Commentary

10 Arrows For Your Quiver

The differences in customer motivations and decision processes between customers in the first and second half of life sometimes frustrate many marketers who have yet to figure out how to market to Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964). Until the last decade, this was not a matter of serious concern because the young dominated the marketplace. The young are easier to sell to and analyze. Now, with approximately 109 million adults over the age of 50, marketers are being compelled to figure out the values and behavior of Baby Boomers. 

1. Increased individualism

Baby Boomers are less subject to peer influence than younger customers are. Keeping up with the Joneses is not as important as it once was; thus, advertising that invokes social status benefits does not play as well in Baby Boomer markets as in younger ones. Largely freed from worrying about reactions of others, Baby Boomers tend toward greater practicality in buying decisions than younger customers. 

2. Increased demand for facts 

Adult customers tend to be less responsive to sweeping claims in marketing messages as they age. Hyperbole turns them off. If Baby Boomers are interested in considering a purchase, they want unadorned facts, and more of them, than they usually wanted earlier in life. Years of buying equip Baby Boomers with knowledge of what to look for when making intelligent purchases. 

3. Increased response to emotional stimuli

Baby Boomers tend to be quicker than younger customers to emotionally reflect lack of interest in or negative reaction to an offered product. On the other hand, a positive first impression can become embedded especially deep in the emotions of Baby Boomers — so much so that the Baby Boomer customer is often more disposed to be a faithful customer than the younger customer is. 

4. Less self-oriented, more altruistic

Baby Boomers tend to show an increased response to marketing appeals reflecting altruistic values. This response tracks with a common middle-age shift toward stronger spiritual values in which concern for others increases. As altruistic motivations become stronger with age, this results in narcissistic and materialistic values wane in influence. 

5. Increased time spent in making purchase decisions  

As we grow older, we typically experience changes in our perceptions of time. For example, Baby Boomers often ignore time-urgency strategies in marketing -- such as "Offer good until ---," "Only three left in stock---etc...” Generally, "time is not of the essence" is a common attitude among Baby Boomers, especially those who have retired. 

6. See fewer differences between competing products

Because Baby Boomers tend to be more highly individuated, and less influenced by external influences, perceptions of products are more internally shaped. They typically conclude that there is little difference between products than marketers claim. This observation contrasts with the tendency of younger customers to assert robustly the differences between a product they prefer and its competitors — even when clear differences do not exist.

7. See more differences between competing companies

Alternatively, Baby Boomers tend to be more responsive to "companies with a conscience" than younger customers are. From a self-interest perspective, they are also more attentive to warranty issues and a company's reputation for honoring its warranties than younger customers.

8. Concerning making discretionary-purchase decisions, Baby Boomers tend to:

  • Have a decreased sensitivity to price;
  • Increased sensitivity to affordability; and
  • Sharply increased sensitivity to value.

Baby Boomers have more complex ways of determining value than younger customers. Value determination by Baby Boomers tends to be an existentialist exercise whereby soul (spiritual) values, as well as mind (intellect) and body (tangible) values, are combined into the value determination process. 

9. Increased price-sensitivity in non-discretionary spending 

As they age, many customers develop higher economic "literacy" and skillfully apply it to get the best price. In purchasing "need" items, Baby Boomers tend to be more bargain-minded, whereas in purchasing "desired" items, they tend to be more value-minded in a holistic sense. 

10. Often project what seems to be contradictory behavior. 

Baby Boomers are sometimes characterized as selfish and selfless, penurious and profligate, spontaneous and deliberate, and so on. These conflicting attributes lead some to characterize Baby Boomers as contradictory. For example, a Baby Boomer shopper may be penurious in using cents-off coupons in a grocery store, after which she drives off in a Mercedes. These attributes are not evidence of contradictory behavior, but an example of the rules of thriftiness applied to basics, and the rules of whole value applied to discretionary expenditures.

 
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