Friday, November 30, 2007

Will Boomers Make 60 the New 60?

As we mentioned earlier this month, The Boomer Project is now writing a regular Op/Ed column about Boomers and their quest for the Fountain of Vitality.

Here is this week's piece on Boomers and health (of lack thereof).

Finally, Some Marketing to Boomers from Tech Giants

Cover story in the Money section of today's USATODAY reports on how technology companies are starting to realize Boomers and older adults have money to spend and will spend it.

The tide is starting to turn towards marketing to Boomers, again, finally.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Why Market to Today's Boomers?

Because that's where the money is, stupid.

According to a new study by The Conference Board:

  • Baby Boomers (1946 and 1964) have 43.7 million households, and more than two-thirds of Boomers have discretionary income, with the highest average discretionary income, at $29,754.
  • Two-thirds of Gen X-ers(1965 and 1981) have discretionary income, and the second-highest average discretionary income, at $22,562.
"Discretionary income" is defined as "those households whose spendable income exceeds that held by households with similar demographic features."

When we do the math, that means while there are only 29% more Boomer households than Gen X households, the average Boomer household has 32% more discretionary income than the average Gen X household. Or, put another way, for every $1.00 a Gen X household has in extra money to spend, a Boomer household has $1.32.

Wait a minute, you say. There are more Boomer households and they have more money per household to spend?

And now you know why we wrote the book. Class dismissed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Getting Boomers to Volunteer

The good news is that Boomers already volunteer at a higher rate than older generations, according to data from the National Corporation for Community & Public Service. The bad news is that they want completely different experiences from their volunteering efforts.

This short article explains what to do to attract and retain more Boomers. Here's the bottom line:

"Although accommodating, attracting, and retaining baby boomer volunteers may initially require reorganizing and rethinking current systems, these investments will reap huge rewards. If organizations will allow it, the generation that took social activism and industry to new heights will do the same for volunteerism."
If you're a non-profit, take a minute and read the piece.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The New Language of Boomers and Retirement

We'll make a bet with you. You aren't going to retire at age 65.

We're not the only ones who know it. Here's what the government predicts:

Reflecting the rising age of the boomers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by the year 2014 the number of people in the labor force ages 55 to 64 will increase by seven million. The number of people in the labor force age 65 and older will increase seven times as fast as the total labor force due, in part, to workers postponing retirement.
Given that stat, why then do companies try to scare Boomers into retirement planning use language like this in their marketing materials:
For today's boomers who are fast approaching retirement...
Boomers may be approaching retirement age, but they aren't approaching retirement. And they aren't doing it quickly -- the median aged Boomer is only 51. Heck, this sentence makes it sound like "retirement" isn't an optional step in life.

The question to the room is this: how can the government know it and businesses not?

Ameriprise and Boomers and Money

Ameriprise Financial released a new study called Money Across Generations (SM), trying to make the case that now is the time Boomers need to talk to their own adult children about the family money, retirement plans, and other financial issues.

Like most corporate research, this is a case of the study findings supporting the business goals of the sponsor. Ameriprise wants Boomers to come to them for financial planning. The findings here suggest those who plan are better off than those who don't (what a surprise).

This week, social networking site for 50+,, released another self-serving "study" of Boomers. This time about Boomers and sex. Of course, the press release positions the findings as representative of all Boomers, when in fact the study was only done among those Eons members. Whether you talk to 100 or 10,000 Eons members, you're not talking to a random representative sample of all Boomers. That's marketing research 101 stuff and Eons ought be be ashamed of themselves for misrepresenting their study.

Our caution to anyone out there getting excited about "national studies" is to be sure to take into consideration who is behind it. Many times, their agenda is showing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Boomers and Positive Messaging

In the book and in our sessions with companies and organizations, we talk at length about the need to "Be Positive" when developing marketing programs targeting older consumers. The reason is that older consumers will ignore negative images and messages -- they have essentially trained their brains over time to skip over things they know they won't want to retain for later use.

We didn't make this up. It's based on the academic and peer-reviewed work by Dr. Laura Carstensen, Professor of Psychology and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. For more than twenty years her research has been supported by the National Institute on Aging, so she knows of what she speaks.

Our point with marketers is that since the first rule in marketing is to "get someone's attention," if you're trying to connect with older consumers you better avoid stay negative images, words and concepts. But every day we come across examples of marketers that don't yet get it.

Here are two.

First, this print ad from Merck targeting older consumers ran recently in Parade Magazine. The headline reads (ominously): "I didn't know shingles had the potential to be serious. More importantly, I didn't know I was at risk."

This line, coupled with the photo of Mr. Happy Face, staring out at us, with a somber and serious color scheme, is exactly opposite of being positive. Based on Dr. Carstensen's research, we suspect Merck turned off more people than it attracted.

