If you pay attention to the Boomer marketplace, you will have noticed one of a hundred stories published since January 1 with a headline similar to the one the New York Times ran as the new year began: “Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65.”
Even once you get over the insulting tone of headlines like this, people who spend a lot of time actually listening to Boomers (like me) have two reactions.
First, is there anything newsworthy in a conclusion as foregone as this one? We’ve known for – well, about 65 years – that the first Boomer would turn 65 in 2011.
Second, while news like this may be relevant in a B2B context, it is irrelevant in a B2C world where Boomers don’t even call themselves “Boomers” (we almost never see them use it at VibrantNation.com, the leading online community for women 50+). Worse, this kind of news distracts marketers from what really matters about Boomers.
Boomers at Midlife – All of Them
And what is truly relevant about Boomers in 2011? For a generation that includes nearly 80 million people 9with an average age of 54), it can’t be that the single oldest one of them just reached age 65.
The relevant fact is that the entire generation is not beginning to experience the end of life but is firmly embedded in the middle of life. None of them can pretend any longer to be young; but, at the same time, none of them yet feels old. The longevity revolution, after all, didn’t add 20 years to the end of life; it added 20 years to the middle of life. Now we’re finally getting to see what that looks like.
Because Boomers find themselves in a shared and unique stage of life, marketers have to speak to them with a distinctive message, one that focuses less on age than on lifestage. Our research shows that Boomers may buy the same products as younger consumers (products like consumer electronics or clothing), but they may buy them for different reasons.
How to Talk to Boomers Distinctly
Reaching the Boomer at midlife means offering them online communities where they can connect on the issues unique to their stage of life, not to replace Facebook (where most of them are already members) but to discuss the things they can’t discuss on Facebook: how to manage the daughter-in-law they don’t like; what to wear when their body betrays them; and how they can find travel options that let them leave their husband at home. Marketers who think these women aren’t interested in buying new clothes or getting the newest consumer electronics
It means offering them brands that speak to them and to them only. Brands like Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, which understands that embracing Boomers sometimes means telling both their daughters and their mothers that the brand isn’t for them.
Because Boomers won’t hear messages developed for younger consumers, it means delivering messages that target the aspirations and interests of people in their 40s 50s and 60s. For an example, look at Grey Goose, which is seeking consumers who are “discerning” and play golf; sponsoring the high-brow television show “Iconoclasts”; and running ads that suggest that the consumer’s highest goals are enjoying the good life (and not hooking up in a bar). This is a brand that understands who actually buys premium vodka, and isn’t afraid to speak to her directly.
If you are ready for it, this is the golden age of marketing to Boomers, not because their oldest siblings just turned 65 but because the entire generation now deserves its own message.