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Market Focus: Baby Boomers

March 2004 By Hallie Mummert
One Generation, Many Segments

The most defining characteristic of the baby boomer market is that there are few general defining characteristics that apply to this group. Born between 1946 and 1964, boomers comprise the largest population boost in American history.

And while the sheer size of this market—roughly 75.8 million, or one-third of the U.S. population—makes it an attractive target for direct marketers, the nearly 20-year age difference from the oldest to youngest boomers also makes it challenging to effectively penetrate.

The No. 1 mistake companies make with boomers is not recognizing the diversity of this market, says Scott Schroeder, president and CEO of Cohorts, a data segmentation and strategic-marketing firm in Denver.

Too many marketers consider date of birth a key predictor of behavior, he explains, and that’s not targeted enough to get the best results.

But before getting into segmentation strategies, let’s take a look at some of the key statistics and trends that do exist in the boomer market.

Money to Burn

Marketers interested in reaching boomers have two big factors working for them: Boomers have enjoyed the longest period of prosperity known to Americans, and the majority of them have reached their peak earning potential. Translation: They have money, and aren’t afraid to part with it.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, boomers between the ages of 45 and 54 spent an average of $46,160 in 2000 on overall living expenses—the highest annual expenditure of all age groups.

You can guess what this means for discretionary income spending. According to direct marketing solutions provider Equifax Marketing Services, people ages 45 to 64 (a group comprised mostly of boomers) have per capita an average of $8,000 to spend annually, says Peter Zajonc, senior director of analytics for this Boca Raton, FL, firm.

What Do Boomers Buy?

It’s important to remember that as boomers age, they become older boomers; they do not become their parents, explains Barbara Abudi, an account director at Millard Group, a full-service list marketing firm in Peterborough, NH.

As such, marketers find they can target products to people in their 50s that years ago would have been more appropriate for people in their 40s. She points to anything fitness- or sports-related as a prime example.

Zajonc agrees, adding that boomers realize they will be living longer than prior generations. They want to make the most of these extra years, so they generally respond well to products and services that rejuvenate the mind and body.
 

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