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Issue 33: Q3 2020 - OK Boomer

OK Boomer

Issue 33: Q3 2020 / September 30, 2020
Charlie Scott
Founder

This year, Conversations@Tangible has focused on different demographics, so with that in mind, this slightly more mature author has decided to shine the spotlight on ‘Baby Boomers’. Boomers are a large and wealthy demographic, so it’s worth understanding their preferences.

Sandwiched between the ‘Silent Generation’ and ‘Generation X’, Baby Boomers are defined as being born between the end of the Second World War and 1964 (making them between 56-74 years old at the time of writing). Boomers have grown up expecting the world to constantly improve because after WWII, many governments subsidised housing & education and spent on large infrastructure projects. Together with advances in technology, increased affluence and population growth (particularly in Europe and North America) Boomers have had a huge influence on culture and consumerism (read: Vance Packard: The Hidden Persuaders, The Status Seekers and The Waste Makers).

vance packard

Currently, Boomers in most developed countries are the second largest demographic behind Generation X, but hold the most wealth. So, whilst Boomers are ageing, they continue to be an influential and significant demographic.

What follows are some insights and recommendations when dealing with Boomers that may help the brands and younger generations understand and manage the Silver Tsunami.

(Author’s note: Apologies this article is US biased but the exponential growth of consumerism and marketing in America makes for a rich source of research.)


baby-boomersSource: Getty Images

To understand the demographic, here are four Boomer traits to take note of:

1. Boomers are difficult customers:

  • Boomers don’t shop to relax. Only 27% agreed with the statement: “I think shopping is a great way to relax.”
  • Boomers want convenience, placing a higher value on an easy-access location, easy-to-navigate store, and easy return policies.
  • Boomers have a pretty good idea of the price of things and how much they’re willing to pay, so they will call out brands they don’t see as offering value.
  • Boomers perceive little difference between competing products. This contrasts with the tendency of younger demographics to assert differences between products even when clear differences do not exist.
  • Boomers are the most likely to write off a retailer if the sales associate didn’t appreciate their business, if a store is messy, and if the returns policy is difficult.

2. Boomers are confidence shoppers:

  • Just 12% of Boomers said they rely on family and friends to help them decide on a purchase.
  • Only 37% of Boomers said they browse in-store.
  • Apparently, 84% of Boomers still prefer to shop in-store.
  • Boomers are less influenced by peer pressure, so ads that highlight social status don’t play well.

3. Boomers like facts & values:

  • On the face of it, Boomers might seem to be contradictory – they may use coupons to save a few cents and then drive home in a Mercedes. However, the reality is just that Boomers like to apply different rules to different situations. Thriftiness is applied to basics needs, while value is appreciated more when applied to discretionary spending.
  • Boomers are twice as likely as Millennials to be influenced by the popularity of an item when looking for something new.
  • As they age, Boomers want more facts than they did earlier in life. Years of buying have equipped Boomers with knowledge of what to look for and what information is needed for an intelligent purchase.

4. Boomers look for meaning:

boomer-search-for-meaningSource: Unsplash

  • Boomers respond to altruistic values (This tracks with aging shifts toward stronger spiritual values in which concern for others increases).
  • Boomer customers tend to be quicker than younger customers to reflect emotionally on a brand’s offer. So, if a boomer has a positive first emotional impression they are more disposed to be a faithful customer.
  • Boomers are more responsive to “companies with a conscience” than younger demographics.

Boomers’ attitude to money (UK & US Centric)

boomer financialWealth by Generation. Source: Fortune

Generally, Boomers have been financially successful and are the wealthiest generation. Having benefited from high salaries, free education, soaring property and investment values, Boomers have ridden the tide of economic growth across the decades with much payoff, making them experienced long-term buy-and-hold investors.

However, Boomers are not just hoarding their wealth. According to the Innovate UK blog, Boomers want to spend their wealth rather than simply save it for future generations. Seeing how Boomers appreciate value more in their discretionary spending, they are willing to spend and invest in new things, especially on experiences, services, health, and fulfilment. In fact, Boomers spend almost three times as much on holiday accommodation when compared to their children’s generation. Appealing to what Boomers prioritise at this stage of life can help brands win over some generous spenders who are looking for value, meaning, and engagement.


So, what do Boomers look for in brands?

A 2019 survey by Digital Marketing Community asked different demographics what they wanted from their favourite brands:

  • 30% of surveyed boomers reported that they want their brands to make them feel like valued customers.
  • 29% indicated that they need their favourite brands to produce eco-friendly products.
  • 28% of surveyed boomers mentioned that they want their favourite brands to improve their skills, knowledge and help them in simplifying their daily life.
  • 26% said that they want their favourite brands to provide them with innovative products.
  • 25% of surveyed baby boomers reported that they need their favourite brands to keep them updated with the latest news and products.

Morning Consult surveyed over 400,000 American consumers about which brands they thought had the highest likeability, trust, and community impact across generations of customers.

top 10 brands boomers

Among Boomers, three shipping brands made it to the top 5, followed by Amazon in 6th position. Hershey’s, AAA, Tide, and Cheerios rounded out the Top 10.

  1. UPS
  2. Home Depot
  3. USPS
  4. Lowe’s
  5. FedEx
  6. Amazon
  7. Hershey’s
  8. American Automobile Association
  9. Tide
  10. Cheerios

Boomers and Technology (US Centric)

The “OK Boomer” catchphrase and meme might be a misconception when relating to technology (Emphasis placed for my son’s benefit).

While many digital marketers target Millennials and Gen Z, less attention is given to the older generations. This may be a mistake, given where the wealth resides; approximately 70% of all disposable income in the U.S. belongs to baby boomers and they make up the second-largest segment by size and the largest by wealth.

boomer-technologySource: Getty Images

Social media stereotypically targets younger demographics but that’s not the entire story. Currently, 100 million (paywall) smartphone users will be aged 45 years and over. That’s 42.5% of the market share, so don’t forget the over 50’s; you just need to design your ads differently (simpler, bigger and clearer).

Boomers prefer easy-to-use interfaces, and will likely need things explained slowly. While Millennials and Gen-Zers have shorter attention spans, older generations are used to slower TV shows, commercials.

boomer-voice-assistantSource: Shutterstock

Voice assistant is perfect for boomers as using hands to type is already slow, cumbersome and outdated. The ease of voice search on smartphones and smart speakers is gaining traction. It has increased from 6.4 million in 2017 to 8.2 million users (up 28.6%) in 2018 within the boomer generation.


Do’s and Don’ts when selling to Boomers

Do’s

  • Keep language concise. Use bullet points, focus on value-based message and remain focused on simple messaging that is easy to understand.
  • Use Facebook; Boomers use Facebook more than any other social media platform.
  • Show a clear benefit; Boomers like proof your product is worth their money.
  • Explain concepts in detail. Generally, Boomers prefer videos that help them understand the messages and information.
  • Go mobile. Recent data show that Boomers aren’t so different from millennials when it comes to mobile phone use.
  • Make it bigger & clearer: Many boomers wear glasses so keep fonts sizes bigger than 16pt. Keep the contrast up, especially on websites and make those buttons bigger.

Don’ts

  • Use slang, Boomers are direct, so don’t be too clever.
  • Use the word “old” or “elderly”. Many Boomers are still having fun and don’t view aging as an issue to give up on looking for fun
  • Rely on chat-bots as boomers prefer real people. Boomers are keen to have clear return policies, so chat-bots are recipes for disaster.

 

In summary, Boomers are a big, rich demographic who have clear preferences and specific engagement needs. Ignoring them would be a mistake.

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