To me, the most annoying part of being a Baby Boomer is the stereotype that aging has diminished my relevance in today’s world. One of the best parts is knowing the stereotype isn’t true.
As consumers, my generation’s post-recession spending prevented a depression and is the driving force behind today’s economic recovery. As role models, Boomers continue to create a life after 50 that not only looks better and lasts longer than it did for previous generations, but is also full of potential and a lot more fun.
The new year will be a pivotal one for our continued impact on American life—in particular, our economy. Here’s what will happen in 2014, and why.
Prediction #1: Boomers will drive economic expansion with a peak in post-recession spending
While Boomers continued to spend after the recession, like everyone else, they made sacrifices. With the Dow hitting 16,000 and housing values significantly restored, many Boomers have rebuilt their lost wealth, and it’s time for a little reward. Boomers will spend responsibly, but you can expect post-recession spending peaks across a wide variety of categories, including new cars, technology, home furnishings, travel and restaurants, among others.
Prediction #2: Boomer consumerism will create new jobs in recovering sectors
Boomers own more home value than any other generation, and with the real estate market rebounding, they are now freer to sell their existing homes and downsize, and/or to invest in home renovations that were put on hold. This will create demand for a broad range of housing professional services, including: agents, lenders, interior decorators, architects and contractors.
Expect to see a similar trend as the automotive sector expands and Boomers’ demand for autos designed to meet their evolving lifestyle needs for comfort, performance and fuel efficiency increases. This will create jobs in manufacturing, marketing and sales.
Prediction #3: Boomers will drag even the most stubborn of marketing traditionalists out of the 20th century
In 2014, the last of the Baby Boomers will exit the coveted 18-49 demo. Four and a half million Boomers turning 50 will be replaced by 4.2 million Millennials turning 18. Seems like a nearly even exchange, right? Not so fast. New 50 year olds will be eight times more likely than new 18 year olds to be employed full-time, and their annual earned income will be $41,000 higher. That’s just too much spending power to lose.
A prime example comes from the adult beverage industry. In 2013, brands such as Heineken and Sobieski began testing the viability of increasing market share by targeting Boomer+ consumers. In regional tests, within six months Sobieski became the #1 selling brand among these consumers, and they plan to expand their efforts nationally.
We will increasingly see previously resistant 50+ categories and brands follow suit in 2014.
Prediction #4: Boomers will become a primary target for smartphone tech marketers
People 50+ are increasingly taking advantage of today’s mobile technology to support their on-the-go lifestyles. In the past three years, their use of mobile devices has escalated across a broad range of activities, including: social networking (+1,113%), searching for product information (+567%), and listening to music (+266%).
While 50+ weren’t the first to swap their basic cell phones for smartphones, they’re quickly doing so now. Smartphone ownership is up 29% among 50-59 year-olds, 54% among 60-69 year-olds, and 38% among adults age 70+ compared to a year ago. Yet, just one-third of all cell phone owners age 50+ owns a smartphone, so there’s room for growth, and mobile marketers will work hard to close the gap.
Prediction #5: Boomers will make 50+ look better than ever
The public face of 50 will drink from the fountain of youth in 2014, as a steady slew of youthful and still prominent stars celebrate their 50th birthdays, starting with Michelle Obama in January, followed by Rob Lowe (March), Stephen Colbert (May), Sandra Bullock (July), Blair Underwood (August), Clive Owen (October) and Teri Hatcher (December), among many others.
Add to that the heightened interest among beauty brands such as L’Oreal in targeting 50+ through realistic images and messaging, and 2014 looks to be a beautiful year for the face of 50+.
The key to Baby Boomer relevance is a unique combination of attitude, size and spending power, all of which combine to ensure our relevance in 2014 and for decades to come.