Baby Boomers are identified between the ages of 52 to 70 with birth years from 1946 to 1964. Until the Millennial generation started to come of age, Boomers were always considered the hot market prospects—they were a large cohort that was going to dynamically move the marketplace as they were aging out of the workplace and enjoying greater wealth than any generation. Boomers were going to change the world.
But now, it seems like we’ve forgotten Boomers and only want to focus on the younger, hipper, trendier Millennials. While Millennials represent the largest generational cohort by sheer number–83 million aged 21 to 39—Boomers remain a significantly large proportion of the population at 74 million strong. And the fact is, Boomers represent broader opportunities as they have significantly more spending power.
Boomers Hold Financial Power
Millennials, with their lower incomes, also have financial responsibilities that place a burden on them, such paying off student loans, having young families or supporting others. And while not all Boomers are on easy street, in general, they have more income, more assets and more access to credit than other generations.
Not only do still-working Boomers earn 70 percent more than Millennials, they command financial power in other areas:
- 55 percent of Boomers earn more than $50K/year (Natural Marketing Institute [NMI])
- Boomers own 63 percent of U.S. financial assets (MRI, 2014)
- Boomers account for 51 percent of all consumer expenditures (2015 U.S. consumer expenditure study)
However, according to AARP, only 10 percent of marketing dollars are targeted toward Boomers. This is a broad potential of overlooked opportunity space.
Not All Boomers are the Same
It is important to remember not all Boomers are the same, and they are affected by different interests, intentions and influences. A wide range of lifestyle dimensions make up the tapestry of a Boomer’s life. NMI’s proprietary Health & Wellness segmentation, used to segment the U.S. population for almost 20 years, shows the breakout among the general population and how that is distinct among Boomers.
Well Beings are the most proactive and health-engaged segment, comprising one-quarter of the general population and about two-in-10 Boomers. Two groups index high among Boomers: Food Actives, those who seek products they feel are inherently healthy as they prefer a balanced lifestyle; and Magic Bullets, who are the least healthy group, and are a prime target for products and services that can help them manage health issues and fill their need for quick and effective solutions. These two groups require different marketing approaches, and have unique needs and wants.
Physical health has a significant impact on both consumers’ day-to-day and long-term focus, and plays a key role in attitudes, behaviors and spending patterns. Physical health is far-reaching as it encompasses a wide array of products and services, such as food, beverage, over the counter (OTC), supplements, prescription drugs, medical devises, lifestyle products and more.
As a group, Boomers say they are on top of and in front of their health: NMI research showed more than eight in 10 indicated they are taking more responsibility for their health compared to 10 years ago. The prime motivations driving them to be proactive include a desire to be in their best mental health, to remain independent, to be in their best physical health and to live a long life.
Boomers are yearning for better health, and desire tools and techniques for living longer and living better, but how are they actually doing?
Self-Reported Rating of Boomers’ Health Shows Rapid Decline
Boomers’ self-reporting of their health continues to decline. In addition, one-quarter of Boomers indicate they are less healthy than they expected to be at this age.
While these appear to be alarming statistics, several influences affect these attitudes. Have we set an unrealistically high bar, so Boomers feel they are falling short? Have we created such a strong youth culture that Boomers are shocked when they truly start the inevitable aging process? And are we just diagnosing disease states that for decades have been going undiagnosed?
Everyone knows what steps will help keep them healthy, but it is human nature to not always take those steps. Over 70 percent of Boomers say they “know what I should do to be healthier, but I don’t always do it.” One key example is exercise: 90 percent of Boomers say exercise is a primary way to promote healthy aging, but 40 percent say they don’t exercise enough. So, what can brands do to turn these challenges into opportunities?
Boomers Have High Brand Loyalty, but are Adventurers
The marketing mantra “buy early, buy often” refers to the idea that if a brand builds loyalty in a younger person, then it will have them as loyal users for life. This is impactful as almost 70 percent of Boomers say they tend to be consistent and loyal brand buyers. So even reaching and influencing 52-year-olds who are at the front of the Boomer cohort could pay off for a brand that meets their needs.
At the same time, about three in 10 Boomers identify themselves as early-adopters—those who are eager to try new products and services. Therefore, marketers should not be wary to reach out to Boomers with new ideas and products. A few examples of how Boomers express appeal for leading-edge products include the following: brain-training programs to improve brain health (64 percent of Boomers interested); 47 percent are open to electronic/technology products related to health and wellness; and 40 percent are eager to try small, wearable devices to measure heart rate, respiration, etc. But again, when considering targeting Boomers with new products and services, keep in mind that all Boomers are not alike, and their distinct needs should be addressed with distinct and targeted motivations and benefits.
Boomers Hold Optimistic View of the Future
Most Boomers (69 percent) believe the best years of their life are still ahead, and 77 percent say they are in control of their own destiny. With over US$3 trillion in spending power, this cohort is ready and willing to take control. Known for their resilience, Boomers are not giving up without a fight. Boomers’ mantra to stay “forever young” creates opportunities for a plethora of industries to help them retain their youth, independence, vitality and fulfill their desire to have a continued impact on society.
Steve French (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing partner of the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI, nmisolutions.com), a strategic consulting, market research and business development firm specializing in the health, wellness and sustainability marketplace.