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July 10, 2017 Talking Points

Why spending all your marketing dollars on Millennials is bad business

Andrea Obston

Chasing Millennial dollars is trendy. Catching Baby Boomer dollars is good business. Millennials may be the shiny thing, but Boomers are still the ones who spend.

Those of us over age 50 are responsible for 50 percent of all consumer expenditures, but clueless marketers are only spending 5 percent of their ad dollars on us, according to Forbes.

And their article, “Marketers Throw Out The Baby Boomers With The Bathwater,” goes on to point to a recent study by the University of Michigan that says “marketing campaigns targeting Boomers are twice as likely to be successful as those targeting Millennials.” Yet, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calculates that less than 15 percent of companies have developed a business strategy focusing on them.

Many marketers are not getting the message, though. They see my generation as the sole providence of ads about adult diapers and emergency medical alert devices.

Those who get it will benefit. Consider the case of Stitch, an online dating, activity and travel community for those over 50. Their founder, Marcie Rogo says: “[Boomers are] brand loyal. This is what I love about them. If they trust you as a brand, they will stay with you. They're not going to hop around like Millennials.” Stitch was started two years ago and now has 50,000 members in 50 cities worldwide.

The 77 million Baby Boomers still pack an economic punch. Smart marketers should be looking for ways to tap into the spending of the generation. Here are a few tips to make that happen:

Take advantage of brand loyalty — Boomers are loyal to the brands that have proven themselves over time. They are at the stage in their lives when they value products that have always come through for them.

I'm on my fourth Camry; my third LG smartphone and I buy Dannon yogurt by the case because, frankly, I don't want to spend my time considering the alternatives. I stick with those products because they work, and I prefer to fire up my brain cells for more important decisions.

Go for the up-sell — My generation looks for ways to make our lives easier. Once you prove that your product can do that, we're probably open to some upselling. If Dropbox makes my life easier, you can convince me to pay a little more for extra storage. And, remember that upselling me on something I already like is a whole lot easier than bringing in a new customer.

Reward the loyal spender — Whether it's frequent-flyer miles, cash back on my credit card spends, or points for my Victoria's Secret card (yes, old people like nice undies, too) I like the idea of a reward for that spending. Since you already know we Boomers are brand loyal, how about sending us a little love to reward us for all that spending? It will keep us coming back.

Take advantage of traditional marketing and sales tactics — Older Boomers still watch and give credibility to what they see on TV and in the newspapers. They may be reading those papers online, but their content still conveys a sense of credibility. Use those vehicles for both advertising and public relations campaigns.

Understand that “I'm worth it” resonates — Baby Boomers feel they have earned their position in life. And, whether we are retired or still working (like yours truly), we believe we've reached an age where we have worked hard enough to splurge. And we do. According to AARP, U.S. adults over 50 spend $3.2 trillion annually and have accumulated $15 trillion in financial assets, which is greater than the total GDP of countries such as Italy, Russia, the UK and France.

Realize that Boomers are used to redefining what it means to be their age. The sheer size of my generation has always meant we could redefine how things were done, what rules were okay to break and what was okay to wear (heck, who do you think made jeans okay? Before us, they were the province of cowboys and farmers). We have, in fact, reinvented every stage of life we've entered and changed everything from entertainment, to fashion, to parenting. And, no matter if we're working or retired, we expect to redefine what it means to be our age.

Use social media Boomer style — It's a misconception that we don't use social media. Most of us (82.3 percent, in fact) belong to at least one social networking site, according to the marketing agency DMN3. But you won't find us on the same channels as our kids or their kids.

While a 23-year-old may use Snapchat or Instagram to post photos or videos of their wild night out, we stick to Facebook and YouTube to post images and videos of where we go, what we do, and how superior our kids are.

Embrace the fact that Baby Boomers read — We grew up reading text and we're comfortable with reading full ad copy. Reading is a hobby that many of us actually enjoy. So we're okay with a more text-heavy message in your ad. 

Andrea Obston is president of Bloomfield-based Andrea Obston Marketing Communications.

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