Marketers: Don’t Ignore Baby Boomers

October 18, 2011

I’ve often argued that marketers ignore the Baby Boom generation at their peril. By some estimates, boomers account for about 40 percent of consumer packaged good purchases – yet less than 5 percent of advertising dollars are targeted at the 35-64 age group (which includes the older half of Gen X).

The bias toward youth has long been part of the marketing business. The idea is that older people are set in their ways – less likely to try something new, and less likely to be influenced by marketing messages. Better to focus your marketing spend on the young and impressionable.

These days, however, marketers would be wise to pay more attention to boomers and beyond. Why? Because that’s where the money is. More than three-fourths of the nation’s household wealth is controlled by adults age 50 and above, and Americans in the 50-65 age group spend about 75 percent more each year than those aged 18-25. In addition, two-thirds of the boomers are expected to receive some sort of inheritance.

That’s the turf being worked by Jean Ketcham and C. Suzanne Bates, founders of Aging But Dangerous. Ketcham and Bates have built a business promoting events aimed at older women, such as colonoscopy parties and skydiving outings.

Their mantra is that older women are in the prime of life and ought to be prime targets for marketers.

On Thursday, Aging But Dangerous is staging its second annual “Dispelling the Myths of Age and Fashion Show,” featuring what Bates called a “kick-ass modeling squad” comprising nearly two dozen women aged 50 to 83. These power-packed sexagenarians and septuagenarians will bring “high-volume attitude and energy no mere kid could express,” Bates said.

As analytical tools become more sophisticated and the internet allows for real-time feedback on marketing campaigns, I expect marketers to become ever more skilled at slicing and dicing the American public into smaller, more focused niches.

But I’m with Bates on the big picture: the current crop of older Americans is more adventurous than ever, more willing to try new things. And with the financial power they hold, reaching out to them should be a no-brainer for marketers.