'SNL' - A Brand That Boomers Love

When you think of brand names with which you connect, we’re guessing that you immediately go to consumer goods — Apple, Ford, Kellogg, Volvo, etc. But we know that media brands also play an important role in our society, yet we rarely think of them that way. The reputation of The New York Times is just as much of a brand as Dodge or Samsung. 

Recently, our team was conducting an exercise to name brands with which Boomers really connect. One of our team members cited “Saturday Night Live” as an example. The conversation suddenly stopped as we all got puzzled looks on our faces. “Really? ‘Saturday Night Live’? How is that a Boomer brand?,” I said. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge ‘Saturday Night Live’ fan, but it’s not a name that I would have considered for this exercise. 

Rather than dismissing this idea, we explored it further and realized how true it rang. “Saturday Night Live” debuted in 1975, right as many Baby Boomers were beginning their adult lives. The comedy was cutting-edge, poking fun at the institutions of the Silent Generation and highlighting the cultural zeitgeist of the time. The first season was a monster success, launching the comedy careers of Boomer favorites such as Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radnor, and Bill Murray. 



As it turns out, this wasn’t just a hunch on our part. According to data provided by, more than half of all people aged 55 - 64 still watch “SNL.” Of those that do watch it, 25% reported watching it with some regularity. For a show that is often thought of as being for young people, that’s a pretty high number. Additionally, we have to recognize that many of the musical acts and hosts aren’t household names for Boomers today. The fact that 25% of Boomers still watch the show with some regularity is a testament to their engagement with the brand.

If you ask Boomers about “SNL,” they can probably recite their favorite sketch without prompting. From the controversial Word Association Sketch with Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase, to the door-to-door Land Shark, and even Andy Kaufman’s obtuse performance of Mighty Mouse, many of “SNL”’s earliest hits created strong associations for Boomers. “SNL” tends to highs and lows, dependent on the cast involved, but with more than 40 seasons, the brand is going strong and has even retained some of its Boomer audience. 

One of our team members relayed a story about a friend who is in his early 60s, a true Boomer. Knowing that our team member specialized in aging services marketing, he mentioned the wildly popular “Amazon Echo Silver” sketch that was featured on “SNL” in 2017. The Boomer really connected with the sketch, saying he experienced the same challenges that some of the characters in the bit faced, such as remembering Alexa’s name. Then it really clicked as the Boomer said, “I grew up on ‘SNL,’ and it’s still funny today. They find the humor in the everyday life that I face. It’s like ‘SNL’ has aged with me in a way.”

“SNL” has a really unique place in the market. It started with the Boomers, appealed to the Xers and is experiencing a rebirth with the Millennials. However, the Boomers still feel this tie to the show. In their minds, they started it. The Boomer generation made “SNL” what it is, and they still feel connected to the content and tune in to see the latest gags. This kind of success is something every brand strives for. 

As we look around the marketplace at brands that hit their stride during this same time, we find a more mixed bag. It was during this era that 7Up ran its “Uncola” campaign, stealing market share from Coke; today, however, Sprite is the most popular lemon-line soft drink. Polaroid dominated the photography market during the ’70s but today is having trouble positioning itself, instead finding purchase with Millennials who want to use Polaroid cameras as a kitschy throwback, rather than the advanced technology that it once represented.

The lesson for Boomer marketers is simple: connect with their youthful feelings. “SNL” reminds them of their early adult life and inspires positive feelings. The show has managed to not only stay current, but to mature with its original audience. Think of your product in this light — how can it appeal to youthful Boomer vigor and still mature with the consumer?

4 comments about "'SNL' - A Brand That Boomers Love".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Bill Burnett from Good Citizen Media Group, January 29, 2018 at 1:33 p.m.

    A way of looking at SNL's continued success and brand loyalty is that it retains the "Town Square" aspect of life that has been lost in the Internet Diaspora.  The previous popular culture, with all of its faults, did provide a central meeting place for all citizens, similar to the Town Square or the Quad of a college.  Now everything is splintered into personal music collections, political beliefs, age groups etc.  SNL brings much of that together.  It is a variety show – possibly the only one left. It has hosts who are known and recognizable to all.  It does sketches about current events and individual human experiences.  It has a news segment.  It does introduce older audiences to new music.  And it has a spirit of community that no other show can match.

  2. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, January 29, 2018 at 2:06 p.m.

    More than half of people aged 55-64 may say they watch SNL. Over half of those fall asleep before or within the first 5 minutes, and wake up to turn off the TV after it's over. 

  3. Bill Burnett from Good Citizen Media Group replied, January 29, 2018 at 2:33 p.m.

    Jonathan Hunter there may be some truth to that.  In our household we watch it on Hulu at an earlier hour and usually make it through.  Plus SNL bits are excerpted and shown at lots of aggregators like Salon and Huffington Post, so many people are "seeing the show" that way. It's very much a part of the modern cultural conversation, which wasn't true in the middle section of its time on air. 

  4. Steve Singer from NTM, January 29, 2018 at 3:44 p.m.

    As a 'brand', SNL has evolved over time--as the article points out, with new perfomers, writers, announcers (RIP Don Pardo), opening sequences (bring back Charlex). The consistency and vision of the show has come from the longevity of Loren Michaels' tenure at the top. Few brand stewards stay with a brand over the entire lifetime, and it's helped the show 'brand' stay true to its core.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications