Thursday, March 27, 2008

More Suspect Research on Boomers

It's embarrassing to return to blogging after a long absence and the first entry has to be a rant. But alas, that's the case.

Quite frankly, we can't decide if we should be angry or just appalled by some new "research" by FH Boom, PR-giant Fleishman-Hillard's boomer-focused initiative, and the National Marketing Institute.

The key findings, as shared in their press release, are that Boomers at age 70 will behave differently than they do now. Stop the presses! Not.

Besides being a blinding glimpse of the obvious, it is completely worthless data because there isn't a Boomer alive today (oldest Boomer is 62 in 2008) who can tell anybody anything with certainty about their attitudes and purchasing behavior 8+ years in the future. There's actually a line in the release that says the study "gives marketers new insights into the Boomer consumer at age 70." How can they provide "new" insights when no Boomer is age 70 yet? Baffling.

It's like asking 1,100 15-year-olds how they plan on raising their children. They don't know. They aren't at that stage of life yet. Anything they tell you could change five hundred times between now and when they have children. Plus, the world will change between now and then, impacting behavior and attitudes.

Our guess is that FH Boom did the study to try to make a business case to marketers that they need to stay on top of Boomers, who are a moving target. Plus, it makes for fun reading in the paper, so they'll get good press coverage on their stats.

But it is worthless data. What, pray tell, should or could anyone do with this insight today? Oh wait, we'll have to wait until 2016.


Anyone else have an opinion?


Chuck Nyren said...

Oh, be nice.
Like me.

Carol Orsborn, Ph.D. said...

Hi Matt,
You make a good point. That's why we sent this release with a Q&A addressing the futurist aspect to our media list. (Sensitive to our blog subscribers' in-boxes, subscribers only received the release.)

What we wrote: "Marketers understand that when consumers are asked to envision ten years or more from now, they are really revealing what they're thinking now. Marketers should take into consideration that boomers are starting to feel the pinch between the discrepancy between their aspirations and their realities. This will be a tricky time for marketers who engage in aspirational messaging--and once again, they will need to take extra care testing messaging with the boomer as moving target."

I like the way Chuck Nyren put it in commentary on our study.

"It's what Baby Boomers think they'll be doing in the future--not necessarily what they will be doing...What they think they'll be doing ten or twenty years could be helpful in marketing and advertising to them now."

In any case, I'm happy to be part of the discussion re the futurist agenda. In fact, our blog this coming week addresses some highlights (and lowlights) from a MetLife/AARP research study that projects out twenty years.

Finally, needless to say--we're switching you to our more formal media list.


Matt Thornhill & John Martin said...

Yes, we use a sharp stick and we aim for the eyes some times. But we do it to get a response.

We're glad Carol explained their additional caveat in their release to the traditional media. But since FH Boom is owned by a PR firm, they know it's a good chance the media will go for the sizzle in the "news" and skip the steak -- why, just like FH Boom did in their own blog.

That's what got our dander up.

Of course, we all want to be accurate predictors of Boomer behavior. We just try to stick with current behavior, and leave the crystal ball stuff to the gypsies.

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