As the managing partner of a PR firm specializing in generational communication, explaining what I do for a living to a college student the other day, I was met with a puzzled look. “Why do you need to focus on a specific generation? It’s the same product you’re promoting either way.”
Well, yes it is, but it isn’t. The reason we decided to focus on generational communication and marketing is simple. We’ve seen too many businesses waste money developing messaging that is at best irrelevant and at worst insults the target audience – and most of us here at QSE are Boomers.
Put yourself in the shoes of the Baby Boomers. We’ve lived our entire lives in the marketing spotlight. We’ve been studied, researched, sliced and diced, courted and fawned over by advertisers and marketers our entire lives…until someone discovered the Millennials now had jobs and spending power. Pity the Gen Xers, who never got their moment in the glare of the marketing sun.
So what happened to the Boomer? We’ve been unceremoniously dumped by mainstream corporations that used to fawn over us, like Samsung™ did in its Déjà Vu commercial. Now the youth-obsessed people creating the ad campaigns think all Boomers have a compelling need for Cialis™, Viagra™, pocket catheters and adult diapers, if the current crop of TV commercials is any indicator. Only Toyota seemed to have a glimmer of understanding, as demonstrated by its Venza™ commercial. Problem is, no one else is listening.
It may seem counterintuitive to target Boomers if you don’t have an age-specific product, but don’t discount the spending power and habits of Boomers. We currently have over $3 trillion – that’s with a “T” – but a joint study between the University of Cincinnati and Procter & Gamble says that Boomers are still an underserved demographic that is “befuddling” the marketers (P&G. University of Cincinnati study). The problem is that they don’t understand who they’re talking to, even in their own study, and it shows:
“They’ve discovered that seniors treat their pets more like grandchildren than children, and spoil them accordingly. They’ve created biomechanical models of the human hand to understand how hard it is for arthritic consumers to open bottles of P&G’s Tide™. And they’ve thought long and hard about how to ease Grandma’s journey through the airport.” –Matthew Doyle, Vice President, Procter & Gamble’s Live Well Collaborative
How nice for seniors – except that only the very oldest of Boomers are actually “seniors.” The Baby Boom Generation began in 1946, which means that only the first three and a half years of that generation actually ARE seniors. So of the total US Boomer population of 95,252,000, only 4,507,000 are actual seniors…a measly 21.1 percent (Source: US Census data). And this Boomer can tell you that I’ve yet to encounter ANY Boomer that thinks we are seniors – even those that are. We certainly don’t spend as if retirement is staring us in the face. According to a recent Nielsen survey, Boomers are the wealthiest generation, controlling 70 percent of disposable income in the U.S. We account for nearly 50 percent of all consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales, 77 percent of prescription drug sales, 80 percent of leisure travel spending and 41 percent of all new car purchases.
We don’t see ourselves as growing older. Remember, we’re the generation that invented the concept of adult toys. We’re having too much fun to be “old.” Marketing to Boomers as if we’re old won’t work until we do grow old in our own minds, if we ever realize we actually are old. Even if there’s no reason for you to market to Boomers, don’t insult us the way Samsung did – because we’ll make you pay, and it’ll hurt your sales when we do.
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