Millennials have regularly been the subject of misunderstanding, even teasing, due to their unconventional beliefs and practices. Still, since they represent the largest, most powerful generation to hit since the big bang of the Baby Boom, marketers, researchers and planners like me continue to watch this group of consumers with borderline obsession. In my own observations, I’ve discovered the Millennial generation is not only different than prior generations, it’s contagious. Unwittingly, the rest of us are becoming more like the segment we’re all trying so hard to figure out. I’m a balding, shining example.
I may technically be a Baby Boomer — the guy I see in the bathroom mirror confirms that (once I put my glasses on to see him). But recently, I’ve not been acting my age. My attitudes, expectations and behavior are shifting. In a very un-Boomer-like way, I’ve come to expect convenience, ultra-quick response and immediate gratification. I insist on having options. I question traditional authority figures. I’ve even become more comfortable with digital interaction than personal interface. I believe in supporting local businesses and I appreciate brands that have a good story to tell. While I wasn’t looking, I became a (middle-aged) Millennial, drawn to brands that deliver on Millennial values, even though I’m undeniably well outside of the defined demographic fence line.
It’s another example of the Millennial Effect – a profound societal mindset shift that is permeating the entire culture and influencing consumer behavior across the generational spectrum … including Boomers, the group that still controls 70% of the disposable income in this country, according to a recent Deloitte report.
Those who are actively marketing to the Boomer demographic may be able to appeal to this modern mindset. Oh, and those targeting Millennials may find they can expand their market to include a few Boomers, too.
As you examine your own brand, consider that your Boomer’s profile may have deviated from the traditional model outlined in that old PowerPoint. Today, your marketing and business practices should be addressing these evolved standards that Boomers are adopting from their Millennial counterparts:
1. We increasingly want instant gratification.
As you engage your target audiences, look for ways your brand can respond to growing demand for instant gratification when it comes to both your communication and service.
2. We are embracing technology more every day.
Boomers are nearly as dependent on mobile devices as younger generations, especially as new apps and technology make it easier to manage everything from our health to investments.
3. We connect online.
According to Pew Research Center surveys from the past several years, Adults 65+ are now driving social media growth as usage among other segments has leveled off. Explore ways to be part of the “Booming” online conversation and make it easy for them to share the good word about you.
4. We crave convenience.
As tolerance levels wane, make sure you’re not losing customers — of any age — just because you’re more cumbersome to do business with.
5. We want control.
How much control of the business transaction are you giving to your Boomer customers? Look for ways your target can choose or specify how they want to do business with you.
6. We do our research.
Encourage customer reviews of your business and make that feedback easy for other Boomers to find.
7. We want to be healthier and more responsible.
Be sensitive to the growing demand for natural, healthy and responsible products. Merchandise how your brand is delivering, whether that’s in the way you responsibly manufacture, source your materials, or support the local community.
8. We question traditional authority.
Look for ways your brand can build a network of consumer advocates who have the power to influence their peers. Then make it easy to tout the merits of your company.
I’m not sure when it happened, but considering my current attitudes and behaviors, I’ve become a middle-aged Millennial. And many of your customers have as well. How will your brand cater to the expanding Millennial mindset among your Baby Boomer target?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hail an autonomous Uber via the app on my iPhone 7 so that I can make it to my rheumatologist on time.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Sept. 27, 2016 in Engage:Boomers.