Don’t call older consumers “senior”

SUMMARY: There are currently around 103 million people over the age of 50 in the United States–75 million are baby boomers (ages ~55–74) and 28 million are from the silent generation (ages ~75+), making this one of the largest consumer demographics. Boomers+ are defying traditional stereotypes. They are more active than past senior generations and they see themselves as younger.

Only about 5.0% of U.S. advertising targets people over 50. Yet, they comprise over 75.0% of the wealth in the U.S., according to Havas Group. Today’s brands primarily target millennials and Gen Zers, focusing on hyper-connectivity, celebrity influencers, and short-form videos. This is a huge mistake.

Many brands appeal to boomers+ and they may not even recognize it. According to Fast Company, there’s surprising overlap between well-known millennial brands and the top 10 fastest-growing brands among boomers.

To reach most of the boomer+ market, brands must use multi-channel marketing by targeting them online and offline. The three most effective avenues of marketing to older generations are online via computers, specifically (not phones), television and traditional print.

Portrait Of Senior Friends Hiking In Countryside

More than half of all boomers+ own and use computers. Boomers consistently rely on computers for everything from news to shopping–75% of internet-using baby boomers go online daily and nearly 1 in 10 is online almost constantly. And this demographic’s presence online is growing, Havas’s 2018 Meaningful Brands study found massive growth in the online presence of over-55 consumers, with 68% of them also buying something online every month. 

Boomers can be sensitive too. Call them professional, call them nice, or call them the life of the party, but don’t you dare call them elderly. According to one report, 80 percent of older Americans have been subjected to ageist stereotypes. No wonder we baby boomers want words that describe us in a way that bears a sense of dignity, which isn’t always easy to come by in later years.

Some boomers have become so sensitive to negative words that they don’t want to be called Grandma and Grandpa anymore, preferring something a bit hipper like “Nana” or “Papa” befitting a more youthful attitude toward life.

“Senior citizen” was on the list of “mostly disliked” terms which some considered dehumanizing. “Elderly” was the word that grated the most, coming under criticism for its “impersonal and stigmatizing manner” of grouping older people with images of frailty and decline.

Baby Boomers Will Always Be Young

“Senior as a term needs to be dropped off a cliff,”saysPhil Goodman, founder of the Boomer Marketing & Research Center in San Diego, USA, and Boomer guru to various US companies. “Boomers will never be like their parents and grandparents; in their mind, they’ll always be young.”

Echoing the same mindset and talking about the over-50 community in the US and other English-speaking countries, “They’re having a second middle age before becoming elderly,” says Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, a New York-based marketing firm. “And they’re making it up as they go along because it’s never been done before.”

Nearly two-thirds of companies, according to a survey, “had no specific plans for targeting boomers or 50-plus consumers in their product development, marketing or advertising.”

Nielsen’s conducted a study on BoomAgers, and it debunks the myth that older people are tightwads. Boomers, it says, “were born into a post-war culture of affluence and optimism.” With no firsthand experience of the Great Depression, boomers have always spent freely and are not stopping now. “Boomers make the most money and spend what they make,” concludes the study.

Boomer Women, for example, are at a fascinating time in their lives. These women are reshaping the world with adventure and luxury vacations, luxury cars, continuing education, volunteerism, politics and entrepreneurial endeavors. They’re enjoying the greatest financial stability of their lives, and they’re not afraid to spend.

According to an eMarketer report, “Better Be Nice to the Boomers,” now ages 56-74, entered the coronavirus pandemic in better financial shape than younger groups and have been hit less hard than other Americans. One-third of millennials and Gen Zers have felt an “extreme” or “negative impact” on their financial security. Meanwhile, only 16% of boomers say the same. No demographic group will leave 2020 entirely unscathed, but right now Boomers have wealth, their shopping habits are flexible and they’re willing to spend. Marketers, take note.

Nearly half of boomers have increased their online spending this year, and 30% have tried or considered buying groceries online. 62% of boomers will be digital buyers this year. During the pandemic, one in five have shopped online for the first time at a well-known brand or superstore, compared to the 8% that intended to increase their online shopping before Covid-19. Everyone is shopping online, but only boomers are widely planning to not curb their spending this fall and winter.

What do Boomers want? Many want stores to reopen, but are also cautious and careful when shopping inside. Almost all want a return to “normal,” though some are taking early retirement. The generation most ignored by conventional marketing is now a demo ripe for marketers because, overall, 2020 has impacted them the least. Just don’t ever call them senior citizens!

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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