Many of today’s marketers are beleaguered by the combined effect of elevated material costs and sagging recessionary demand. Technology is fragmenting media and the task of creating and delivering scaled messages is more complex than ever. At the same time, the lucrative Boomers are now exiting the 18-49 cohort with the same velocity that they entered it. Typically, once a group of consumers reaches the so-called “cut-off” age of 49, marketers “go back to go”. They renew their focus on a new crop of 18-49’s and they start all over again. However the 50+ segment consists of close to 100 million consumers that control 70% of disposable income in the US.
The Boomers are simply too valuable to ignore – there is much to be gained by prioritizing them, and much to be lost by passing them up. Boomers are marketing’s tidal wave – at 80 million strong, they have advanced through life picking up energy and spending power along the way. The 50+ wave continues to advance and is growing at an accelerated rate. By 2050, there will be 161 million 50+ consumers, +63% vs 2010.
In five years, close to 50% of the U.S. population will be 50 and older and they will control 70% of the country’s disposable income. What’s more, they stand to inherit $15 trillion in the next twenty years.
While it’s well established that Boomers have the most money to spend, there is a bias to believe that older people spend less of what they have. While this may have been true of the generations of older consumers that preceded the Boomers, it simply does not apply to this generation. The majority (63%) of Boomers still have at least one person in the household working full time. Boomers make the most money and they spend what they make.
Boomers account for nearly $230 billion in sales for consumer packaged goods, 49% of total sales.
They also account for 40% of customers paying for wireless service and 41% of those purchasing Apple computers.
While it’s clear that Boomers have the money to buy brands, there seems to be less clarity with regard to their brand loyalty. Boomers’ brand loyalty levels are the same as other age groups. Boomers are no more likely to compare prices or use coupons than other consumers. Boomers’ brand loyalty is influenced more by household size/need than predisposition. This is evidenced by the fact that they are more brand loyal in categories that are likely to have different brands for different household members.
Internet users over the age of 50 are driving the growth of social networking as their usage of the social net has nearly doubled to 42% in the past year. 53% of Boomers are on Facebook.
Boomers are the original brand managers.
Millions of them grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in the birth years of modern marketing, a time when brands and branding were fueled by the expansion of television sets into American homes. At a time when it was hard for them to identify – or identify with – real world heroes, television gave them endless characters and drama for escape and entertainment. The Boomers were imprinted by “electronic media” in their formative years.
Beyond their traditional love of television, it is the Boomers’ increasing presence of free time that is driving their heavy media consumption. They are consumers who consume media because they like to and they can.
VALUE WHAT’S VALUABLE
Boomers are the most valuable generation in the history of marketing and they are too valuable to ignore. Marketing is many things, but it is first and foremost a numbers game. As we have established, the numbers on Boomers are big, and they add up to something that is very compelling. If they’re loyal consumers, do your best to keep them. If not, figure out a way to win them over before your competition does.
Throughout this article, we’ve been highlighting some of the reasons that Boomers are misunderstood and under-appreciated as a marketing opportunity. They are worth summarizing:
- There is a bias that assumes that the older a consumer gets, the less valuable they become. Perhaps true of previous generations, not true of the Boomers. They are healthy and growing, not broken and dying. The have the most money, they spend the most, and they stand to inherit more – $15 trillion in the next twenty years. They are the most marketing-friendly generation in U.S. history.
- The Tyranny of Youth. Madison Avenue has always worshipped at Youth’s altar and most marketers today are not Boomers. U.S. Census data reveals that 80% of workers in the professional and business services sector are below age 55. If marketing is about discovering insights that inspire great ideas, then we must understand why people behave the way they do by seeing the world as they see it.
- The inertia of successful mass marketing. Several regimes of marketers have enjoyed great success marketing to an 18-49 cohort populated by massive numbers of Boomers. The Boomers are now leaving this cohort with the same velocity that they entered it. Today’s 18-49 cohort is fundamentally less robust. Generating the same results will require different thinking.