Marketing To Boomers

Marketers continually look for ways to group targeted customers to connect efficiently with them, and one insider has taken a closer look at the iconic Baby Boomer market. The following, by Jim Gilmartin, president of Chicago based, Coming of Age, Inc., offers 10 insights into better understanding early stage boomers (born 1946 to 1954) and older customers, and what they seek from a, “buying experience.”

1) Increased individualism. Older customers are less subject to peer influence than younger customers are. Keeping up with the Joneses is not as important as it once was; thus advertising that invokes social status benefits does not play as well in older markets as in younger ones.
2) Increased demand for facts. Adult customers tend to be less responsive to sweeping claims in marketing messages as they age. Hyperbole turns them off. If older customers are interested in considering a purchase, they want unadorned facts, and more of them, than they usually wanted earlier in life.
3) Increased response to emotional stimuli. Older customers tend to be quicker than younger customers to emotionally reflect lack of interest in, or negative reaction to, an offered product. On the other hand, a positive first impression can become embedded especially deep in the emotions of the older person, so much so that the older customer is often more disposed to be a faithful customer than the younger customer is.
4) Less self oriented, more altruistic. Older customers tend to show increased response to marketing appeals reflecting altruistic values. This tracks with a common middle age shift toward stronger spiritual values, in which concern for others increases.
5) Increased time spent in making purchase decisions. As most people grow older, they experience changes in their perceptions of time, but also in its meaning and role in their lives. For example, older people often ignore time urgency strategies in marketing, such as, “Offer good until,” “Only three left in stock,” etc. Generally, “time is not of the essence,” is a common attitude among older people, especially those who have retired.
6) See fewer differences between competing products. Because older people tend to be more highly individuated, and less influenced by external influences, perceptions of products are more internally shaped. They typically conclude that there is little difference between products than marketers claim.
7) See more differences between competing companies. Older customers tend to be more responsive to, “companies with a conscience,” than younger customers are. From a self-interest perspective, they are also more attentive to warranty issues and a company’s reputation for honoring its warranties, than younger customers.
8) With respect to making discretionary purchase decisions. Older customers tend to have a decreased sensitivity to price, increased sensitivity to affordability, and sharply increased sensitivity to value.
9) Increased price sensitivity in nondiscretionary spending. As they age, many customers develop higher economic “literacy” and skillfully apply it to get the best price. In purchasing “need” items, older customers tend to be more bargain minded, whereas in purchasing “desire” items, they tend to be more value minded in a holistic sense.
10) Often project what seems to be contradictory behavior. Older people are sometimes characterized as selfish and selfless, penurious and profligate, spontaneous and deliberate, and so on. These conflicting attributes lead some to characterize older people as contradictory. For example, an older shopper may be penurious in using cents-off coupons in a grocery store, after which she drives off in a Mercedes. This is not evidence of contradictory behavior, but an example of the rules of thriftiness applied to basics, and the rules of whole value applied to discretionary expenditures.

The differences in customer motivations and decision processes between customers in the first and second half of life sometimes frustrate many marketers, who have yet to figure out how to market to older customers. Until recently, this was not a matter of serious concern because the young dominated the marketplace. The young are easier to sell to and analyze. Now, with adults over the age of 40 in the majority, marketers are being compelled to figure out the values and behavior of older customers. This story was adapted from MediaPost’s, “Engage: Boomers,” feature.