Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Population Resources

The Population Reference Bureau recently released their World Population Highlights: Key Findings From PRB’s 2007 World Population Data Sheet. (You can download the PDF here.)

Lots of relevant information, even if you aren't a demographer. Two key items jumped out at us, and have implications far beyond marketing:

  • Practically all of the population growth in the last 40 years, and projected for the next 40 years, is in "Less Developed" countries. In fact, "More Developed" countries like most of Europe and Russia are shrinking, and will be smaller by 2050.

  • The United States is the one "More Developed" country with a large enough fertility, or birth, rate to sustain its population. Almost all other "More Developed" countries, like Japan, Italy, Canada, Spain, Russia and dozens of other European countries, have birth rates below the population replacement rate. In other words, all of those countries are running out of their most precious natural resource, their people.

This birth rate dynamic helps explain why the median age is increasing so rapidly in many countries (the other part of the explanation is the "Longevity Revolution" -- people are living longer).

The social, economic and political ramifications of this are enormous. But we'll leave that for others to discuss. Our focus is on the marketing implications.

Just as growth in the United States will occur in the "over 50" segment (instead of the 18-49 age segment) int he next 20 years, global growth in "50+" will happen in "More Developed" countries. But "Less Developed" countries will have real population growth.

Even China, with its long-time "one child" policy in place, is expected to shrink by 2050.

If your company or organization isn't looking at the numbers as part of your long-term planning, you're operating blind. These population trends have huge impact.

Here's a quick example: In the last few years, GAP Stores (GAP, Old Navy and Banana Republic) haven't been able to explain why same store sales have declined. We can. There are 11% fewer Generation X members as Boomers. Boomers have naturally reached an age where owning ten pairs of jeans is no longer standard practice. With fewer Gen Xers to buy GAP or Old Navy jeans, it is no wonder sales have declined.

Look at the numbers and think about the implications for your business.

Boomer Business Conference in Chicago

Matt Thornhill will be speaking at the upcoming Boomers Business Conference co-located at the Consumer Health World Conference in Chicago September 17-19, 2007.

BIGresearch will join with Matt to do a session called "Shopping 'Til They Drop: How Boomers Are the Future for Retailers - Understanding Current Data & Trends."

You can get a 30% discount off the $999 registration fee by clicking here and following the link at the bottom of the page (scroll).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Boomers are 50, Madonna Only 49

Based on the numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more Boomers born from 1956 through 1964 than born from 1946 through 1955.

Our back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates that yesterday, August 15, 2007, was the day the 39,000,000th (out of 78 million) Boomer turned 50.

So today there are officially more Boomers over the age of 50 than under.

Today, as any good Boomer knows, is Madonna's birthday. She, of course, is still a child at 49.

Seriously, think about it. This is what 49 looks like today? In honor of Phil Rizzuto, Holy Cow!

Update: Now we know how she maintains her youthful appearance. Typcial Boomer, better living through chemistry. Sigh.

Boomers and the Sixties

We got an email the other day from Mr. Bert Shlensky, a long-time veteran of marketing to Boomers. Bert had read the book and felt we underestimated the impact and importance of the leading edge Boomers, those born from 1946-54, who came of age during the creative and innovative era of the 1960's, embracing Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n Roll .

His sense was that those experiences shaped them into a unique and different segment of Boomers, which he wondered why we had not covered more in Boomer Consumer.

We responded to Bert that "You're right. In the book we do only give lip service into the impact of counterculture - protesting, drugs, social issues and their collective influence in shaping Boomer mindset – particularly the 50+."

We went on to tell him that "While you’re right that those are critical factors, we have struggled with how to quantitatively measure the real impact of them -- we know they helped shaped Boomers, but when we start to contemplate/measure their influence we find ourselves in a Purple Haze."

(Okay, so we think we're funny).

In truth, the book intentionally focuses more on understanding all 78 million of today's Boomer Consumers than trying to make sense of those Boomers who came of age in the early 1960's. We discuss the key cultural experiences that bind together all Boomers; but we also point out some of the differences between leading edge and trailing Boomers.

Bert responded that his hypotheis is that leading edge Boomers are very different. He thinks they:

  • have less traditional lifestyles and job histories
  • are more cynical and less trusting of everything including media
  • are more innovative

Anyone want to weigh in on that?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Next Up: Ann Taylor

A few years ago GAP, Inc. attempted to launch a new retail concept aimed at "women over 35," which most of us in marketing translated to mean Boomer women (who think of themselves as barely 35, even though they are older now).

The concept failed, but not from lack of demand. Boomer women spend some $43 billion annually on apparel. It failed, on the most part, from lack of attention and marketing by GAP, who is still trying to figure out how to resuscitate the core brands: Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic.

Now comes apparel giant Ann Taylor to fill the void, according to this news story.

