Are Baby Boomers the Lost Marketing Generation?
If ever there was an overarching theme for the year, it would probably be centered on millennials: how they think; how they react; how they buy; how they contribute to world issues. But even though millennials and Generation Z marketing are trending topics, marketers could be missing out on a huge sector of the population by ignoring baby boomers. Despite what you might have heard about millennial spending habits, baby boomers are the ones who control the discretionary spending in the United States (35 percent, more than any other age group).
It’s hard to imagine why such a powerful demographic would essentially be ignored in favor of marketing toward a younger audience with less spending power. A better understanding of how baby boomers spend, make decisions, and shape the economy can help highlight why they shouldn’t be a lost cause.
Baby Boomer Myths
Dispelling some of the common myths surrounding baby boomers gives marketing pros a foothold for better campaigns. This isn’t the same baby boomer you’ve heard about in the past and their spending habits tell the tale of a very different economic climate.
First, many brands make the case that baby boomers are too brand loyal; it doesn’t make sense to market to those who are unlikely to swap out their favorite clothing, food, and electronics brands. But because they’re essentially the children of those who lived through the Depression, baby boomers are actually less likely to be brand loyal. Instead, they’re looking for the best value at the best price and won’t hesitate to make a change to a better offer. In fact, it’s millennials who are the most brand loyal, since they see brand preference as an extension of themselves.
Another common myth is that baby boomers are too fiscally conservative to make big purchases. But with rising costs of health care and education, millennials have much less to spend that those boomers who have been investing and saving all of their lives. In that prime age between 50 and 70, baby boomers represent $7.1 trillion dollars in American economy, according to the AARP. And, when compared to their younger counterparts, baby boomers are twice as likely to make online purchases.
Baby boomers are powerful spenders and not nearly as conservative as some would think. Still, only 5 to 10 percent of marketing budgets are traditionally allocated specifically for baby boomers, and even then, campaigns can be woefully outdated. With more and more boomers willing to shell out for travel, electronics, and entertainment, there needs to be a happy medium between marketing toward forward-reaching millennials and baby boomers who have finally arrived.
Focusing on how a product might influence a younger buyer to attain a specific type of lifestyle can go hand-in-hand with showing a baby boomer that his current lifestyle necessitates a purchase. Marketers must walk the line between aspirational future and current prosperity.
Ignoring baby boomers means ignoring a massive and highly influential market. Perhaps it’s time that advertising give credit where credit is due and tip their hats to the generation that had served as cultural and economic architects for the past 30 years.