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.