Sunday, June 22, 2008

New Boomer-Focused Snack Food is Nutty

Frito-Lay has ventured into Boomer marketing with its first line-up of snacks targeted to Boomers. Called "True North," the line of all natural nuts and nut-based snacks are intended for Boomers who are looking for a more sophisticated and refined snack experience -- and can pay for it.

You can read about this week's launch at Brandweek.

Or venture over to the True North Web site for more information.

We'll be on the lookout for the print, TV and online efforts, to see how exactly Frito-Lay tries to connect with today's Boomer Consumer. At first glance, from the quotes in the Brandweek story, we're a little worried they've gone over the deep end by linking the current Boomer mindset towards self-fulfillment and self-respect and their line of nutty snacks. If they are treating it as a tongue-in-cheek connection, then we'll be okay with it. If they are serious about it, we're going to freak out about it.

People, get a grip. It's only a snack food.

The good news in this is that it is one of the few major players in consumer products to attempt to target a new product line entirely at Boomers. This could start a trend.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boomers Buying Brain Exercise

Data is in that the "brain fitness" software category is a $225 million industry, doubling the last two years, according to this article by the Associated Press.

By 2010, we think the entire "brain fitness" category, from software, books, gyms and who know what else, will be many, many times larger. Those same Baby Boomers who invented the physical fitness boom in the 1970's as young adults are going to spend billions on mental fitness as older adults.

Example: SF-based vibrantBrains -- which seems to have a good idea, but not an award-winning tagline:

A Health Club for Your Brain
Where the Sweat is Figurative,
but the Results are Real

Maybe their copywriter needs to use the brain gym a little more and try again...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Aging Boomers" are Going to be the Death of Us All

The good news is that this isn't a post about how Boomers are financially unfit and unprepared for retirement. The seemingly thousands of stories appearing every day are starting to get on our nerves.

The bad news is that this post is about the other major topic covered in the media daily about Boomers: we're getting older and unless we do something about it, we're all going to die some day.

Oh, the irony.

Two news items today reveal the broad scope of coverage. First, a nutty press release from a travel insurance consolidator and seller, It warns that "Aging Boomers May Prompt More In-Flight Health Crises." Then it states upfront that "Most of us will fly our whole lives and never experience a medical emergency. In fact, airlines typically don't even collect data on the numbers of passengers who become ill while taking to the skies because life-threatening situations on planes are so rare."

Okay, so it isn't a problem. So why is it news and why might "aging Boomers" turn it into a problem? According to the release, "Older passengers and those with pre-existing medical conditions are especially vulnerable to the impact of altitude."

Last we checked, most flights have a take-off AND a landing, so the altitude situation is temporary. Good grief. Talk about inventing a condition in the minds of consumers just to sell more product. Shame on them. Especially for trading on aging Boomers as the reason. As if we're senile enough to believe this. Ugh.

The second story is about the Kronos Longevity Research Institute's new "Gray is the New Gold: State of Science Report on Aging." Their goal is to understand how and why we age, and then to slow it down. This is going to be a big business over the next 40+ years as Boomers push longevity as long as possible.

We expect an endless stream of "news" about longevity tips and techniques over the coming years, from brain fitness products to the impact of bright lights on dementia.

We're dying to keep you informed about all of this. Even if it kills us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When "We" Boomers are "They"

Today in The New York Times, columnist David Brooks writes about "The Great Seduction." Money. Wealth. Debt. He writes:

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

Brooks cites a new report by the Institute for American Values and other think tanks called, “For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture.” He points out that our debt culture has made millions for many, and made the less fortunate more vulnerable.
Social norms, the invisible threads that guide behavior, have deteriorated. Over the past years, Americans have been more socially conscious about protecting the environment and inhaling tobacco. They have become less socially conscious about money and debt.
Blame gets placed just about everywhere: the federal government, Congress, the White House, state governments (lotteries), payday lenders, credit card companies, Wall Street and so on. Brooks also points readers to another article, "A Nation in Debt" by Barbara Whitehead, that summarizes the report.

What strikes us in all this is the people in charge of all of those institutions over the last 30 years haven't been Boomers. But "we" Boomers are now considered the "they" running all of those institutions now. It's going to be up to us to fix these things.

Unfortunately, our track record to date has been poor. Fareed Zakaria, an author and editor for Newsweek, in a story about "Getting Back to Growth" quotes David Gergen:
“With the end of the cold war, we saw a new, destructive kind of partisanship,” says David Gergen, who has worked in Republican and Democratic White Houses. “And for much of the past decade, we’ve kicked the can down the road on our big problems.”

Some of this is because of the narrowcasting of American politics, a process in which the extreme ends of the spectrum have been magnified and the center gets lost. Part of it, Gergen argues, is generational. “I have a distinct memory that the World War II generation really put country ahead of party. That is simply not the case with the generation in power now."
He's talking about Boomers. So are we going to do anything about it, or simple move aside?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Boomers, TV and Digital

The New York Times reports in "More Channels are Coming. Will Anyone Be Watching" that the move to the all-digital TV world opens up more channels and more opportunities for channels than ever before.

In some markets, local stations are already broadcasting 24-hour weather reports on their new digital channels.

