By now we’re a bit sick of hearing about how different millennials and baby boomers are from each other. Everywhere you look, commentary is made that puts the generations at each other’s throats. But while companies bid to try and sound appealing to today’s youth, in the form of the glittery, pink millennial, they seem to be forgetting not only how to market to baby boomers, but why. Here’s a hint: they still hold the most wealth as a generation.
By focusing all their efforts on how to win over millennials, Marketers are missing a trick by ignoring the purchasing power of older generations, and here’s how.
Who are baby boomers?
Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 64 and widely regarded as the ‘original’ generation, are the mostly-over-50s who account for about 47% of all UK consumer spending and about 40% of the population.
But despite the grumpy stereotypes, baby boomers are actually pretty diverse. Their life experiences change a lot depending on wealth, class, education, health, employment and marital status. Boomers are also quite keen on spending their wealth. Surprisingly, they spend more on travel than their younger counterparts, and British people aged between 50-74 spend twice as much per year on theatre and cinema tickets than those under 30, who are perhaps too used to the instant gratification of a Netflix binge. Not only that, but they are also responsible for more spending growth over the past decade than any other generation.
So why are brands ignoring them?
Well, enter the millennial. It makes sense for brands to be conscious of the younger generations coming in. The mentality goes, the sooner you ‘catch’ a customer, the more likely they will be loyal for longer. About 63% of businesses focus their efforts on targeting millennials, even though older people are actually the ones who spend more. In fact, businesses could lose about £27bn by focusing on millennials and ignoring the boomer generation.
A lot of this has to do with the boom in digital marketing as an industry. Millennials, and to an even larger extent their gen Z cousins, are widely regarded as the ‘digital natives’ — so many brands who have used digital channels for marketing have championed ‘young’ platforms and strategies, such as using influencers or marketing via social media. This makes sense in one way: they want new, customers and want to target them in their own online world; but although millennials are high-impulse buyers, boomers are the ones who rank researching and shopping as third and fourth most important activities, opposed to millennials who rank shopping fifth. Boomers being constantly bombarded with advertising not targeted to them is surely not going to be beneficial for brands who want to maintain their current customer base as well as obtain new ones.
Are negative stereotypes getting in the way?
Perhaps. The focus towards digital has been picked up by all generations, not just millennials, and we need to recognise that as well. There are, of course, generational differences that are brought about by the different experiences each age group goes through, but these experiences don’t have to drastically alter the way we market. Industry forecasts show that millennials will continue to be important consumer targets —they are, after all, the future — but the strongest future growth potential in spending still lies firmly with baby boomers.
How do I market to boomers?
Firstly, we have to recognise that a lot of the shifts in the way we advertise don’t pertain to just millennials and gen Z. The digital world affects all age groups, and boomers and gen X alike use platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. That means that they will see your ads, provided your content and targeting is good.
It’s also naive to suggest that influencer marketing only works for the younger generations. Mumsnet is one of the most visited sites in the UK and mummy bloggers are hugely popular, too. Boomers and gen X are just as swayed by influencers they align with — vloggers such as Joe Wicks AKA The Body Coach has a large number of older followers who want to eat healthily and get fit.
Secondly, we have to think about rephrasing the question and ask ourselves how best to market to everyone whilst understanding these behavioural shifts. Just because, for example, millennials may use Instagram the most, Boomers may favour Facebook and gen Z are obsessed with Snapchat doesn’t mean that other demographics don’t also operate on those platforms.
The same applies to the shift in social responsibility. A study at UC Berkeley found that 9 in 10 millennials would switch to a brand that is socially conscious, but the same may be true of boomers. Yes, the current political climate has been proven to influence the way we market and advertise, but could this be more of a cultural shift than just a generational one? Boomers and gen X themselves came of age through their own political traumas that influenced the way they think, live and buy.
Perhaps we need to head towards neutral age marketing; when a product is sold on its merits and to anyone who is interested in it, instead of focusing on one generational cohort. Not only does it allow whatever your product is to be reached by the right people, you’re not alienating anyone by suggesting it doesn’t work for them. So maybe we are missing the mark with baby boomers, and we run the risk of doing so with millennials too.
Not sure how your marketing strategy fits into generational labels? Drop us a line, we’d be happy to chat!
This post is part of a series in conjunction with Curated’s panel discussion on ‘Why Are We So Obsessed With Generational Marketing?’ that we held in April. You can read the recap of the event here.
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