The Truth About Boomers and Direct Marketing
Most marketers make one common mistake when marketing to Baby Boomers. This mistake accounts for the failure of direct marketing campaigns geared toward Boomers. The mistake? Addressing Boomers as a monolithic group. In reality, Boomers are a generation of people whose drivers and interests differ widely. We recently highlighted the differences between Boomers and Millennials, but it’s also important to understand how Boomers differ from other Boomers.
There are a myriad of reasons to market to Baby Boomers. After all, there were a projected 75.4 million of them in 2014 and they have a lot of purchasing power. In a 2012 report, Nielsen labeled them marketing’s most valuable generation. According to that report, Boomers will:
- Control 70% of the country’s disposable income by 2017
- Inherit $15 trillion dollars over the next 20 years
- Spend more than every other generation in most consumer goods categories
Add these to the many myths about Boomers and their habits, such as:
- They don’t spend time online
- They aren’t tech savvy
- They don’t purchase online
- They’re fiercely brand loyal and won’t try new products
- They have health and mobility issues
- They don’t spend as much as they age
- They aren’t active and don’t travel that much
These facts surely make a case for all kinds of marketing to Boomers. Direct marketing, in particular, should be at the center of such campaigns.
Generation Does Not Equal Segment
When marketing to Boomers, remember this simple truth. Boomer is a generation designation for those born between 1946 and 1964. That means those marketing to Boomers are “age cohort” marketing to those between 51 and 69 years of age.
If you are new to Boomer marketing, a 2011 Ad Age report, 50 and Up: What’s Next, examines the attitudes, assumptions, aspirations, plans, demographics, consumer actions, media usage, lifestyle and psychographics of Boomers. While such broad generational traits and attitudes do hold true, there are better tools today for effective direct marketing targeting.
The simplest Boomer age segmentation is separating Leading-Edge Boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) from Trailing-Edge Boomers (1956-1964). While valuable, targeted segments must also be based on a host of demographic, psychographic, behaviors and life stage variables to be effective.
DMN3 recently conducted a study of the online Boomer generation to look at how they interact with marketing channels. Here are some example results from the DMN3 study.
- Boomers are more likely to spend more hours online with a desktop computer rather than tablets or smartphones in a normal week. Four times as many people use a computer for 10+ hours than use a smartphone for the same time span.
- More Trailing-Edge Boomers "Watch videos" (76%) and “Listen to music” (55%) than Leading-Edge Boomers (65% and 43% respectively).
- A greater percentage of Leading-Edge Boomers say they are unlikely to work part time in retirement compared to Trailing-Edge Boomers.
- Trailing-Edge Boomers are more influenced by social media and their children to search online for information than their older, Leading-Edge Boomer brethren.
Can you imagine how different an affluent, married 51 year old in the prime of their career with children still living at home is to a 69 year old empty nester, with grandchildren who is retired and is living alone? It’s a widely accepted fact that the older a generation gets, the more different its members are to each other.
It Begins with Existing Customers
Marketing to Baby Boomers is no different than targeting other consumer segments. While you can find already segmented Boomer data, the best approach begins with understanding your existing Boomer customers.
What are the characteristics of Boomers who comprise your current customer base? Besides age, the data should include a host of demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and life stage info that can be used to segment them. Predictive analytics platforms can then be used to create “look-alike” prospects with similar characteristics.
Boomers are comprised of many different consumer segments. If you want to be successful with your direct marketing to people over 50, then stop marketing as if they are all the same. Instead, use predictive analytics and micro-targeting platforms to reach out to specific audiences of that population that are similar to your existing customers.