Boomers: Ignore them at your own risk

Baby Boomers have never been known to settle for the status quo, so why should their retirement years be any different? Boomers continue to reinvent themselves and their lifestyles, forgoing rocking chairs to pursue new careers, new volunteer opportunities, new adventures.
Although their wealth is not what they anticipated – due in large part to retirement accounts and financial portfolios being dealt a deflationary blow by economic conditions – they continue to be an economic force to be reckoned with.
Businesses that ignore this viable – albeit graying – population segment are missing the boat.
To wit: Baby Boomers account for nearly $230 billion in sales for consumer packaged goods products, representing 55 percent of total sales, according to a Nielsen/Hallmark Channel survey.
While Boomer spending has increased 45 percent in the last decade, their counterparts younger than 50 increased spending by just 6 percent in the same time frame, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data conducted by The Boomer Project for USA Today.
So you would think businesses would be doing all they can to cash in. But many marketers prefer to aim campaigns toward those younger Gen-Xers and Millennials. Never mind that Boomers account for 41 percent of people buying Apple computers – a product, I dare say, that is anything but stodgy.
So what should a business owner do to tap into the Baby Boomer market?
Just because the majority of the 78 million or so Baby Boomers are now 50 on up, don’t assume they are ready to lead quiet lives. Residents of a new senior lifestyle center in the Pacific Northwest, for example, convinced the owners to make room in the parking garage for their kayaks along with their new-model vehicles.
Don’t pigeon-hole yourself by thinking your product or service will appeal to one demographic. Instead, ask, “How will someone over 50 use this product?” Baby Boomers are tech-savvy consumers and fearlessly adopt new technology as it arrives, marketing experts say. This is important whether you’re in IT or R&D.
If you’re using images of Baby Boomers in marketing materials, ensure they are relevant to today’s active older generation.  I remember cringing every time a certain commercial came on where the older woman was portrayed as an old-time farm wife complete with apron, sweater and ankle socks.
Baby Boomers are voracious readers, and that carries over to information about products and/or services they are about to purchase. They want to know more about a company they do business with, including its missions, visions and values. They even want to know who runs the company and who sits on the management team. And they want to know how the company gives back to its community.
Think you can pull one over on a Boomer? Think again! This generation has seen much and lived plenty. They can often spot an offer that is too good to be true a mile away (though not always). Marketing materials, be it a brochure, an ad or a full-blown media campaign, should be honest, truthful and transparent.
Make it easy for mature consumers to read your information by using easy-to-read layouts and type fonts. Consider adding a tool to enable Web users to enlarge print size. And you might want to rethink that Web design that includes lots of glitz and glamour. Consumers – especially older ones – are prone to clicking off sites with slow-loading graphics and/or pages.
Be cautious in how you address Baby Boomers. “Senior citizens” is more appropriate for veterans of World War II than for 55-year-olds who have just sent their last child off to college. It might sound trite, but 60 really is the new 40.
You know that triangular recycling logo that is now seen just about everywhere? It was introduced on the first Earth Day in 1970. So it’s no wonder that 80 percent of Boomers consider themselves as being green. The good news for businesses is that this population is also willing to pay more for environmentally responsible products, according to Matt Thornhill, founder and president of the Boomer Project in Virginia.
And lastly, remember that Baby Boomers are, in spite of themselves, getting older. They want products and services that will make their lives easier but that are still hip and happening. Are you up to the challenge?

Pam King is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming.


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