The silver tsunami is here

Credit: Joshua Dewey on Unsplash
Credit: Joshua Dewey on Unsplash

Baby boomers are retiring, and marketers should wake up to the opportunity.

The ‘silver tsunami’ is a phrase that’s been kicking around adland for decades. It refers, somewhat snarkily, to the enormous marketing opportunity as the baby boomer generation slow-rolls into retirement and spends some of that long-saved booty. 

Baby boomers remain the wealthiest generation in the U.S., and their share of total net household wealth peaked at a jaw dropping 50% this year, according to Deloitte

Well, the silver tsunami is here -- although you wouldn’t know it by the way seniors are being marketed to. 

But Madison Avenue is finally waking up to the opportunity. 

The most recent signifer is the splash BBDO made last month when it was named agency of record for AARP. In its press release, the agency noted it was “eager to drive greater familiarity, relevance and engagement among younger segments of the 50-plus audience.”

That is an important distinction. Marketers often make the mistake of approaching seniors as one demographic. But they aren’t. You have your “Go-Gos” (65 to 74), “Slow-Gos” (75 to 84) and “No-Gos” (85-plus) (not my phrasing). The differences between a 65 year-old and an 80 year-old are as vast as a 5th grader and a college freshman, yet marketers often treat anyone 65-plus as exactly the same. 

The notion that seniors aren’t worth marketing to because their brand loyalties are solidified is simply not true. Seniors today have disposable income to indulge in luxury travel, fine dining, technology and entertainment. They buy things on their smartphone and tablets. They engage on social media and stream “Grace & Frankie” on Netflix. Sounds pretty similar to every other key marketing demographic. 

Three out of four adults over 50 plan to stay in their homes and communities as they age. Post Covid-19, that number is on the rise. New solutions for care will be critical, and that means opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs and marketers. 

A few sectors could see huge benefits by thinking about this audience differently.

  • Houseware brands: Design for people with declining dexterity and mobility, but who still want style. 

  • Finance brands: Address the greater liquidity people will have when their wealth is not committed to retirement communities. 

  • Ride sharing apps: Partner with insurance companies with transportation benefits to make your services more affordable. 

  • Social networking apps: Help seniors stay connected to friends and family and combat isolation, especially during the pandemic, and provide community engagement for seniors to meet like-minded people.

  • Voice activated technologies: Better cater seniors' needs with easy-to-set prescription or to-do list reminders.  

  • Grocery apps: Go the extra mile and offer services to ‘unpack your groceries’ to provide a useful service to this demo. 

The sooner the advertising community stops seeing seniors as having ‘fallen and can’t get up,’ the sooner they can tap into the potential benefits of this varied and lucrative audience.

Phil Graham is a Partner at Verdes

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