Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The shock of recognition: baby boomers as "seniors"

Over on Seth Godin's blog, he mentions that he will be speaking at an upcoming conference called "Marketing to Men, Women and Boomers". (Okay: are Boomers really a separate category from Men and Women? Come on: To the young men and womenfolk, we just look like we're out of play.)

In any case, Seth had an internal link to a post on marketing to boomers, in which he makes the argument that "traditionally" marketers haven't bothered marketing to seniors because of a belief that older people are closed to the new, just "trying to maintain the status quo." Open - presumed by marketers to be younger - people "are seeking out things that they believe will make their lives better."

Seth then suggests that because boomers have been open their entire lives, they will be worth marketing to:

Senior travel, senior fashion, senior experiences... it's all fair game, because there's a different demographic inhabiting that age group now.

First there's the shock of recognition (emphasis on shock) when I see boomer and senior brought together as equivalents. Hey, we're the baby boomers, the only senior we know is senior class. But the first baby boomers have turned 60, and while 60 is the new 40, I guess we qualify as seniors - or will shortly.

Whether we're seniors or boomers - and I'm still a proponent of the more youthful, buoyant label of "boomer, we're certainly seeing a lot of non-Polident advertising aimed at "us" - think the Dennis Hopper "Dream" ads. (Note that Hopper is a boomer icon to the first wave boomers but is, himself, a pre-boomer.)

A few observations on boomers:

One, we are obviously a huge chunk of the population, and thus it's just going to be difficult to ignore us. But within this huge chunk there are many sub-populations. Some of these are based on age. Let's face it, there's a big difference between a first wave boomer who remembers when the Beetles appeared on Ed Sullivan, and a last gasp boomer born in 1964 - the year the Beetles shook their mop tops on old Eddy's show.

It's not just the age subsets, either. There are obvious different groupings based on education, job, life experience, affluence, etc. The "classic" boomer that comes most commonly to mind is the group that came of age during Vietnam, protested on campus, spent a summer bumming around Europe courtesy of the $200 Icelandic Airline flight, didn't trust anyone over thirty, ended up getting a law degree, etc. (This is the group the Dennis Hopper ads are squarely aimed at.)

Well, for each boomer that fits this bill, there's the guy who actually went to Vietnam, not college, and made his living in manufacturing or a trade.

There's another point I'd like to make, and it's one that's consciously or unconsciously, alluded to when Seth writes  about "senior travel, senior fashion, senior experience."

Because if there's one thing about people in their 50's and 60's, it's that they already have enough stuff. We don't need dishes. We have enough earrings. We have enough pictures on the wall, enough flower vases. We have our dining room table, our living room couch. Sure, we'll open the wallet for electronics - iPods, iPhones, flat screens. We'll buy new cars. (Actually, "we" won't: I'm about to get rid of my car and am hoping I can go carless the rest of my life. The pleasures of living in a city.) But, basically, we have enough stuff. Enough stuff to last a lifetime.

But, for the boomers with the money for it, there will definitely be strong interest in travel and "experience."

You may not need a coffee table, but that doesn't mean you aren't interested in a trek to Machu Pichu. (I'm not so sure about Seth's "senior fashion" angle - comfy clothing that doesn't look like the comfy clothing our parents wore?)

In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens with all the marketing that we'll be increasingly seeing that's aimed at the baby boomers as we enter what happens to all of us - men, women, or baby boomer - and that's the final shopping sprees of life.


To read more on marketing to boomers, look here.

1 comment: said...

Here via 50+ Digital blog.

I had same reaction when I saw the graphic for the meetup: Men, Women, and Boomers.

I hate that you have now esculated Godin to Uber-Guru from just guru.

I wrote about the meetup and he made some lame comment about "even when he was wrong he made sense."

He's a boomer, but seems to be hiding from it, when he should be embracing it because of the business potential.

I was thrilled to see that Marti was a boomer - with gray hair - and proud of it.

The woman from Zimmer, the joint replacement people, looked like she may be 30.

Your comment about Hopper is a little dated, the newest to sell out is Bob Dylan for freakin' Cadillac!!!

It's so much fun to finally be coveted. :-)