5 ways to effectively market to baby boomers

by Lee Hopkins on February 7, 2012 · 2 comments

in marketing

Guest post by Lior Levin

The Baby Boomer generation remains a critically important demographic for marketers that can drive higher sales numbers if reached effectively. Marketing firm Coming of Age Incorporated clearly lays out the benefits of marketing to boomers: “At more than 100 million strong, baby boomer and older customers (born before 1965) are the single largest consumer group in America, and they are the wealthiest, best educated and most sophisticated of purchasers.”

In fact, Boomers have led the way even in some surprising markets. Ad Age reported in 2010 that Boomers were actually outspending younger consumers on technology products, to say nothing about their tendency to lead the charge in purchasing new cars and other big ticket items. When it comes to marketing to Baby Boomers, the rewards are tremendous, but tapping into this demographic is not without its challenges.

The Challenges of Marketing to Boomers
According to a 2009 study by Forrester Research Boomers are loyal to traditional and new media. A marketing mix is critical—sometimes using print and televised ads to drive online networking campaigns.

Having said that, Boomers’ usage of online networking is on the rise, even if they are setting their own trends. According to a recent eMarketer report, most activity is centered on Facebook—with 73% of Boomer users maintaining a profile as of 2009.

That number of Facebook users has climbed dramatically according to the 2010 Pew Internet Report:

The number of Facebook users in the U.S. aged 55 and older grew from around 1 million in early 2009 to 10 million in early 2010, according to istrategy.com, a website that tracks Facebook data.

Rather than turning to Twitter or LinkedIn, Boomers see social media as a chance to learn more about what their friends are doing. Facebook remains the most important online tool for reaching Boomers.

Referrals Are Important for Baby Boomers
You won’t find many Boomers willing to create web content, but they are willing to interact and to pay attention to what their networks value. In fact, their high usage of Facebook highlights the tendency of Boomers to make buying decisions based on what a trusted friend shares.

Jeremiah Owyang, when still at Forrester Research, wrote about Baby Boomers:

“more than 60% of them consume socially created content. You’ll also find Boomers leaving their opinions on Web sites and even joining social networks… We also recommend allowing Boomers to share their opinions with others by enabling comments, ratings, and rankings on Web sites.”

In touching on this trend, Mashable reports, “Tammy Gordon, director of social communications and strategy for AARP, says that she believes Boomers use the web a bit differently than younger consumers. ‘I don’t think a lot of Boomers type in ‘AARP Facebook,’ she says, ‘but if three of their friends ‘like’ it, they’ll check it out.’”

Boomers Avoid Association with Aging
Boomers highly value being treated differently from younger generations, but that doesn’t mean they want to be viewed as the “elders” of society. A recent eMarketer report suggested that “Boomers are immediately turned off by association of infirmity, old age and decline,” the report notes. “Most brands don’t want to ‘age’ their products with blatant appeals to older consumers.”

The New York Times also mentions, “‘The No. 1 rule is that you never call an older buyer old,’ said Joseph F. Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab. ‘And because many seniors rely on their kids for advice, it’s important to talk to the senior and the daughter who will likely make the purchase.’”

Boomers Refined, Individualized Tastes
As marketers consider how to reach Boomers, an emphasis on the needs of individuals who value independent thinking is critical. In fact, the mass-appeal ads targeted at younger generations simply don’t work for Boomers.

The New York Times reports, “‘Seniors, particularly baby boomers, each believe they belong to a market segment made up of exactly one person,’ said Blaine Branchik, an associate professor of marketing at Quinnipiac University who has studied the history of selling to the elderly. ‘Many believe the only thing they have in common is that they are all so unique that they have nothing in common.’”

Boomers Are Willing to Experiment
The over-50 demographic has been written off by many marketers because brand preferences are assumed to be set in place. However, Business Week reports that “today’s over-50 crowd is just as likely, and in some cases more likely, as everyone else to try different brands within a product category. According to Yankelovich Inc., 33% of consumers older than 50 agree that it’s ‘risky’ to buy an unfamiliar brand.”

Far from avoiding new choices, Boomers welcome opportunities to adopt new products that serve their needs and help them achieve the lifestyle they desire.

Baby Boomers represent a significant opportunity to grow your business and to expand the reach of your market. By recognizing the ways that Boomers make decisions and view marketing strategies, you’ll open up new opportunities for your business.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, marketing consultant for an inspection company that offers inspection pre-shipment services in China and, and who also consults for a company that provides psd to xhtml conversion.

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