The marketing landscape today bares little similarity to that of the 1970s, yet, through the dawn of digital and proliferation of new channels, one element has remained consistent: the focus on consumers between ages 18 and 49.
The entire idea that this demographic cohort is the target-customer Holy Grail began with baby boomers. They were a new breed of consumer, born into the boon times after World War II and dubbed the “Me Generation” for their newfound love of all things material. They inspired a revolution in advertising, but at some point, marketers miscalculated. The importance was attributed to age, when it should have been affixed to the group itself.
The fact is, adults aged 55 to 64 outspend the average consumer in nearly every category, every year, per the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey, despite the fact that marketers obsess over the younger, Millennial segment. According to a 2015 survey by the AARP’s Influent50 in conjunction with ORC International, 40% of boomers agreed that companies aren’t adequately addressing what’s important to people their age.
So what is important to baby boomers? Well, as they head into the “retirement” stage of life, they continue to spend on, well, themselves — material comforts, personal interests and maintaining youth.
Boomers Value Comfortable Living
Today’s aging population aren’t leaving their lifelong homes for retirement communities; they’re leaving them for nicer homes. Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate found that 57% of homeowners aged 49 to 67 planned to move out of their current home. Seventy percent of that group want their new home to be the best in which they have ever lived. They’re looking for new construction, amenities and communities in which they can pursue active lifestyles.
For those not intending to leave their current home, or the “aging in place,” remodeling becomes a priority. The National Association of Home Builders has projected these upgrades to total $20-25 billion annually, which is nearly 10% of all home improvement spending.
In addition to home spending, boomers are buying more new cars than are their younger counterparts. Auto industry studies have shown that consumers buy an average of 13 cars during their lifetimes. Only 6 of those auto purchases are made before age 50. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average new car buyer is a boomer, 51.7 years old as compared to the national average age of 36.8.
Boomers Want to Enjoy their Free Time
As the baby boom generation looks ahead to life post-career, they’re looking forward to spending more time partaking in hobbies and interests, with travel being a top choice. According to AARP Travel, boomers spend over $120 billion annually in leisure travel, with fewer citing cost as a barrier than do Millennials and Gen Xers. In fact, over 99% surveyed said they were planning travel during 2016, with an average of four to five trips already in the planning stages.
Boomers Prioritize Retaining their Youth
The “Me Generation” came of age with consumerism, and perhaps more than other age groups, have come to measure self-worth according to external factors. Much of the demographic’s disproportionate CPG spending is on products that will help them maintain their youth and energy. Cosmetics, exercise equipment, vitamins and diet soda are all products in high demand by boomers. Still, when you think of how those products are marketed, the boomer target doesn’t immediately come to mind. For products that do consider boomers in their marketing plans, many do so based on inaccurate stereotypes — a mistake that can backfire, driving customers away from your product to one that doesn’t seem to condescend.
While Nielsen has referred to boomers as “The Most Valuable Generation for Marketers,” holding 70% of the disposable income in the U.S., only 10% of marketing dollars are devoted to reaching the segment. Considering how much they spend, it’s important for marketers to remember that this generation remains as important to their bottom lines today as they were when the “18 to 49” notion was concocted. By addressing the group from the perspective of their desires and not based on ages, marketers will have a much better chance to capture the attention — and spending power — of this important audience.