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Capture The Boomer Zeitgeist

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Las Vegas

Between the year 2000 and 2060, the age 65+ segment of the United States population will grow from 35 million to 86 million, said Brent Green, a Denver marketing expert on the 77-million-strong baby boomer generation.

That growth will be due to baby boomers moving into their mature years–a move that Green believes businesses need to heed.

Generally, boomers are not mentioned in the media unless it is in a negative way, he told the CSA Summit 2005 here. The Summit is the annual meeting of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, Denver, Colo.

For example, they have been called “greedy” and “the worst generation,” he said. And, marketers have often wrongly perceived them as a homogenous market (all are college graduates, for example); self-absorbed and narcissistic; avoidant of civic engagement; and intensely involved in conspicuous consumption.

Yet they represent 30% of the population in 17 states, are quite diverse and stand to control a huge portion of the nation’s net worth, he said.

To address this market segment, businesses need to look at who the boomers are–not by the negative images assigned to them but by their own characteristics.

For instance, throughout their lifetimes, “boomers have impacted art, fashion and music,” Green said.

They led to the development of the “youth culture,” the age of entrepreneurship (Microsoft, Dell), the demise of many old taboos and customs, and growing attention to art, design, and experimenting, he continued.

Further, how boomers define “success” is different from previous generations. This affects views on marriage, fitness, clothing and more, he said.

As boomers age, they are more responsive to emotional cues, Green said. They are reactive to deeper metaphors, tolerant of ambiguity, and are autonomous, less culture dependent.

“They are not responsive to the hard sell,” he added.

So, what should the marketer do about this? Embrace the ideas the boomers are expressing, he said. Use emotional cues and metaphors. Focus on experiences. Avoid hard sells and appeals to acquisition.

“Also, demonstrate commitment to positive change in the world,” Green continued. Communicate the value of freedom. Differentiate with integrity. “And use rock and roll to pull it all together.”

He called this “capturing the boomer Zeitgeist,” or the “taste, outlook and spirit” of the generation.

He terms the values of this generation “LOHAS values,” which come from a “lifestyle of health and sustainability.”

Many boomers are committed to LOHAS, he said, referring to boomer interest in preserving and protecting the environment, human health and development, spirituality, social responsibility, recycling, and socially responsible investing.

“They also tend to buy from companies that relate to their values,” Green said.

One direct mail campaign he created sent out letters that voiced those values. It was designed to sell to the mood and ideas that are part of deeply entrenched boomer values–offering a product “to help boomers achieve a balanced, harmonious life.”

The campaign was a success, he said, attributing that to the fact that it was driven by art, naturalism, intuitive thought, self improvement, autonomy and holistic experience.

The most influential boomers, about 10 million of them, have many characteristics in common, he continued. For instance, they tend to be politically centrist, college educated, interested in the equality of women and men, civically involved, early adopters, have experienced grief, active travelers, and future oriented.

His firm did a campaign for a fine arts club that wanted to attract this market, built around this Zeitgeist, and “results happened,” he said.

However, Green was careful to caution that not all boomers are in the influential 10%. In fact, he said, many have “an extraordinary deficiency in savings,” and one-third of boomers are broke (having $10,000 or less). Some have been caught in the pension meltdown, he said, and others have fallen into the equity loan trap or been forced into retirement due to outsourcing.

In 2065, after the last boomer turns age 100, there will still be over 2.2 million boomers alive, Green concluded.

Today’s businesses should be looking to meet the needs of senescence, optimize late life happiness, and help boomers enjoy a good and meaningful life, with equal treatment throughout society, he said.

The boomer generation tends to display ‘LOHAS values’–i.e., a lifestyle of health and sustainability

Tips for marketers

==Embrace the ideas they are expressing.

==Use emotional cues and metaphors.

==Focus on experiences.

==Avoid hard sells and appeals to acquisition.

==Demonstrate commitment to positive change in the world.

==Communicate the value of freedom.

==Differentiate with integrity.

==Use rock and roll to pull it all together.


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