Ever Wonder Why Baby Boomers Don't Respond To Your Advertising?

As people age, they typically move into the higher levels of personality development and become increasingly resistant to advertising. Having seen and listened to tens of thousands of ads over their lifetimes, it isn’t likely that you are going to come up with an ad that a Baby Boomer views as startlingly original. We’ve learned doing the familiar in an unusual way, provided of course that the customer is qualified for and has a generic interest in the product for which the ad is being done, will increase the effectiveness of your ads.

Connecting with Baby Boomers in an unusual way means creating messages and images that doesn’t idealize aging or aging people by invoking images that are connected to life as a younger person. A past Duke University study found that older people were more likely than younger people to express satisfaction with their lives. Many will not read messages that talk about “reclaiming youthful vitality” as being one of the benefits of the advertised product.



Don’t include hyperbole. Talk about the product or service but do it without exaggeration. Don’t present the product as being in a superior class all by itself. Aging Baby Boomer customers generally don’t need or want to be told that an advertised product is peerless. They’ve received this pitch so many times it is no longer believable or at best, a platitude. This approach is typically perceived as hucksterism or deceptively selling fraudulent products or services.   

In our last post we discuss the value of being authentic in advertising and marketing. We’d suggest your message be unusually authentic. This is not a trivial thing. Older people typically have a sixth sense about a person’s real feelings about them. To claim in an ad that the producers of the product or service really care for their customers doesn’t come across as authentic.

Another unusual way is connecting with older people's values. The one thing that aging people usually have faith in is their values and what they believe in. So, in creating marketing messages for Baby Boomers talk about them and what they stand for. By aligning the values conveyed by your message with their values you will more likely get them to take notice of what you say and take an interest in considering the product or service you are promoting.

Finally, avoid creating messages that focus on the Baby Boomer as self-centered. Self-centeredness is more common among younger people and runs deeper. As we age we tend to think more of others and about our legacy and the ultimate meaning of our lives. Ego-centered ads tend to turn off many older customers.

In summary, when creating messages for Baby Boomers, be real in product and service claims, be authentic in message style and content, connect with their values, and don’t invoke the values of a self-centered person.

Keep in mind as you ponder the last point that for years many Baby Boomer “experts” predicted that the “Me” generation would enter old age as self-indulgent consumers. That is not proving to be true. For instance, even though many continue experiencing the toughest economic picture since the Great Depression, philanthropy has been on the rise as the population gets older.  "Giving back" is a major theme in many older people's lifestyles and aspirations.

8 comments about "Ever Wonder Why Baby Boomers Don't Respond To Your Advertising? ".
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  1. Tom Goodwin from Tomorrow, March 2, 2015 at 9:58 a.m.

    Is it actually particularly true that Baby Boomers don't respond to advertising?

  2. Anne-marie Kovacs from Boombox Network, March 2, 2015 at 10:25 a.m.

    Jim, I agree wholeheartedly with all your points. Thank you for making them.

    And, to answer Tom Goodwin's comment above: it's actually that Baby Boomers don't trust advertising. Take a look at the Boomer Beauty Survey we published a couple of years ago. Pages 15 to 18 will be of particular interest to you. Let me know what you think! :-)

  3. Mechele Flaum from BoomerHead, March 2, 2015 at 10:37 a.m.

    Baby Boomers are the savviest of consumers. You can tell them a story and they will listen, In return, they want to tell you a story, and most brands don't get this.

  4. Sue Macdonald from MacDonald Media, March 2, 2015 at 12:09 p.m.

    I'm one of those Boomers, and I wish advertisers would quit assuming anything about me, simply because of me age. I don't want to look younger; I'm proud of the wisdom that comes with age, including some gray hairs and a few wrinkles. I'm not sick, neither is my husband, and even if I were, I don't want a pill to fix everything; I want lifestyle solutions and treatmentss that don't make me sicker (or whose "side effects" sound more like giant "effects" rather than something on the side). I grew up on folk music and rock'n'roll, and my dentist understands that simple concepts (having your teeth cleaned to the Stones, Procol Harum, James Taylor, the Beatles and Bonnie Raitt is a wonderful thing, and reassures me my dentist truly knows who I am and what makes me happy). Wish other "brands" would figure out stuff like that, too. Maybe they should HIRE more Boomers to better understand them, rather than listen to talking points from 27-year-old marketing majors?

  5. Jim Gilmartin from Coming of Age, March 2, 2015 at 12:22 p.m.

    You tell 'em Sue!

  6. Anne-marie Kovacs from Boombox Network, March 2, 2015 at 3:28 p.m.

    Indeed! What Sue said!

    Apologies that it appears that I forgot to add the link to our boomer beauty survey. Echoes all of Sue's sentiments:

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 2, 2015 at 7:10 p.m.

    Increasingly, Boomers are not partnered. It is such a turn off when you see spots, especially when you may be interested in more information, saying this is for couples only. Travel, in particular, is very guilty of this.

  8. Dalene Bickel from Lasting Legacies, March 19, 2015 at 9:17 a.m.

    Thanks for a great post, Jim. I've found all of the above to be true of my clients.

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