Friday, September 21, 2007

The Boomer Panic on Social Security Begins

Remember The Andy Griffith Show, with Sheriff Andy Taylor, Aunt Bea, Opie and Deputy Barney Fife?

Remember that Mayberry was an imaginary town in rural North Carolina somewhere?

In truth, Mayberry was modeled after a real place in North Carolina -- a nice little town known as Mount Airy, Andy Griffith's real home town.

And it's The Mount Airy News that gets our award for breaking the first story about the "run on Social Security offices" because the first Boomers start turning 62 on January 1, 2008.

Talk about making a "mount"-ain out of a molehill (sorry, couldn't resist)!

Some facts for the intrepid reporter (and any others to follow this path):

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 2,865,418 people age 61 in the U.S. in 2007.
  • There are 2,699,468 people age 62 (this year's batch storming the local Social Security offices).
  • The difference is 6%. Not exactly a "tsunami" flooding the streets.

On top of that, practically every survey ever done reports that Boomers do not plan to retire in droves, the second they reach some magic age. In fact, AARP just this week released a survey among workers over 50 and only 21% said they plan to stop working altogether by age 65.

So maybe the Mount Airy Social Security office can breathe easier knowing there really won't be a mad rush of 78 million Boomers come January 1st.

Of course, that gives Boomers more time to get comfortable with using those new-fangled computer things to apply for benefits online, according to the article (what!?!):

In advocating the agency's approach of steering people to the World Wide Web, [Tom] Bachmann [manager of the Mount Airy office of the Social Security Administration (on N. Andy Griffith Parkway)] admits that it's “not the easiest application in the world.” But it basically involves “yes” or “no” answers, he said. “As long as you're careful and pay attention, it works very well.”And the best part is “you don't have to wait in line,” Bachmann said.

Once the Social Security Web site is accessed, applicants can look to the left side of the homepage for a link to “Apply for benefits.”

“The Web site is there,” said Bachmann, “and if you're comfortable using it, we're all for it.”

Somebody shoot us. I mean, doesn't everyone know Boomers invented computers and the Internet?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baby Boomers Invented Computers

This week's Newsweek takes a dive off the deep end in another article in their series about Boomers. In this one, Boomers get credit for developing "the tech landscape" over the last 40 years. It's a little over the top for our tastes, and has awakened another round of Age Wars.

In our view Boomers have certainly contributed much to the computer and Internet age, but development of "the tech landscape" has more to do with a period in history than a generation. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did extraordinary things, no doubt, but on the backs of the work of other men, like Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard (by most accounts, the true fathers of high tech).

Where the premise of the article really fell apart for us was the last paragraph:

None of this would have happened if the technology itself had not ripened, and it was for the first time possible to build personal computers and write software for them. But the other element was the generational nature of its innovators [emphasis added]. The magic was that those two factors came together, and as a result, the early lives of boomers will become as quaint to their grandchildren as the tales of the boomers' own forefathers were to them.

Come on, doesn't every generation have innovators? Edison, Einstein, Henry Ford, Thomas Watson?

The kicker in the article is "it can be argued that the best-known baby boomer of all is the computer itself."

Thank goodness other commentators realize this is just too much, and are saying so.

We'll be on the lookout for the Generation X reaction, which we anticipate will be brutal, if not accurate. We'll let you know what we find.

Baby Boomers and Drug Use, Etc

At first glance, this is a fascinating op/ed piece in Monday's The New York Times called "This is Your (Father's) Brain on Drugs."

The premise is that teenagers are more responsible and have fewer drug arrests and binge drinking activities than today's 42-61 year-old Boomers. The data presented makes for a compelling story.

But the name of the author, Mike Males, rang a bell with us and we remembered he's a sociology professor at UC Santa Cruz and has been trying to "set the record straight" about today's Boomers for years. Here's a profile of him from the Los Angeles Times Magazine from last year.

Since at least 2004 he has been writing a new book, Boomergeddon, about the coming fall of Boomers. We can't find it on Amazon.com, so perhaps he's still working on it. He's appeared in several articles bashing Boomers (including this diatribe from earlier this year, Boomtastrophe) trying to get his message across.

We don't doubt that Boomers who experimented (and enjoyed) mind-altering drugs in the 1960's are still looking for a way to enhance their reality through a pill, booze or a joint. But some of his comparative statistics about increases in arrests and prison populations don't take into consideration that there are simply millions more Boomers than previous generations.