Let's hope they do a better job of merchandising, marketing and promoting the new effort. We'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Research Misused and Abused

The folks at Eons issued a press release about an online survey they did among their "members" with the headline:

Eons Fitness Survey Shows Boomers Haven't Lost a Step in Their Quest for the Fittest Life Possible. The Generation That Founded the Fitness Craze Remains Active, Healthy and Fit, Survey Shows

Sounds great and encouraging. But it isn't true at all.

That's because it's not a valid study of "Boomers" at all (despite the headline). In fact, while they say that it is a survey among their members, they never say that the results are not indicative of how Boomers on the whole might think, feel or behave.

In fact, the real truth about all Boomers, according to legitimate research, from the CDC's annual Health, United States, 2006, shows the opposite to be true -- Boomers are on the whole not in good health and aren't taking care of themselves. And they don't exercise.

Acccording to the CDC, 7 out of 10 Boomers are overweight, and as we reported back in February in our Boomer Project newsletter:

While data for the specific ages of Boomers in 2006 (ages 42-60) isn't readily available, we can look at the 45-64 age segment as a substitute. It doesn't paint a pretty picture.

First off, among those ages 45-64 in 2006, would you believe 65% said they never get 10 minutes of physical exercise that gets the heart rate up. Some 22% report that they get that kind of physical exercise 3+ times a week, and 13% fall in-between.

It follows, then, that among those ages 45-64, 69% are considered overweight or obese based on their Body Mass Index, or BMI. Only 30% have a healthy BMI and 1% are underweight by that measure.

The lesson in all this is that there is legitimate consumer research and there is illegitimate research palmed off on an unsuspecting public as legit.

Needless to say, this burns us up. So much so, it's the topic of Chapter 14 in our book.

Please, people, let's be careful out there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tylenol Has Timing

There's a new TV campaing from Tylenol, featuring the people who "make" Tylenol, promising that they don't make store brands.

A couple of comments:

First, while not specifically targeting Boomers, this new effort from Johnson & Johnson's brand couldn't have been timed better. With all the product recalls and quality questions coming out of products made in China for human (and animal) consumption, either this is lucky timing on their part, or a fast and smart reaction to current events.

We don't know if store brand pain relievers are made in China, but based on what is made there, it is likely.

In any event, even if everything "Made in China" was perfect, this strategy of combatting store brands is smart. Most consumers think acetaminophen is the same, no matter the brand on the label. What we like about this effort is that it is for consumers of any age, or "ageless" as David Wolfe calls it, or "age neutral" according to Dick Stroud. This is what more brands should strive for in their messaging.

So on the one hand, it is simply smart advertising for a venerable brand to fend off all pretenders.

But our second comment is the other hand: Claiming that what makes Tylenol different is that their people are different -- somehow caring more or having stronger values because they refuse to make store brands -- is a bit of a reach. Do these on camera employees really get a say in deciding if the company makes store brands or not?

We're reminded of a long dead campaign from Bank One where the tagline was "2,000 people who care." As they acquired more banks in more states the tagline grew until it ultimately became "18,000 people who care." Who believes that? Surely there is one person out of 18,000 who doesn't give a damn.

It's difficult if not impossible to use "our people are different" and have it mean much for today's jaded consumer at any age. Unless, of course, your "people" all have an extra digit or some other extraordinary feature.

Kudos for Tylenol for good timing and an overall smart strategy. But no kudos for the use of their people.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Columnist Robert Samuelson of Newsweek and The Washington Post wrote a biting commentary the other day about how the presidential candidates are ignoring the issue of an aging population.

His belief is that the transformation happening in America is not only inevitable, it is obvious and predictable and requires immediate attention. From 2005 to 2030 the population of people over the age of 65 in the U.S. is expected to double to over 70 million. Despite the facts, no one seeking public office has anything to say about the impact this will have on two of the largest government programs in existence: Social Security and Medicare.

Samuelson goes on to observe that while politicians aren't willing to get near this hot potato, at least the "think tanks" should be all over it. But, alas, he reports that they really aren't doing their job.

He challenges them to band together, three liberal and three conservative think tanks, and put forth what each thinks should be done now. He's given them until April of next year to publish their opinions. Then, the challenge falls to each party's candidate to address it in their campaign.

We've predicted in the book that Boomers will be the ones to solve both Social Security and Medicare before they go belly-up. Maybe this is an important step in the process -- some public gauntlet throwing.

Way to go, Bob.

Valuable Insights into the Hearts, Minds and Wallets of Today's Baby Boomers

This blog is by the authors of Boomer Consumer: Ten New Rules for Marketing to America's Largest, Wealthiest and Most Influential Group, on sale now.

Here is where you'll find information referenced in the book, as well as updates, news and perspectives from Matt Thornhill and John Martin, founders of the Boomer Project.