How To Market To Baby Boomers

How To Market To Baby Boomers
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What best describes you?

They’re the ones born between 1946 and 1964. There’s about 5.5 million of ’em, so best you know what you’re doing when it comes to marketing to them. Strategy director at The Works, Cate Mathers, gives the low down on what you should know.

Reacting against the self-sacrificing values instilled in their parents who grew up in the Great Depression emerged a generation focused heavily on self-fulfilment, consumption and instant gratification – the ‘Me Generation’.

Whilst working on the NRMA ‘Living Well Navigator’ campaign – an online resource and social community that helps to steer over 50s to live a healthier and happier life – we had the opportunity to challenge the perception of Baby Boomers.

In their formative years, they were a generation of change makers who shaped the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, the end of the Vietnam War, disco and unapologetic hedonism; making them radical thinkers, consumers and adventurous, widely experienced travellers.

Baby Boomers are the 5.5 million born between 1946 and 1964, and over the next 20 years, the number of Australians who are 70 plus will grow at a rate 3.3 times faster than the total population. With stats so hard to ignore, why do so many boomers say that brands don’t make the effort to really engage with them?

Our client NRMA had accumulated insightful research and we had completed our own qualitative studies to answer these age-old questions.

To get inside the collective mind of this generation we worked with senior creatives Ian Kennedy and Jeff Clulow, who are both over the age of 60. With more than 50 years combined industry experience, the duo was well versed to advise on the wants and needs of the over 50s, how they perceive themselves and the marketing paradoxes that exist within this complex demographic.

In our research phase, we conducted in-home interviews with our target age group that in turn helped frame our overarching campaign strategy.

We uncovered a number of contradictions.

For example, today they’re the generation that holds 55 per cent of the nation’s wealth, yet only comprise 25 per cent of the population – 42 per cent claiming to have disposable income to spend on themselves. So, if they’ve never been known to save, how do they have money to burn?

There are a couple of factors to take into account, such as 20-year-old compulsory superannuation, massive appreciation in property prices in the early part of the past decade, less financial obligations since the kids left home, and 84 per cent of boomers have delayed retirement as Australia sees a rising trend in semi-retirement.

Facts and figure aside, detrimental to understanding this age segment is the attitude paradoxes we unveiled in our research. A few key insights worth sharing include statements such as: ‘Don’t call me old but do let me know it’s for people my age’; ‘I want to be informed but I don’t trust authorities’; ‘I never save but I have money to spend’; and, ‘I’ve got more money to burn but I’m watching my pennies’.

So what do boomers spend their time and money on?

Their quest for lived experiences is high on the agenda with adventure and freedom at the core of their new phase in life. Coupled with more free time, many boomers are reaching their 60s and transitioning into retirement. They no longer have the 9am to 5pm burden and realise they can’t wait forever to achieve their bucket list.

Boomers travel more than any other age group. While Australians are still travelling overseas in record numbers, the older baby boomers prefer to do their travel locally (61 per cent have travelled domestically in the past 12 months).

Boomers are also investing more time and money into extended holidays to fulfill travel dreams – there’s been a 29 per cent lift in flights over the past year with no return date.

With this in mind, here are a few key take home tips on marketing to boomers that will impact on the way we communicate with them.

1. Segment the audience

As the audience is large and filled with conflicting attitudes and behaviours, it’s essential to segment the audience by financial and physical freedom and independence as opposed to age alone. During research, interrogate the notion of independence. However, independence means different things to people at different stages of their life.

2. Give it to them straight

Pay attention to the nuances of language. Be aware of sounding preachy or condescending. Although they want to be inspired lay off conceptual statements and remember to tell them straight exactly what it is you are selling and what you want them to do.

3. Use likeminded people to tell the story

They have a history of defying authority; they don’t trust advertising and have lost faith in experts. They respect the opinions of like-minded people who understand them, for example, boomer icons or customer testimonials.

4. Avoid clichés and pitch it ‘younger’

Steer clear from the world of ‘stock imagery’, filled with clichés. They don’t appreciate the way they are currently depicted. Although this is in part due to the fact they see themselves as younger than they really are. When considering people to represent the target always show those on the younger more aspirational end of the target audience.

Image Credit: Nacio Jan Brown 

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