Don't Overlook Your Most Lucrative Consumer Segment

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

Marketers believe boomers are unlikely to switch up brand choices, with only 5% of U.S. advertising targeting them, according to Havas Group. And yet, boomers have the greatest wealth, drive the most actual spending, and aren’t as hidebound as marketers think.

Boomers are starting life anew, post-empty nest or retirement. Mintel notes one in four boomers post-pandemic are prioritizing new purchases, 17% are prioritizing learning new skills, and 15% prioritize keeping up with technology. Boomer divorce rates are skyrocketing (more than one in three Americans divorcing in 2020 were 55+, according to the Census Bureau), and those boomers who previously deferred to a spouse when making product choices are seeing brands anew. 

Marketers often cite the lower lifetime value of boomers, but on average, the youngest boomer women can expect to have 26 years of shopping ahead. Their generation’s estimated spending power of $70 trillion  far exceeds the $33 trillion that the Federal Reserve projects in Gen Z disposable income by 2030.



And in terms of key behaviors, such as their likelihood to purchase purpose-driven brands, boomers are aligned closer to Gen Z and millennials than Gen Xers are. Perhaps that’s why Gen Z’s affinity for their grandparents is seeing a new trend, termed “skip generation” households and featured in the New York Times, in which Gen Z rooms with Grandma. It’s also why Gen Z has embraced the “coastal grandma” aesthetic in fashion and home décor. Also, check out the growing trend in boomer TikTokers, such as @grandma_droniak with her 5 million TikTok followers, and @brunchwithbabs with 2.5 million followers.

In an age of programmatic media and micro-targeting, there’s no reason marketers can’t discretely target an older generation too.

So, if you’re considering boomers as a target audience, where can you find them today?

Think digital. Mintel notes 43% say they are more comfortable with tech than culture gives them credit for: a 2021 study found 90% of boomers shopped online (vs. 89% in store), ahead of Gen Z by nearly 20%. Boomers’ digital spend skyrocketed by 49% in 2020 alone, according to business, and close to eight in 10 said their confidence in trying new tech increased since the pandemic (mobiquity). In fact, a Google/Known study found 86% of boomers who are online reported spending at least six hours a day there -- and own, on average, five devices.

Get in the game! Targeted advertising on ad-supported mobile games should be top-of-mind for marketers aiming to reach boomers, as the percentage of gamers aged 55-64 grew by 32% in the past two years, reports GWI. As of 2022, found Gen X/boomers account for 25% of the top grossing games in the U.S. -- making them gaming’s fastest growing cohort. Boomers especially like mobile gaming: 39% play mobile games, and as of 2022, they comprise 23% of all mobile gamers, according to ironSource -- a larger percentage than either Gen Z or Millennials.

Video is all. The largest increase of online video consumption in the last five years has been among boomers. They rely heavily on YouTube and social media videos in their research phase, with higher than average ad views and click-through rates (and less interest in ad blockers, with 38% using them versus 55% of adults under age 35, according to Edelman's 2020 Trust Barometer).  

If you are looking for untapped growth opportunities, don’t overlook the misunderstood boomer generation.

4 comments about "Don't Overlook Your Most Lucrative Consumer Segment".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, March 7, 2023 at 5:11 p.m.

    Congratulations to Shelly for her excellent observations and advice. Perhaps the young generation of marketers overlook the boomers because they don't realize how affluent their parents are and don't know how they spend their money. 

  2. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, March 7, 2023 at 5:11 p.m.

    Congratulations to Shelly for her excellent observations and advice. Perhaps the young generation of marketers overlook the boomers because they don't realize how affluent their parents are and don't know how they spend their money. 

  3. Jeff Weiss from Age of Majority, March 8, 2023 at 8:53 a.m.

    Based on our research, there are three main reasons why marketers largely ignore or stereotype older adults:
    1. They don't know where the money is (and think that Millennials and GenZ have way more money than they do;
    2. Ageism in the marketing world results in young marketers who "don't want to market to their grandparents;
    3.  Societal myths, stereotypes and stigmas related to older adults that simply aren't true.

    All of this leads to FOMO --- Fear Of Marketing Older.

    Older adults are craving attention and huge opportunities to those brands that deliver in a relevant and meanginful way.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 8, 2023 at 10:01 a.m.

    It all depends on what you mean by "marketing to". If you are referring to how TV time is bought for  national ad campaigns, then it is of no consequence that only 5-10% of the audience guarantee deals that are made use 35+ as their "currency". Such brands are usually in the "pharma" category or in product classes were adults aged 55+ constitute 75%+ of their customers. As for the vast majority of national TV time buys about 80-85% use either adults aged 18-49 or the heavily duplicated 25-54 "demos" as the basis for their audience "currencies". However as anyone who bothers to look at the stats will tell you, it is understood that older adults will be very heavily represented in such buys---like 50-60% of their viewers----- as older adults watch so much more TV than younger ones. So, in reality, an 18-49 or 25-54 buying advertiser is not ignoring older consumers at all---if what is meant is simply audience attainment. You get them anyway.

    Which brings us to the key question---what about the imagery a brand is trying to convey about its product or service and who are its positioning strategy and ad messages meant to motivate? This is where the issue of older targeting really comes into play. For example say you are a brand that is used by all sectors of the population---like toothpaste or paper towels or Katsup. In that event, about a third of your likely buyers are in the younger age groups while another third falls into the older classification. So what do you do? Do you create a TV commercial pool where one message is played out mainly by young folks acting like young folks are supposed to behave while another "targets" only older adults ---albeit with the same selling proposition----and these act like most older people in your scenario ? Or do you create commercials where older adults are represented along with younger ones,with the 55+ cast members  behaving like they are twenty or thirty years younger  than they really are?

    Needless to say, most mass appeal brands opt for something like the latter option because they have no way to control who will see their commercials and they are fearful of being seen as an "old folks" brand by their younger constituents as well as by the "trade"---the chains that sell their product to the public. In fact, if a brand were to divide its commmercial placements so that a third featured younger -only casts while the older-only group also got a third, chances are that the older oriented commercials would garner 60% or more of the "impressions"---like it or not.

    I realize that this is not what those---like myself--- who favor more older age "targeting" wish to hear.  But all I'm doing is explaining why so many TV ad campaigns appear to be "ignoring" older consumers. They are not so much ignoring older consumers but, rather , they are trying to avoid what they feel are the negative vibes rampant in our society about being typed as for older folks.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications