Thursday, September 29, 2005

Marketing to Boomers through My Eyes

In this post, I blend some of my writing with that of David Wolfe.

My First Point: Boomers Are Staying Active As We Enter Our 60's

A colleague of mine recently accused me of being as old as the dinosaurs. Actually I am just as old as Tom Peters, who is considered wise instead of old. Tom recently posted on his blog that he's heading off to a worldwide tour of speaking engagements ... his version of the TV reality show "Amazing Race."

Tom Peters is no less energetic than the snorting young bull he was at 32. And I point out that I still do my 60-hour weeks, plus author on 4 blogs, have two books in progress and still have time left over for family, church and fun. The wonderful thing is that we're not alone in actively pursuing careers at an age when our parents were thinking of retiring. The Boomer Generation is setting a new path.

Is Tom staying young? No.

Am I staying young? No.

We're just not getting older.

Think of John Barrymore’s immortal quote, “A man is never old until regrets take the place of dreams."

Ego sum erat. “I am where you will be,” is a phrase David Wolfe says he sometimes tells young people in marketing.

My Second Point: Boomers Understand Marketing to Boomers

This market segment is now the largest and wealthiest in the US and it officially turns 60 years old this year. While most companies still seem to be chasing younger generations, this is the one with the most extra cash to spend. But appealing to them is not so easy when you're not one of them.

As David Wolfe points out: "Unless someone has made an effort to show younger marketers life as seen through a lens polished by six, seven or more decades of life, young marketeers don’t really know where the Boomers are, or what they think or how they make purchasing decisions.

David suggests that the guidance of more seasoned minds is needed to figure out how to communicate to customers who are older, but think younger. David ponders how many marketing agencies commit time and resources to training the young among their staffs on how to market to the over-40 crowd?

Marketing client companies have no idea of how much money is wasted by marketing agencies that don’t have staff that is firmly grounded in what it takes to be successful in older markets ... imagine the wasted money when agencies use trial and error as a substitute for real-life experience. Getting into this type of customer's mindset must run deeper than skimming off "key insights" into consumers through conventional consumer research that comes up with "obvious" answers instead of real and compelling insights.

Marketers who are boomers themselves and who are still very active in their careers can be invaluable resources to agencies and their clients who want to tap this "older but active" boomer market. Fortunately, there are lots of experienced boomers who remain actively involved in marketing so there should be no shortage of this critically needed talent.


At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read your entry on marketing to boomers and it reminded me of an obsevation I made about ten years ago while working with the competitive intelligence group of a Fortune 100 company. It is this - the company was losing its corporate memory as all of the people who had reached an age of 50 or so evaporated from the staff. I saw this as a dangerous trend that I knew was happening in most large companies. I still do.
As an example, one day I was forced to listened to a conversation among four young men meeting in the next cubicle. They were all in their early to mid 30s. They were discussing a new electronics/communications product idea and they were completely energized by what they saw as the next big thing.
The flaw was the assumptions in their premise. They made blanket assumptions about what "everybody" has and cares about. It was clear to me that "everybody" meant young, suburban (mostly) males who had a fair amount of expendable income and were interested in spending it on flashy electronic devices. My thoughts were about the world of people who didn't fit that category and the fact they they were failing to notice them. The entire company was beginning, in fact, to lose its vision of its market at that time and it was, I believe, one of the things that led to a multi-year slide downward.


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