For example, in 1990 there were only 25,223,086 people age 45-54 alive in the United States. According to the U.S. Census, there are an estimated 43,834,784 alive today. That's a 75% increase in the number of people in that age range. So what's the big surprise that the larger population has produced more criminals than the smaller population would have back in 1990?

Now, we're not trying to explain away all his statistics, but just cautioning our readers to not get too swayed by his argument that we're all going to hell, sooner rather than later. Most Boomers probably believe there is still time to clean up their ways before it is too late. Plus, if Keith Richards is still alive, there's hope for the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Eons Cuts Staff

Wow, barely a week since we pondered if there was enough space on the Internet for all the Boomer-lifestyle "social networking" Web sites out there and the top dog, Eons.com, announces its second staff reduction.

Doesn't bode well for the late entrants to the category, does it?

Boomers Put "Old" on Hold

Today's Washington Post includes a special section about "Fifty Plus," focusing on Baby Boomers.


We're interviewed for a segment about Marketing to Boomers.


Also interviewed was Nora Ephron, the Hollywood producer and writer, who shares her thoughts on the downside of "getting older" (and she cautions against using the word "old," saying that using "older" is better and less painful to hear).

Dr. Leo Cooney, chief of geriatrics at Yale University School of Medicine, is another expert interviewed about life after 50. He is more encouraging than Ephron.

Recently, we spent time with Dr. Richard Lindsey, an accomplished geriatrics physician in his own right, who told us an observation from his years of work with older adults.

It's sobering news for ever older Boomers: Dr. Lindsey's experience is that once people over 50 start having health issues, especially with some sort of illness or physical limitation necessitating surgical or medical enhancement (think knee replacement, stent for an artery, blood pressure medicine, etc.), you never go back to a better state of health and fitness before your health issue began. In other words, you'll have a new "normal" and you'll spend the rest of your life trying to maintain it.

We think this will be a difficult reality for older Boomers to accept. Helping them through this stage could turn into another business for "coaching." We can see it now -- Health Coaches to help Boomers maintain some level of vitality.

Wait, it's already being done (by Bob, of course, but it feels more like a guru site than a real health coach). The folks over at myHealthCoach.com present a better case, but you can't try it out before you commit your first $45. We bet business isn't "booming" yet.

Actually, this could be great consulting gig for retired RN's paired with Nutritionists and Personal Trainers. Anybody heard of a good example in the marketplace? Let us know.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Boomer Consumer on the Radio

This past weekend Matt Thornhill was interviewed by "The Dolans" on WOR 710 out of New York on their nationally-syndicated business news show.


You can listen to the segment below. Obviously, Ken Dolan is a big fan of the book.

video

Friday, September 7, 2007

British Boomer Web Site

Fellow blogger and Boomer pundit Chuck Nyren pointed us to yet another new Web site focusing on the 50+ market, this time from England.


Wanobe.com has a nice look and feel, and may strike the right chord with an audience over 50. (Apparently it's pronounced "wa-no-bee" and not "want-to-be," which might be more appropriate.)

A question all of these "social networking" sites will ultimately have to answer is what defines success? Is it a million "users" or more? What is the audience needed in the Web space before advertisers consider a site worth their dollars?

What advertisers are these various sites seeking, if any? Are they competing for the same visitor and the same ad dollars, or have they sliced off a piece that they can uniquely deliver?

We doubt there are hard and fast answers to any of these questions, making all of these ventures shaky until some of this shakes out. Those will the patience and deep pockets to last through that period will win.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Boomer "Social Networking" Web Sites

History may record 2007 as the year Boomer Web sites boomed. (We suspect 2008 will be known as the year many of them busted, but that remains to be seen.)

As a public service, herewith are sites we've found that are attempting to woo Boomers online. So as to not sway your opinion, we're only listing the site name and tagline -- no logos.

If you know or hear of one not yet on the list, please let us know. We'll update the list as needed.

First, the list. Then some comments. As of September 5, 2007:


Boomer Site & Tagline
eons -- Lovin' life the flip side of 50
BOOMj -- Boomer Nation Lifestyle Network
reZOOM.com -- Redefining life for an ageless generation
Boomer Towne -- no tagline
Boomer Girl -- Welcome to the Club
eldr -- Celebrating aging
Redwood Age -- Think. Share. Act. Live.
BoomSpeak! -- Your whole life's in front of you
eGenerations.com -- Connect. Learn. Explore.
Boomer Time -- Having fun...while changing the world
Growing Bolder -- no tagline
Boomer Living -- ...enhancing the lives of Active Baby Boomers
TeeBeeDee -- Sharing Experiences to Thrive
Life Two -- ...Midlife Improvement
My Boomer Place -- Like MySpace, but better...for young people over 40
My Primetime -- Personal Trainer for Life
Second Prime Time -- Where people 50+ connect, create and contribute
Maple and Leek (UK) -- Live it up at 50+. Adventures start here...
GrownUps (NZ) -- 50+ Community



Plenty for Boomer Consumers to chose from, which means that not all of them will find success in the marketplace.

