How boomer and youth marketing can coincide

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on December 15, 2005

Observing the actions of Sir Paul McCartney can be of great help to marketers who want to understand how to attract the Baby Boomer generation ("boomers"). Aged 63, Sir Paul tells boomers (through his new album) to "Never Stop Doing What You Love". And, in common with today's youth, that's exactly what the boomers are doing.

Marketers who try to analyse the growth potentials from young shoppers and older shoppers have overlooked a third option, according to WSL Strategic Retail. Given the composition of the population, there is actually very little choice between the youth market and the older consumer: Success demands that marketers have them both, and this can be done by simply focusing less on their differences and more on the similar benefits they expect from products and services.

Population trend
Those who stop to look at the population statistics on the ageing of American citizens will find that nearly 77 million people make up one-quarter of the nation's population and control half of the nation's consumer spending (approximately US$2 trillion dollars). But how does that translate into a sales opportunity for specific categories? Well, many marketers have already decided that the rewards of boomer sales don't offset the risk of identifying the brand with "old people" (something often seen as "the kiss of death" in our increasingly youth-driven culture). But the tide is slowly turning, WSL suggests.

As so many boomers reach 50 and 60, there is the real risk that avoiding these consumers leads them to reduce their spending in each category. Shoppers of every age buy more because advertising entices them - and without advertising to tempt them, they may revert to extreme rational behaviour and decide that they don't need to try a different cereal, buy another pair of shoes, or take a holiday in Spring. WSL advises that boomers must become part of every company's advertising message to further encourage cross-selling and product/service sampling.

Ageless marketing?
WSL's concept of "ageless marketing" involves not looking for the differences created by ageing and instead focusing on the similarities between shoppers, regardless of their age. There is no age associated with the desire to create a dream kitchen, have hair that is full and shiny, turn soup into a quick meal, and find the lowest price. Age does not define the desire to look good and be smart shopper.

The company's ongoing research study, entitled 'How America Shops', interviews 6,000 shoppers every year. This year the company worked hard to find the differences between boomers and adults under 40. For the most part, there are very few differences: They shop alike, make similar choices, and are equally enticed to try new products. But differences appear where they are least expected, in categories driven by ageing (such as blood pressure devices and pregnancy test kits), and in categories where older shoppers need a little longer to begin participating fully (such as creating their own music CDs).

Selling more
According to WSL, what is most important to succeed with boomers is age diversity in the overall marketing message. Include people over 40 in the message and give them a product that they want to buy again.

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