10 Insights for Connecting with Boomers
March 3, 2014
By Jim Gilmartin, MediaPost
In 2014, people born during the Baby Boom years will be ages 50 to 68. Connecting with someone in their 60s is different than connecting with those in their 30s. They’re in a different life stage with different experiences, wants and needs. Marketers continually look for ways to group targeted customers to connect efficiently with them. Here are some general marketing insights to help you to understand better how to connect to the Baby Boomer generation.
1. Increased individualism
Boomer customers are less subject to peer influence than younger customers are. Keeping up with the Joneses is not as important as it once was; thus, advertising that invokes social status benefits does not play as well in Boomer markets as in younger ones. Largely freed from worrying about reactions of others, Boomer customers tend toward greater practicality in buying decisions than younger customers.
2. Increased demand for facts
As they age, hyperbole turns them off. If Boomer customers are interested in considering a purchase, they want unadorned facts, and more of them, than they usually wanted earlier in life. Years of buying equip Boomers with knowledge of what to look for and what information is needed for an intelligent purchase.
3. Increased response to emotional stimuli
Boomer customers tend to be quicker than younger customers to reflect emotionally a lack of interest in or negative reaction to an offered product. On the other hand, a positive first impression can become embedded especially deep in the emotions of the Boomers — so much so that the Boomer customer is often more disposed to be a faithful customer than the younger customer.
4. Less self-oriented, more altruistic
Boomer customers tend to show increased response to marketing appeals reflecting altruistic values. This tracks with common middle-age shift toward stronger spiritual values in which concern for others increases. As altruistic motivations become stronger, narcissistic and materialistic values wane in influence.
5. Increased time spent in making purchase decisions
As most people grow older, they experience changes in their perceptions of time but also in its meaning and role in their lives. For example, Boomers often ignore time-urgency strategies in marketing — such as "Offer good until ---," "Only three left in stock---etc...” Generally, "time is not of the essence" is a common attitude among Boomers, especially those who have retired.
6. See fewer differences between competing products
Because Boomers tend to be more highly individuated, and less influenced by external influences, perceptions of products are more internally shaped. They typically conclude that there is less difference between products than marketers claim. This contrasts with the tendency of younger customers to assert vigorously the differences between a product they prefer and its competitors — even when clear differences do not exist.
7. See more differences between competing companies
Boomer customers tend to be more responsive to "companies with a conscience" than younger customers are. From a self-interest perspective, they are also more attentive to warranty issues and a company's reputation for honoring its warranties than younger customers.
8. With respect to making discretionary-purchase decisions, Boomer customers tend to:
- Have a decreased sensitivity to price;
- Increased sensitivity to affordability; and
- Sharply increased sensitivity to value.
Boomer customers have more complex ways of determining value than younger customers. Value determination by Boomers tends to be an existentialist exercise whereby soul (spiritual) values as well as mind (intellect) and body (tangible) values are combined into the value determination process.
9. Increased price-sensitivity in non-discretionary spending
As they age, many customers develop higher economic "literacy" and skillfully apply it to get the best price. In purchasing "need" items, Boomer customers tend to be more bargain-minded, whereas in purchasing "desire" items, they tend to be more value-minded in a holistic sense.
10. Often project what seems to be contradictory behavior.
Boomers are sometimes characterized as selfish and selfless, penurious and profligate, spontaneous and deliberate, and so on. These conflicting attributes lead some to characterize Boomers as contradictory. For example, a Boomer shopper may be penurious in using cents-off coupons in a grocery store, after which he/she drives off in a Mercedes. This is not evidence of contradictory behavior, but an example of the rules of thriftiness applied to basics, and the rules of whole value applied to discretionary expenditures.
For more insight we suggest the following resources:
- Ageless Marketing, David B. Wolfe
- The Farthest Reaches of Human Nature, Abraham Maslow
- The Mature Mind, Gene D. Cohen
- The Ageing Brain, Gene D. Cohen
- Descartes’ Error, Antonio Damasio
- The Psychological Center of Gravity, David B. Wolfe: American Demographics April 1998
- Generation Ageless, J. Smith and Ann Clurman
- The Experience Economy, James Gilmore and Joe Pine
- Authenticity, James Gilmore and Joe Pine
- Boomer Customer, Matt Thornhill and John Martin
- The She Spot, L. Witter and L. Chen
- Marketing to Prime Time Women, Martha Barletta
- Marketing to Leading Edge Boomers, Brent Green
- The Hero and the Outlaw, Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson
- From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation, Second Edition: The strategic process of growing and strengthening brands, Leslie de Chernatony
"10 Insights for Connecting with Boomers." Jim Gilmartin. MediaPost, 03/04/14.
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