One hundred million consumers feel completely ignored, belittled and overlooked. Yet, this block of consumers will spend about $20 trillion over the next 20 years on consumer goods. This is the baby-boomer generation.
At the Financial Communications Society summit in New York City on April 11, a group of experts discussed the topic: “Baby Boomer…or Bust: How to Market to and Influence the 50+ Consumer.” Participants included the Lincoln Financial Group, BlackRock and J.P. Morgan. They asked the question: “Why is it that some marketers have such a hard time talking to the boomer generation?”
Boomers have protested, broken glass ceilings, and have worked their tails off for decades: yet, many marketers are saddled with incorrect stereotypes about what it means to be over the age of 50. According to the panelists, here are the five most common misconceptions that marketers have of baby boomers:
-They aren’t tech-savvy. False. This generation buys more Apple products than any other age group (because they can afford them). Boomers go online just as much as 18- to 39-year-olds, and are early adopters of new technology. They have Facebook accounts, go online shopping, blog, and own smart phones—especially women. (The next time you walk into a Brookstone, look around; you’ll see the majority of customers are over 50.)
-Older people aren’t cool. Can you say Anna Wintour, Madonna, and Bono? They define cool and make today’s younger “it” girls and boys look pathetic.
-They don’t spend. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Unlike their parents who survived the Depression and saved every penny, baby boomers are spending big. On average people buy 13 cars over a lifetime; about seven of those are purchased after the age of 50. The average age of an American Express card member is 57 years. After years of working and putting kids through school, paying loans, and building their nest eggs, baby boomers want to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Lincoln Financial Group, for example, has figured out that this generation works hard and plays hard. It doesn’t paint retirement as some end-of-life stage, rather it sells products that are relevant for today’s extremely active Boomer generation and gives them control of their future.
-They see their “golden years” as a time of relaxation. False: Eighty percent of people age 50 years and older, say that they plan to work well past their 60s if possible. They know they are going to live longer and have to budget accordingly.
-They are loyal to brands. Wrong again. Boomers are not as loyal as their parents were. After all, they have watched the cereal aisle go from five to 100 brands. Many are risk takers and adapt to change fluently. If the ’60s taught us anything about this generation it’s that baby boomers like to experiment and question norms.
In many ways, we know this generation better than any. It’s time we start communicating better with them.