Another example is this TV spot from Australia for a hearing aid. The tone isn't quite as negative or scary as the Merck ad, but the approach is identical to most hearing aid advertisements -- let's focus on the problem, hearing loss.

Poor man, he can't hear, sits idly by during conversations, has a disappointed wife, and feels like a schmuck. Then he gets a hearing aid and his life is changed. (Odd aspect of the commercial: his voice-over is almost lost over the last scene with the crowd of people all talking at once -- if anyone watching has a hearing problem, they'll miss the call-to-action. It's enough to make you wonder).

Compare that hearing aid spot to the opening video at Phonak's Audeo "personal communication assistant" Web site. It's all about the positives of hearing, not the negatives of hearing loss. Very compelling, interesting and provocative. In fact, at no point in the video do they talk about hearing loss.

To us, the lesson is simple -- cast the message in the positive and you'll catch more fish. Maybe it is too simple a lesson to ever get learned.

New Boomer Project Column in Print

We were recently asked by Media General's Richmond Times-Dispatch to contribute a bi-weekly Opinion column.

The first one ran 11/1/07 and can be downloaded here.

The column is called "Viva the Vital" and will focus over time on how Boomers are in search of the fountain of vitality, not the fountain of youth.

We'll post the other columns the day after they are published.

Let us know what you think of it.

Animated Boomers

Time to take a break from thinking about how to market to today's Boomer Consumer and enjoy some humor and a little Steppenwolf.

What makes it so funny is that for many of us, it's true.

Any comments?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Baby Boomer TV Network Relies on Babies of Baby Boomers

This is one of those things we'd like to hear what you think.

AmericanLife TV network, a relatively small cable network targeting Boomers, has just launched a new advertising and promotion effort to attract viewers, advertisers and cable operators.

The campaign, developed by ad legend George Lois, features children of "famous" Baby Boomers talking about their parents. Lois gave us "I want my MTV" so he obviously knows how to enlist Boomers for creating demand for a cable network.

We haven't seen the spots yet, but wonder if other Boomers will find it interesting to hear the kids of Joe Namath or Susan Sarandon talk about their parents.

More importantly, why would that make us interested in watching another rerun of "Mission Impossible?"

Tell us what you think.

Helping Those Boomers Who Can't Help Themselves

Article today in The New York Times about a new educational advertising campaign targeting Baby Boomers from FINRA, the non-profit Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

The campaign, from the description, is apparently for all those Boomers (about a third) who haven't saved dime one for "retirement."

One small beef with the press release about the new campaign -- it starts with two false presumptions in one paragraph:

With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day over the next quarter century, FINRA believes it is crucial to reach out to baby boomers now, as they approach retirement. Recent FINRA Investor Education Foundation-sponsored research showed that seniors are targeted more frequently by investment fraudsters than younger investors.
Here's what is wrong. There's no way 10,000 boomers will be retiring every day over the next 25 years. First, that math doesn't even work -- there aren't 91 million Boomers, only 78 million. And second, Boomers aren't going to "retire" the day they reach age 62 or 65. If they had said "With 10,000 boomers reaching retirement age every day for the next 20 years," we might have let it go without a comment.

Maybe it's a nit, but we're big believers in knowing your audience.

The other presumption is that Boomers will be like previous generations of older citizens and get swindled by "fraudsters." That's annoying because it smacks of agesim -- that is, apparently when you get old you also get stupid. Boomers have been stupid about money and saving for a long, long time.

A more accurate assessment of Boomers and their money is that the greatest threat to a Boomer's retirement nest egg isn't a swindler, but a Boomer himself or herself. The number of Boomers who have drained their 401(k) accounts to buy a boat, RV or vacation home is staggering.

Hey, we're not saying educating Boomers about money is a bad thing. We want all Boomers to know what they are doing with their money. We just wish FINRA or their ad agency had asked for a little help in getting their own messaging on target with today's Boomer Consumer. We're available.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Boomer Women and Apparel Retailing

An article in last week's The Wall Street Journal about retailing to older women (and Boomer women), generated this discussion at

Essentially the debate is whether it is possible to create and market retail apparel brands to women over 35 today. Reading the various comments and you may come away with the same conclusions we did.

First, the people participating at are smart. Most comments ring true and offer sound marketing advice (in summary, don't treat everyone over 35 the same -- segment, segment, segment).

Second, this isn't easy and boomer women are a moving target. That means consumer research is probably worth the investment.

Third, when it comes to fashion and apparel, the older a consumer gets, the more inner-directed they become. It's less about what others think and more about what you yourself think.

We're not the first to realize this (see David Wolfe's book, Ageless Marketing). But we're not the last either, judging by the mistakes already made by retailers in this category.

Brands and retailers in all categories that understand that the underlying motivation for older consumers is satisfying the inner self will succeed.

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.