Sunday, January 8, 2012

Return of the Boomers in the United States

Content provided by Susan Nelson @ Lander, Global Brand Consultants @

  • There are an estimated 77 million of them in the United States
  • They control over 50 percent of discretionary spending
  • They enjoy 80 percent of all leisure travel
  • They represent about 40 percent of regular Facebookers
So what brands are targeting the boomers? Almost none? Defined as the generation born between 1946 and 1964, the boomers' time may have come around again as the recession drags on and the unemployment levels of millennials stagnate. Their legacy of invention and reinvention and unwillingness to accept the status quo leaves them open to new brands, new products, and new ideas. In 2012 look for manufacturers and marketers to take more notice of the boomers.

What are the implications of this trend for brands?
While most companies primarily target the sought-after 18-49-year-old market, savvy marketers are starting to seek segments not already bombarded by marketing messages. With a majority of boomers online, digitally based organizations such as Encore Careers and Vibrant Nation are creating movements around pride and contributions to society, while rejecting the gray closet. In its advertising, Coldwater Creek boldly features mature women flirting and playing. Eileen Fisher shows models with (gasp!) gray hair, and shoe designers have noticed that boomers have lots of money and sore feet. Even the usually myopic television programmers are appealing to a boomer audience with Mad Men, The Playboy Club, and Harry's Law. Next year, look for more products, services, and programs targeted at boomers across all categories. In addition to those named above, other smart technology, consumer electronics, cosmetics, and social media brands have already caught on. Yet so many consumer packaged goods (CPG) and media brands seem stuck in the fallacy that early adopters are all young and cool. They don't get that there are a lot of boomers with plenty of money to spend.

Which brands will stand out?
Steve Jobs got it: Nothing suits the aging boomer better than the iPhone, the iPad, and the iMac. Prestige, style, ease of use, and portability-the perfect combination for the boomer who refuses to age. Pixar got it: The portrait of a long, loving, and loyal marriage that comprises the first 10 minutes of Up spoke directly to this audience and broadened the film's appeal. The traditional "senior ghetto" marketers, such as FirstStreet, are redesigning their catalogs and retooling their brands for a more stylish, energetic image. The Vermont Country Store (catalog and website) cleverly markets to boomers with a kitschy combination of retro products, humorous writing, and modern interpretations of traditional favorites.

Start watching for marketers to develop line extensions (and premium price points) aimed at boomers' desires to stay active. Cosmetics giants such as Olay and L'Oreal will continue to introduce new brands and really begin to pay attention to the boomer male. More consumer electronics brands could capitalize on boomers' lack of brand loyalty and entice them with new, convenient features such as more automation, enhanced video communication, and the allure of a single device that does it all. In the memorable words of that legendary boomer song: We've only just begun.

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