Blogging Out Loud

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There’s Gold In That Gray!

6 Suggestions for reaching these amazing “golden not-so oldies.”

Over the next 20 years, consumers ages 50 and older are estimated to inherit $14 to $20 trillion. Like them, marketers should be smiling, too.

Being 50 or older does not mean curling up on the sofa while sipping cocoa and watching the world go by. The country’s 77 million baby boomers (that’s 28 percent of the U.S. population) are approaching retirement, and they are doing it their way: with high energy; strong opinions; hard-earned wisdom; tremendous spending power; and an absolute resolve to remain vital as long as possible. Spending by the 116 million U.S. consumers ages 50 and older totaled $2.9 trillion in 2009 – up 45 percent from a decade earlier. It’s estimated that over the next 20 years this same group will inherit $14 to $20 trillion. The more marketers understand this feisty and powerful group, the more brands can benefit from meeting their needs and tapping into their spending power.

Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like marketers need to tune into the boom; ignoring this vital generation means missing out on tremendous opportunities.

I still remember the feelings of denial and shock I felt the first time I had to indicate my age on a questionnaire by checking the dreaded last box on the list. “How can that be?” I questioned. I don’t feel old and I don’t think I act old, but “they” must consider me so. And therein – I believe – lies the biggest challenge to marketing to baby boomers/seniors: they won’t respond to marketing messages addressed to older people. “Because so many marketing executives are under 40 – or even under 30 – many presume most consumers not only think like them, but want to be like them,” Matt Thornhill, founder of The Boomer Project, recently told USA Today. “They forget that people over 50 still have dreams.” I’ll admit, age brings with it special challenges and needs (so, make the copy on labels, products and instructions bigger, and show older consumers how to use new tech toys). Teach them and they will buy! Just ask Apple; their One to One program and Genius Bars are filled with seniors learning to use, then buying new products. Consider companies such as Dove, who has expanded their demographics by marketing a line of skin care products to men ages 35 and older, and General Mills, who has increased the type size on product packages targeting boomers. Romano’s Macaroni Grill recently introduced frozen entrees for two, while Progresso offers low-sodium soups – both perfect for senior consumption.

The economic impact of this generation cannot be ignored. In fact, marketers should celebrate it. In the United States, over 50 percent of discretionary spending power rests with baby boomers, and they are responsible for over half of all consumer spending. Not surprisingly, baby boomers buy 61 percent of over-the-counter medications, and 77 percent of prescription drugs. But their vacation habits play a big role, too; boomers account for 80 percent of leisure travel. And that’s not even counting seniors who are pre- and post- boomers.

With this in mind, here are six suggestions for marketing to the over 50 set:

1. Talk to them and listen. Ask them their opinions; they have a lot to say and like to feel as if their opinions count.

2. Make it easy for them to understand and use your products, but avoid being condescending.

3. Create products and services that make their lives easier, more fulfilling and more fun. Help them in their quest to feel productive.

4. Empower them. Make them feel good about who they are, what they know, what they have and what they can still accomplish.

5. Speak to their needs and interests – not to their age.

6. And please, remember: baby boomers are smart, savvy consumers.

Yes, they shop online, and they most certainly know how to use Google. Trust me, I know.

— Betsy Berman, guest blogger

Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
Photo credit: Martinhampl

About JJ Nelson

Freelance blogger for Vertical Marketing Network; food writer; bartender.

6 comments on “There’s Gold In That Gray!

  1. Jeff
    March 21, 2011

    Could you please make the type a little larger on this Bloggy thigamajig, I’m having trouble reading this dang gum contraption!

    Seriously, I’m almost 56 and I honestly don’t feel underrepresented as a demographic group that smart marketers are attempting to reach.

    The key is doing good research, identifying the right demographic profile for your product or service and then developing messages that resonate with them.

    Can anyone recommend a hair product that targets just the gray!!!


  2. Barbara
    March 21, 2011

    These are great tips; this group should not be forgotten. We are living longer and our quality of life is seems to getting better with each generation. I have a friend who is 87 years young and she is not ready to give up on life as a consumer. I order things for her on the internet; she loves it and wants to learn more. She thinks we are so lucky to be living with cell phones and the internet. Consumers 50 and above may be a slower group to purchase because of researching items but they are still buying for others and themselves.


  3. Francis
    March 21, 2011

    Ignoring Baby Boomers? Guess I’ve missed out on that one. Our generation has been catered to, coddled and marketed to relentlessly since birth–and I don’t see that stopping now. Sure, the kids get a lot of attention, but advertising dollars will follow the money. And the big money is with the over-40 crowd. Seen the ticket prices for Paul Simon at the Pantages yet? Can cross-promotion between Cialis and Kohler bathtubs be far behind?


  4. Nicco
    March 17, 2011

    My parents are part of the baby boomer generation and they are avid leisure travelers and have adopted much of the new technology. They do prefer to request assistance from myself and other family members regarding technology prior to going to an outside source. Just like any other target consumer, the key is to listen and understand their needs and deliver marketing campaigns that address those needs in a straight-forward manner.


  5. Philip
    March 16, 2011

    The fact is that the 50+ Boomers are historically the largest spending and most under-marketed consumer group. I trust that more and more marketers have gone beyond the “why” they should tap the 50+ demographic and instead are now focusing on the “how”. The “how” really begins with getting to know this target and addressing the principles of their behavior in all communication touch-points. Building strong relationships with the 50+ target will result in big gains for a typical brand.


  6. Joanne
    March 15, 2011

    Just because we are over 50 – don’t assume we can’t see, can’t hear, and don’t understand the “new” generation and all of the technical apps available to us. Assume that we are successful, knowledgeable, have discretionary income, a lot to offer and time to finally apply all of this into our current lifestyle.

    Old used to be our grandparents … now that we are the grandparents … keep in mind we will never be old!

    So, subtly make the type bigger, speak a little louder and show a lot of respect! I absolutely agree with the 6-step process outlined above!


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