A reader asked us today if this new availability will open up new opportunities for Boomer-focused content. The short answer is "yes," provided there are local (and national) marketers interested in a Boomer audience. Without advertising sales, it is hard to run a TV network for very long, no matter how large a niche it occupies

Already there are major media players (and others) investing in created Boomer-focused content. The largest and perhaps leader is Viacom's TV Land brand, which created new programming for the "TV Generation" like "Family Foreman," a reality show launching in July about the hijinks of George Foreman and his ten children (five of whom are sons named George II, III, IV, V, and VI). And don't miss the 2008 TV Land Awards on June 15th.

Then there is Retirement Living TV ("TV for Your Freedom Years"), the brain child of innovative senior living developer, John Erikson. Much of the programming feels older than Boomer-specific, but they have a new half hour newsmagazine show called "My Generation," produced by AARP at their world headquarters in Washington, DC.

The third player is American Life TV (with a vanity URL of, which runs classic TV as well as original programming. If you haven't seen an episode of "Land of the Giants" in the last 40 years, well, now you can. Our money isn't on these guys, yet.

The broader point is that the first generation raised in front of the TV isn't done with it yet.

Age Power: Boomers (and Older) Drive Box Office

This summer's initial blockbusters have starred older actors and actresses. Robert Downey Jr of Iron Man is 43. Harrison Ford of Indiana Jones is 65. The Sex and the City foursome are 43-year-old Sarah Jessica Parker; 42-year-old Cynthia Nixon; 43-year-old Kristin Davis and fabulous 51-year-old Kim Cattrall.

To mainstream media that means this is a trend. Read "Gray Becomes the New Black" which originally ran in the Detroit Free Press.

We saw this coming four years ago, and are delighted that Hollywood is waking up to the economic power of today's older Boomer Consumer. It is encouraging how far Hollywood has come in the few years since Roseanna Arquette's 2002 documentary "Searching for Debra Wringer" lamented how actresses over 40 were invisible in Hollywood.

Here's what we said back in August 2004 about the coming trend:

Hollywood, like Madison Avenue, loves youth and the young. Or at least that's been the case for the last forty years. But the success last year of "Something's Got to Give" with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, will spawn a new era in Hollywood where movies for maturing audiences, featuring (gasp!) maturing actors and actresses, will grace cineplexes everywhere.
The rest of our prediction back then was that once movies featured older actors, representing the Boomer audience, then shortly thereafter so too will mainstream TV commercials (beyond financial services and pharma).

We'll keep our eyes peeled for examples and report on them accordingly.

Meanwhile, we'll see you at the movies.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More "Age Wars" as Gen Xers Attack Boomers

Last week Gen Xer Meghan Daum penned an Op/Ed for The Los Angeles Times called "The millstone of Boomer milestones."

It's a doozy. Some snippets:

As a member of Generation X, I should know -- I've been strong-armed into an appreciation of '60s and '70s pop culture my whole life. There are an estimated 76 million boomers (10,000 babies a day on average, born between 1946 and 1964), while we Xers (born between 1965 and 1982) number a paltry 48 million. So boomers set the tone for everyone. Their tastes, needs and values are considered America's default setting. They turn 60, and it warrants magazine covers. They get a cold, and the world sneezes with them.

So privileged is this group, they've been allowed to change generational labels the way they changed their (always "groundbreaking") clothing styles. They've been known, in whole or in part, as the Dr. Spock Generation, the Free Love Generation, the Generation That Changed America, the Me Generation, Hippies, Yuppies, Bobos and, to certain members of Gen X, "moronic aging hippie posers." Despite having grown out of the category years ago, they remain, thanks to a certain iconic TV show, etched in the popular imagination as forever "thirtysomething."
But wait, there's more. The piece generated a firestorm of mail -- almost from Boomers, navel gazing and complaining.

We find this "war of the ages" amusing. Under someone loses an eye.

Five Things Retailers Need to Know about Boomers

We were recently interviewed for the June cover story for STORES magazine, the trade publication of the National Retail Federation.

You can read the entire article here.

The "five things" are:

  1. Boomers have two faces -- that is, there are leading edge and trailing edge Boomers, and because they are at different life stages, they have different needs from retailers. Don't treat them as a single group.
  2. Single Income = Multiple Prospects -- fully One-third of Boomers – some 25 million people – head up single-income households. Careful, though: that doesn’t mean there’s only one person in the household, just one less person. More importantly during these difficult economic times, single-income households don't have brand preferences that are as strong as dual-income households. That means retailers trying to gain share from a competitor might be more successful luring uncommitted single-income Boomers. But what retailers out there are marketing to single-income Boomers?
  3. Boomers are Zealots About Media -- they consume it all, but do so differently than younger consumers.
  4. Grandparent Boomers are Nana from Heaven -- over 37% of Boomers are already grandparents. The average age of a Boomer who is a grandparent is 53. Oprah is 53. We're not talking about Estelle Getty from The Golden Girls. We're talking young, vibrant, active spenders -- especially on their new grandkids. Opportunities abound.
  5. Target the Pepsi-Turned-Pepcid Generation -- There is a large underserved "middle market" of Boomers (McKinsey calls them "U-Boomers"). Figure out how to target them and you'll be in business.
Let us know what you think of the article, and tell us about any retailers you've come across that seem to understand the Boomer opportunity.

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.