The Over 50 Market:
To Market Older, You Better Get Wiser

by Michael Ogden

Marketing to baby boomers is not the same as marketing to their parents. Learn the difference.

Many industries like banking already target the over 50 crowd and reap mega profits. They call it the mature market or senior marketing. The trouble is, aging boomers don't fit neatly in this category. For them, age is only a number and "senior" defines who their parents and grandparents are. So if not seniors, what do you call the biggest, most powerful generation in the world advancing toward old age in massive numbers?

"Boomers will be teenagers till the day they die," said Phil Goodman, founder of the Boomer Marketing & Research Center in San Diego and boomer guru to companies like USA Today and the Fox Network. "Senior marketing as a term needs to be dropped off a cliff. Boomers will never be like their parents and grandparents. In their mind, they'll always be young."

Boomers defy a clear, concise description. No one label fits them. Some are married with small children. Others are grandparents. These children of the radical, free spirited '60s and '70s are dating longer, marrying more than once, into family activities, health and fitness, staying young and doing things their own way.

Consequently, for companies targeting the over 50 market, aging boomers seemingly present a marketing conundrum



Downage Your Market

If there's one thing you can bet the farm on, it's that boomers will go kicking and screaming into old age. That denial isn't just good news for plastic surgeons. It also makes for a powerful marketing strategy.

According to Goodman, companies can reach boomers over 50 the same way they reached them when they were 35 or 40. "In nearly 11 years of research, the mindset has never changed."

Marketing tactics, however, will have to be modified. One size won't fit all when boomers populate the over 50 market. Successful companies will segment the market by life stages, lifestyle choices, interests and needs. Do they have young children? Are they trying to put kids through college? Save for retirement? Find someone special? Care for an elderly parent? Boomers want their individual needs addressed. They don't have brand loyalty. If your company doesn't provide what they need, they'll get it from somebody else.

Decision Maker, Not Homemaker

Another dynamic at work with aging baby boomers is the influence and decision making power of women.

"The boomer woman is a potent force," said Goodman. "And most companies aren't even getting it."

The impact Baby Boomer women have on product and service purchases cannot be understated. For starters, they're responsible for 80% of all leisure decisions. And it's boomer women, not men, who wield the most influence on matters involving the children, the family's health and wellness, the house, careers, even the election of a president. It was boomer women (mostly soccer moms) who put Clinton in the White House.

As Baby Boomers cross the 50 year-old barrier and create a dynamic market of older consumers, companies would be wise to recall who has the most decision making authority and to direct their marketing efforts accordingly.

If your business has been targeting the over 50 market for some time, you've been enjoying your golden years. Once the Baby Boomer generation enters the market, everything will change from the market's sheer size to the dynamics at work. Every industry will have to rethink its product offering and the way it markets. Of course, your company will be ready.

After all, in the year 2000, you'll be older and wiser.

 
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