“There’s both ageism in our culture and ageism in our profession of marketing. But some of it’s not even malicious ageism. Some of it is just, ‘I want my brand to feel young and modern and youthful, and the only way to do that is to be targeting it to the young and modern and youthful.’ But that’s simplistic thinking.” This according to Denise Fedewa, Executive Vice President/Strategy Director, Leo Burnett.”
Many marketers have invested significant portions of their budget chasing the millennial consumer. But, here’s a fact that might make some rethink that strategy. According to DataMentors, while Millennials do make up the largest generation today (86 Million), Baby Boomers still take second place (77 Million.)
If marketers are putting all their chips on Millennials, they could be in for a surprising loss when they realize just how much they are leaving on the table by excluding other demographic groups in their marketing mix and messaging.
But marketers are just not marketing to this lucrative “older” consumer: “[Baby Boomers] can sustain and be a strong driver of the consumer economy over the next five to ten years especially the upper-income households. They have the money to spend. It’s a different mindset …now saying, I’ve got to spend it while I’m here,” says Doug Hermanson, principal economist at Kantar Retail.
- The Boston Consulting Group(BCG) calculates that less than 15% of firms have developed a business strategy focused on the elderly.
- The Economist Intelligence Unitfound that only 31% of firms took increased longevity into account when making plans for sales and marketing.
- A report by the McKinsey Global Institutepoints out that older consumers are one of the few engines of growth in an otherwise sluggish global economy.
- According to DMN3, online research shows an overwhelming 82.3% of Boomers belong to at least once social networking site and over half of Boomers who use social networking sites will visit a company website or continue their search on a search engine as a result of seeing something on social media
According to Morgan Stanley, “As consumers age, their spending increases, with the U.S. consumer’s peak earnings, spending, and investing years between ages 35 and 55. Boomer generation will still maintain enormous spending muscle. In the next two decades, spending by Americans over 50 is projected to increase by 58%, whereas spending by Americans 25-50 will grow by 24%…”
In learnings from 15,000+ hours of VoC research interviews, consumers have told us again and again that they want needs-based personalization that connects with them at a human and genuine level. To develop relationships with all consumers, marketers need to devise personalization that drives engagement by increasing conversion rates and return visits because the consumer feels that the brand understands them. But unfortunately for many age brackets, this is not the case.
“Most of the female baby boomers feel as if marketers don’t really understand them, and they’re not making a really strong, concerted effort to speak to them as an individual,” says Dave Austin, managing director of marketing agency Influent50 “There’s this misnomer that boomers are not… digital-savvy, which is just not true. They’re one of the first generations to use technology in every portion of their life.”
However, a savvy few companies have tapped into the digital-loving Baby Boomer market, such as Stitch, an online dating, activity and travel community for those over 50. According to founder, Marcie Rogo, “[Boomers are] brand loyal. This is what I love about them. They like the real talk. If they trust you as a brand, they will stay with you. They’re not going to hop around like millennials.”
L’Oreal has recently announced that it has added 69 year old actress, Susan Sarandon, to its roster of over 50 brand ambassadors for its beauty product line, which has made a choice to have a representative from each generation to portray their message that beauty ‘transcends age’. In their “senior marketing” the company notes that their new brand ambassadors, “embody the new kind of radiant 60-something women.”
- Millennials represent significant buying power, but they are not the only ones. When marketers put most of their marketing eggs in one demographic basket they are missing opportunities and revenue from other segments that feel the brand does not want their business.
- Marketers must make the effort to understand the needs, actions, and buying patterns of every demographic group.
- Marketing needs to “speak” to consumers in a voice that is both authentic and genuine. If the message is stereotypical, consumers have no reason to identify with a brand they feel does not accurately understand their needs or lifestyle.
One of the key lines from Madonna’s Billboard “Woman of the Year” acceptance speech was, “The most controversial thing I’ve done is stick around.” Marketers have fallen in love with the pursuit of a digital demographic at the exclusion of other demographic age groups. Now, the key is for marketers to see past the obvious to gain a deeper understanding that all age groups are digital—and have big buying power.
Ernan Roman is President of ERDM Corp. ERDM conducts specialized VoC research to identify CX strategies that generate significant increases in revenue. Clients include IBM, MassMutual, Gilt, QVC, HP, Microsoft and Norton AntiVirus. His influential blog Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices appears in Forbes, Huffington Post, CMO.com, CustomerThink, CRMC and Business2Community. Named by the Online Marketing Institute as one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and by Crain’s B to B Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in Business Marketing.