Villing & Company

Boomers don’t get the buzz but they’re still paying the bills

Way back in 2009, I wrote an article entitled, “Who says 18-34 is the most coveted marketing demographic.” Hard to believe it was that long ago. And at the time, that article created quite a bit of discussion because it seemed to break sharply with conventional marketing wisdom. The rationale was simple.  18-34 year olds were the future, the key to marketing success. Those over 50 were too set in their ways and not likely to respond to alternative brand messaging. My hypothesis was that this conventional wisdom seriously undervalued the continuing economic impact of those on the higher side of the age spectrum.     

Fast forward to 2019. As much as the world has changed in the last ten years, the expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same” still holds true.  Today, the buzz is all about Millennials and Gen Z-ers.  Well, I invite you to consider this.  According to Total Retail Report, only 10 percent of marketing budgets is directed toward Baby Boomers while 50 percent is targeted to millennials.  Yet boomers control 70 percent of disposable income in the United States – a mere $3.2 trillion in annual spending.

Why are marketers so fixated on younger demos?

As is often the case, perceptions trump reality. Do marketers still believe boomer brand loyalties are so ingrained that they are no longer viable targets for new, different and better products and services?  That notion seems a bit arrogant to me and as nearly as I can tell is not supported by reality.

While marketers may assume that those over 55 are too busy reading their printed newspaper or trying to figure out how to use the latest technology toys, the reality is quite different. Would you believe the most preferred boomer brand is Amazon?  Amazon is not only the epitome of technology-based marketing; it is actually younger than the children of most boomers –a young whippersnapper compared to most established brands.  Yet the folks at Synchrony Financial tell us boomers actually “spend more time online than their millennial counterparts, with 51% spending 15 hours per week online, compared with only 41% of millennials.”  And Nielsen reports that boomers are the second heaviest users of the internet and more than half are regular Facebook users.

Owning versus sharing

It is also worthwhile to note how boomers relate to brands versus their younger counterparts. While those in the younger demos are strong proponents of shared services, boomers are actual consumers. They buy things. Again, some stats from Nielsen: boomers spend some $90 billion annually on cars; some 30 percent more than other age groups. Meanwhile many millennials are disavowing car ownership in favor of shared services like Uber and Lyft or bicycles and other alternative means of transportation.  They are also more inclined to rent rather than buy certain products and services.

One of my younger colleagues, a millennial, correctly pointed out that the above paragraph contained some generalizations. To be sure, millennials will become an increasingly powerful economic engine in the years ahead.  Nor is there anything wrong with different generations having different values and marketers are wise to heed those differences.  But the bottom line is still the bottom line.  And when it comes to spending, the boomer generation is “where the action is.”

Filed Under: branding, marketing

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