Boomers: Don't Count Them Out!

Gen Y, Gen X, Echo Boomers, Millenials � Marketers seem to be fixated on these newer generations. Along with their integration of technology and new media into their lives, we are challenged by these generations in the workplace as much as the marketplace. However, according to Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich, Inc., the biggest mistake marketers can make is not paying attention to Boomers. Smith, along with Ann Clurman, has authored a new book on Generation Ageless (2007, Harper Collins), documenting the continuing impact of the Baby Boom on the way we live.

Why is this? The sheer weight of numbers: there are 78 million Boomers in the U.S. today. Compare that to other current age cohorts of about 50 million each (52 million Matures, 57 million Xers and 51 million Echo Boomers) and the Boomers dominate society. Just for context, the book considers:

  • If the Boomers living in New York City alone were a city of their own, they would be the fourth largest city in the U.S.

  • In 1965 (Boomer-time) 36% of the population was 18 years old or less. In 2000, 18% of the population was 18 years old or less.

  • Today, about 12% of the population is 65 or older. In 2030, more than 20% of the population will be 65 or older.

  • The Boomers� $2 trillion-plus spending power is larger than the GDPs of countries like the U.K., France, Italy, Russia, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Spain and others

  • AARP calculated in 2001 that the spending of Boomers accounted for 52% of total consumer spending, including the majority of food, housing, healthcare, transportation, personal insurance and pensions.

  • By 2010, it has been estimated that the projected $2.6 trillion of consumer spending by consumers over 40 will dwarf the spending of consumers under 40 by over $1 trillion.

And yes, folks, that is �trillion� with a �t�.

So what does that mean for Marketers? Generation Ageless posits that you must understand each generation�s starting point to understand how they behave later in life. In essence, what we experience as children shapes our values and behaviors as adults. Boomers came of age in the post-World War II era with the greatest prosperity and optimism ever known in the United States. This �Era of Confidence� gave Boomers expectations of material security, a belief that the future will always be better than the present, and an understanding that rules are meant to be broken. As a result of this starting point, all Boomers believe in three key tenets for life:

  1. Youthfulness � an ageless engagement with a life that is active, spirited, exuberant

  2. Having an impact � an ability to make a difference and set the agenda

  3. Possibility � the ability for on-going personal development, growth and reinvention.

Based on this, Smith holds that it is too early to count the Boomers out. Their commitment to youth means that they intend to stay vital and active well into their older years. Boomers will continue to work into retirement but they will change how they work and will require flexibility from employers who want to tap into their experience. Boomers will continue to want to impact and change our world � they want to support a mission. Boomers will continue to see themselves as individuals and will seek alternatives to express that individualism over conformity. Boomers are searching for the next big adventure, determined to get more out of life.

Smart marketers will include Boomers in their strategic plans, being careful to create a win-win situation. From politics to consumer goods, from healthcare to financial services, the Boomers are going to continue to drive change into our world. Ignoring the Boomers is not an option � not if you too want to continue to thrive!

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