer.

4.    Make me feel good about myself.

Boomers are weary of living with the uncertainty imposed upon them by the prolonged economic downturn. Use digital and social media to provide them with opportunities to relax and enrich their skills or develop new ones.

5.    Involve me in the solution.

Give Boomers opportunities to connect with their favorite causes and help others. Empower them to co-create campaign concepts that connect them to one another and broader communities…and that drive solidarity.



2 comments about "New Branding Rules".
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  1. Stephen C. Baldwin from Steve Baldwin Associates, May 23, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.

    I agree with the author that Baby Boomers have traditionally regarded as exemplars of optimism by many marketing professionals. I question, however, whether this characterization is accurate. Case in point: the high number of Boomers who are now committing suicide. (see: It is possible, albiet difficult, I think, to reconcile reported generational optimism with the evidence suggesting generational suicidal ideation.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 23, 2013 at 8:21 p.m.

    6. Don't co-sign ANYTHING.
    7. Make sure you have got some cash stashed somewhere your significant other doesn't know about. At best, if you have to go it alone, you get a cushion. At worst, it's money. You can use it for anything.

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