The Boomer Mind: A Marketer's Essential Guide
Posted: September 13, 2012 | 16:09 ET

Boomers are an extremely important consumer group – comprising nearly one third of the Canadian population (9.6 million people) and controlling almost 60% of the nation's consumer spending (roughly $273 billion) – they’re an incredibly desirable market.

The problem is, they’re not being coveted by advertisers. A study conducted on behalf of the Canadian Newspaper Association reveals that while 8/10 boomers identify themselves as “having buying power,” 4/10 say they feel ignored by advertisers. The Nielsen Co. also reports that less than 5% of ad dollars are targeted toward adults 35-64. To ensure you don’t miss out on this powerful consumer group, considering the following:

1. Avoid "ageism"
Last year, the eldest boomers turned 65 – the first of the cohort to be classified as senior citizens. But, eMarketer senior analysis Lisa Phillips says, “Today’s boomers are immediately turned off by association with old age, infirmity and decline.” The best brand messaging acknowledges boomers, but doesn't isolate them as an aging population.

They want to feel included in messaging that’s also directed at younger adults and they're less likely to buy something specifically designed for the “aging” population. Global head of Neilsen Marketing says, “This group is redefining aging.” Depend Underwear's TV ad spots are an excellent example of a marketing campaign that masks an aging product with youthful appeal. Boomers are chock full of youthful idealism but, in reality, they're an aging market with needs.

2. Narrow your reach
Because this massive demographic spans two decades, it’s crucial for marketers to narrow their reach - 45 year olds are not interested in the exact same products and services as 65-year olds. CEO of Navigate Boomer Media Nancy Shonka Padberg explains, “Boomers want engagement and connection. They want advertisers to understand their evolving needs without stereotyping them into traditional aging segments.” For instance, in regards to time spent online, younger boomers (45-55) average 40 hours/month, while older boomers (56-65) spend only 36 hours/month – marketers need to react according to differences in behavioral patterns.

3. Don't underestimate their techno-capabilities
Marketers are wise to rethink how boomers use the web in order to engage them in innovative and effective ways. Boomers aren’t the largest bracket of Internet users (78% are online) but they are the fastest growing demographic online. As well, data from Nielsen shows that 15% of people aged 55 and older are regular smart phone users and boomers average 15 hours/week online.

They use technology differently than younger generations so it’s important for marketers to understand that building a brand's digital reputation doesn’t happen over night. They need to develop ongoing relationships by placing ads online around appropriate content and pay attention to online behavioral patterns. For example, women aged 45-65 are an ideal market to target as they spend more time online each week than watching TV or reading, and they buy or influence over 80% of all household purchases.

It's not just time spent online that marketers need to consider – Forrester's Research report shows that boomers spent an average of $650 million online over a three-month period, spending more than both Gen-X and Millennials. As well, although the majority of boomers are online, multi-media campaigns are still valuable. Boomers still have landlines in their homes, compared to many younger generations who don’t, and they read print newspapers in much higher numbers than Gen-X.

North American boomers spend over $2 trillion annually making them the largest consumer group. Small tweaks, thorough research and effective analysis will make your efforts that much more valuable and drastically thicken your boomer wallet.


Joanna Hatt is a Communications Specialist for The Globe's Marketing Services team. The Boomer Mind is a series of articles illustrating new ways to understand and reach today's Boomers - their unique attributes and why they're of significant value to your brand.
Follow @globe_media. jhatt@globeandmail.com






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