The Boomer Mind: Alphas - A Marketer's Hidden Treasure
Posted: November 20, 2012 | 13:33 ET

In a world where common sense prevails, advertisers would covet the biggest spenders. This, according to Alan Wurtzel the President of Media and Research at NBC Universal, is not the reality we’re living in. His investigation into the Alpha Boomer – a recently coined term to describe the leading edge of Baby Boomers aged 55-64 – has uncovered that how we age today is a far cry from past generations, and marketers are missing the mark.

Toronto media and agency planners gathered Monday night at The ZoomerPlex to hear Wurtzel speak about the demographic marketers can’t afford to forget. “They’ve grown up accustomed to setting the tone of culture,” he said in his presentation, “Now that they’ve reached a certain age, they maintain this mentality, but feel they’re forgotten by advertisers.”

Traditionally, the 18-34 and 35-54 age groups have been the most desirable for marketers. As Alpha Boomers have aged, they’ve slipped out of this traditionally sought-after category. Wurtzel says, “The biggest issue is they’re not being spoken to.” He’s not suggesting marketing strategies overhaul to focus exclusively on Alpha Boomers, but he does believe that advertisers should research and invest in this sector. “At least give them a shot,” he said in an interview following his remarks to the group. “My only beef is marketers won’t give it a shot.”

The spending power of this group is undeniable. But, what exactly are marketers losing out on? In Canada, nearly one million Alphas have household incomes of $100,000 or more, nearly half a million spent $4,000 or more on their most recent vacation outside Canada, roughly six million have spent $10,000 or more on home renovation and improvement in the past two years and 1.9 million own their homes with no mortgage. Also, their life expectancy is nearly 20 years longer than the same age bracket 50 years ago, making them feel nowhere close to the last stage of their lives.

Despite the urban myth that they’re technophobic, Alpha Boomers are massive multi-screen users who consume media and purchase technology as much, if not more in some areas, as tech-savvy Gen Y’s. One and a half million Canadian Alphas bought computers in the past 12 months and, on average, spend five hours more per week watching TV than Gen Y’s. The perception that they’re winding down, stuck in their ways, afraid of technology and easy to reach are urban myths clouding advertisers’ opinions of this valuable demographic.

Wurtzel makes an important distinction between reaching Boomers on an exclusive basis and reaching them altogether. Based on his experience at NBC, a wide-ranging network that must focus on all demographics, he believes that with small tweaks, it’s possible for brands to reach Gen Y’s and Boomers at the same time. Grey Goose, Wurtzel explains, is a company that has embraced this approach. Their team began by creating two separate advertisements, one a party set in a raucous club and another on a luxurious yacht. Market research revealed that the first ad appealed only to Gen Y’s, whereas the yacht ad appealed to both groups. They researched, experimented and ultimately created a campaign for their premium vodka brand that successfully resonated with generations some 40 years apart.

“We need to look at what’s most important to Alpha Boomers and pick areas that speak to them,” Wurtzel says. “I don’t mean particular commodities like detergent; I mean bigger concepts like family values. They’re at a point where they’re restarting their lives, adjusting to life as empty nesters and buying new things as a result. If we don’t pay attention to them today, we will pay a huge price for ignoring them tomorrow.”

*Source: PMB Fall 2012, 18-64.

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.
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