Baby boomers are the only demographic that has gotten wealthier over the last 10 years, while Gen Xers and Millennials have seen their net worth decline or in some cases disappear, often buried under a pile of student loans. Marketers devote a lot of energy to Gen X and Millennials, but baby boomers and senior citizens represent an untapped opportunity. Recent census data indicates that people aged 55+ represent 26% of the U.S. population and a whopping 66% of the country’s net worth, or $14 trillion.
Even the meaning of “senior citizen” has changed dramatically as life expectancy continues to grow, and rock stars like Mick Jagger (72), Bob Dylan (74) and Bruce Springsteen (66) continue to write songs and hit the road. Today’s boomers and seniors are no longer constrained by the social norms they helped upend in the 1960s and 1970s. They act like young adults, taking part in education, sports and leisure, entrepreneurship, non-profits, and they bring maturity and experience to the marketplace to boot.
The implications are huge for marketers in the U.S. and Europe:
1. The 55+ population has by far the most financial power and it’s essential to count them in. Younger generations may be trendsetters, but they do not have anywhere near their parents’ resources and financial freedom. To substantially grow their business, brands must target both the trendsetters and the mass market, which means people over 55.
2. Market research should be targeted at boomers and seniors, rather than merely on the young or middle-aged. Buying behaviors and expectations have changed significantly in the past decade, particularly among 55+ consumers. It is critical to get past stereotypes and clichés to understand precisely how they have changed so that marketers don’t miss prime opportunities.
3. Boomers and seniors can be excellent partners in market research because they are demanding and focus on essentials. Marketing gimmicks or fashion statements are not sufficient to get their buy-in. Boomers and seniors challenge companies to rethink products and services in radical ways, because they demand real vs. cosmetic innovation. These populations might appear more conservative when they are simply more discerning.
The takeaway: Baby boomers are not fading into the sunset, and they’re bored by an endless stream of ads for Viagra, Florida condominiums and Caribbean cruise ships. Market research that is inspired will focus on this powerful force in the economy for the next decade and beyond. Or as long as the Boss keeps rocking, and the Stones keep rolling.