For brands, the needs of Baby Boomers — people who are 65 and older — are often secondary to those of younger generations.
But this vast market — 73 million people in the U.S. — can be extremely lucrative, if brands know how to speak to them.
I recently hosted a multigenerational conversation with five marketing leaders and their Boomer parents, where we explored how brands are approaching this generation. The discussion squashed myths, such as the uninformed senior consumer, while shining a light on the influence of traditional media and highlighting the need for simple brand experiences.
Melissa Hobley, CMO, OkCupid and her mother, Marge Hobley
Katrina McGhee, EVP, Marketing & Communications, American Heart Association and her parents Frank and Pat McGhee
Mai Fenton, CMO, Superscript and her mother-in-law, Ruth Fenton
Deborah Scarano, VP, Senior Launch Navigator, Pfizer and her mother, Maria Scarano
Brendan Delaney, CMO, Booz Allen Commercial Business and his mother, Patricia Delaney
Here are eight top insights:
1. Take a human approach
Baby Boomers are not just vibrant, smart and active, but they have varied opinions — and they do their research. They dream about the future. Be respectful and don’t condescend. Actively listen to this generation, rather than talking at them.
One of the boomer panelists, who thoroughly researches all of his purchases, stressed that he can’t be easily persuaded to buy a product just because of his age. He advised brands to throw away impersonal scripts and talk to consumers to understand their particular needs.
2. Forget one-size fits all
Seniors are not one monolithic group. This demographic represents a wide age span, and there are vast differences between a 65-year old and an 80-year old.
One of OkCupid's fastest-growing segments is the 50-plus audience, Hobley shared. This population includes users from different backgrounds. Some are widows, while others have been single for a long time. OkCupid doesn’t make assumptions; it listens and uses insight to create impactful, tailored messages.
3. Be inclusive
Boomers want to see themselves represented in communications, even when they are not the sole audience. The American Heart Association’s McGhee reminded marketers to stay authentic.
Brands will often create a campaign for younger people and swap out models for older-looking people. That’s not sufficient. Campaigns need to feature images and messaging specific for this population.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of influence
Boomers influence their children’s purchase decisions, and vice versa. One of the senior panelists shared that her daughter introduces her to new brands, such as HelloFresh and Blue Apron. Another said the entire family gets advice from him before making a large purchase. They know he will do his research.
5. Purpose matters
It’s not just Gen Z and Millennials who care about what a brand stands for. Baby boomers are especially interested in a brand’s record on sustainability and other social issues — and they expect brands to deliver on their purpose.
A senior panelist, who is corporate counsel to a realty group, said Baby Boomers care about the future and like to support brands that give back. One of her favorite retailers is Bombas because they donate a pair of socks for every pair sold.
6. Evaluate the entire experience
Looking at the totality of the interaction — whether at retail, phone or online — is crucial. One Baby Boomer panelist suggested brands provide customer service channels that are more knowledgeable, and also patient for older consumers.
7. Use multiple channels
Traditional media is not dead for this generation. They still read newspapers and magazines and listen to radio, and also interact with digital channels. McGhee noted having a broad marketing mix is crucial for this audience.
8. Keep it simple
Don’t overcomplicate or oversell. Boomers appreciate brands that are straightforward and honest. One panelist advised marketers to just tell them what the product is and how it will improve their lives. If the explanation is too technical, marketers risk alienating this generation by making them feel less intelligent.
The silver economy represents a diverse tapestry of passionate, ambitious and active adults. It’s a large market that wields considerable influence over younger generations. Marketers should ignore them to their own detriment.
Aspirations don’t expire with age.
Margaret Molloy is Global CMO of Siegel+Gale