Now for some color commentary:

  • The fundamental issue for all of these sites is relevance to Boomers or someone over 50. We don't think being a Boomer makes you a member of an affinity group -- it's just a demographic designation. Given that, why would "Boomers" flock to a web site to mingle with other "Boomers." There needs to be a stronger, more relevant connection -- like life stage, marital status, hobbies, etc.
  • A quick click-through to all the sites and you'll see some that obviously have been well-funded and designed, and others that are perhaps more home-made. The top three at first glance in our view: reZOOM, BOOMj and BoomerGirl. Clean layouts, yet visually interesting and inviting. You want to click somewhere.
  • reZOOM hasn't gotten much coverage that we've seen, but we really like what they are doing -- City Guides and their $100,000 prize. Eons.com has been getting the coverage, but reZOOM is the one doing some real good at there.
  • We're not fans of eons.com's Obits section. It's the only site among this bunch that features anything about death and dying, which could make the site interesting to some. But we think it's a turn-off at this stage of 50+ marketing.
  • We find most of the taglines amusing but not helpful or informative. Chuck Nyren has already taken many of them to task in this post from last year.
  • The best name is "Growing Bolder." Says it all and is about an attitude, not an age or even a lifestage. Done right (and it's being revamped as we type this), it could be a real winner.

We'll keep tracking these Boomer and 50+ Web sites and let you know what's happening with them.

Baby Boomers Fountain of Youth

A little over a year ago we wrote in Jumpin' Jack Flash about Luigi Cornaro, the 15th Century Italian who "invented" calorie restricted diets as a way to live a longer life. He ate about 12 ounces of food daily beginning at age 40 and lived to 102.


We predicted that CR diets would become all the rage among some Boomers looking to live to 120 and beyond.

Lo and behold, this past weekend the San Francisco Chronicle ran a 4,000 word article about how Boomers are embracing calorie restricted diets as a way to obtain longer lives.

Next, we anticipate a food marketer, probably a small player, will introduce CRON (calorie restricted, optimum nutrition) offerings available at your local grocer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Generational Targeting: The Future

Brandweek reports this week that Wyndham Hotels is going to launch a new campaign targeting Generation X.

We will give them the benefit of the doubt that that is a smart business decision. More importantly, it provides proof that the next big trend in marketing will be generational marketing.

We think age-based marketing is going to fall by the wayside as more and more companies focus instead on different messages for the three major generations in the marketplace today: Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.

If only a trade publication like AdAge could figure that out.

Lusting for Baby Boomers

This week's Advertising Age includes another article about marketers' new-found interest in today's Boomer Consumer. This time, the focus is on new media vehicles.

This coverage is encouraging, but also disappointing.

That's because the young reporter, Abbey Klaassen, a 2002 graduate of Drake University (you can find just about anything using the World Wide Web), exhibits some "ageism" in her article, as well as out-of-date thinking.

An older reporter, perhaps Boomer aged, would have written a very different piece in both content and tone.

For example, Young Abbey (see, we can be ageist, too), says "Media companies have targeted boomers all their lives, but interest in the demo seemed to wane a bit as the majority of them approached their golden years."

A Boomer reporter would not refer to Boomers as approaching their "golden years." That term applies to someone in their mid-70's and older. The median age of today's Boomer Consumer is just now 50. The "golden years" is an outdated concept for anyone under 75.

Young Abbey writes that Web start-ups are targeting Boomers who are 50+, then she adds "And then, of course, there's standbys Parade, Reader's Digest and AARP magazine." [It should probably say "there are standbys" but everyone's an editor these days].

Again, a Boomer reporter would never claim those three publications as "old standbys" for their generation. The Boomer standbys are Rolling Stone, People and TIME. Just because a Boomer reaches age 50 doesn't mean they automatically stop reading what interests them in order to read some age-focused magazine.

The overall tone reads to us like Abbey (and her editors) feel that it is risky for media companies to focus content on the 50+ consumer. Again, that is out-of-date thinking. The bigger risk is ignoring Boomers.

How do you read it?

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.