I recently got a text from my 60-year-old, Italian mother. I assumed it was about one of our usual topics of conversation: updates on my quirky aunt, new songs she could listen to during aerobics classes, or what type of pasta to bring on her next visit to New York. Instead, what I received said, “Do you want to go to a music festival with me and dad?” followed by a generous series of music-themed emojis.
As an avid concert-goer, I wasn’t sure if I should be embarrassed or ecstatic. The show she was referring to is the newly launched Classic East Festival in New York that will feature rock icons like The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and more. Much like last year’s high-profile Desert Trip (nicknamed “Oldchella”) that had over 75,000 in attendance, this festival aims to attract aging Baby Boomers who want to keep the dream of Woodstock alive in the 21st century.
Music isn’t the only industry that’s acknowledging older consumers. According to a study by the FashionSpot, this year’s fashion shows for the Fall 2017 season featured four times as many models over 50 than the Spring 2016 shows. Additionally, gray was one of last year’s hottest hair color trends with celebrities like Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence, and Rihanna all rocking the #GrannyHair look. Needless to say, America’s experiencing a graying of its culture. And we’re calling this period of elderly influence “The Boomaissance.”
As marketers, we’re only beginning to embrace this concept. Over the past several years, our industry has developed an obsession with Millennials, often causing us to overlook older generations. In fact, according to Google, there were about 3.5 times more articles mentioning “Millennials” than “Baby Boomers” in the past year. However, it’s Boomers who are the source for growth in technology right now, as tech usage among other generations has plateaued.
From 2015 to 2016, Boomers increased their average time spent with mobile apps by 37%, compared to only 3% for Millennials according to comScore data. They’re also engaging in e-commerce, with nearly one-third saying they shop online weekly. And in social media, the number of users ages 50 - 64 increased from 51% in July 2015 to 64% in November 2016.
What’s really interesting is how Boomers’ tech use is different from other generations. Not only are they overtaking our social media feeds, but they’re also bringing some much-needed positivity. Everyone has that one aunt or grandma who posts cringe-worth but kind comments with way too many emojis on all of your Facebook photos. Why is this? Studies have found evidence of a “Happiness U-Curve” suggesting that our happiness peaks not during our 20s and 30s, but actually when we hit our 60s and beyond.
Another stereotypical Millennial industry being affected by this older generation is the gig economy. While Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are all thought of as services for younger consumers, it’s actually Boomers who are fueling this sector, especially from an employment standpoint. According to economist Jed Kolko, workers between 55 and 75 years old are 70% more likely than 25 to 54 year olds to be working in alternative arrangements. Just look at Uber, which recently reported that half of its drivers are over the age of 40.
Startups are leading the frontier on Boomer marketing and product development. For example, The Freebird Club is an Airbnb for adults over 50, allowing empty-nesters to rent rooms out to older travelers. Retire Repair matches Millennial DIY-ers with skilled retirees to help guide their home renovation projects. And Wooln is a trendy knitwear line started by two French Millennials, featuring clothing made exclusively by local seniors in New York. Maybe my parents and I can get our matching Steely Dan shirts from them to wear to the big show.
For marketers, it’s time to stop underestimating the value of Boomers. This generation’s buying power, positive influence on younger consumers, and growing adoption of technology make them hard to ignore. Ensure that your brand has a strategy to reach this audience by taking a realistic view of their world in both research and media.
Now if only I could get my mom into Venmo, too, so that asking for beer money could be a lot easier.