First Up: Baby Boomers
With leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946-55) well into their 50s and early 60s and trailing-edge boomers (born between 1955-64) on their heels, the rules of marketing to boomers are constantly being rewritten. For decades, marketers had been chasing a desirable 18- to 49-year-old boomer prospect. “For the last 40 years, 50-plus were old people. Well, 50-plus isn’t old anymore. Boomers are changing what it means to be ‘old,’” says Matt Thornhill, president of The Boomer Project, a Richmond, Va.–based marketing research company.
Boomers have more time and money and are more receptive to print communications than most younger prospects—making them prime candidates for direct mail solicitation. To achieve success within this market, experts recommend appealing to the shared cultural values and following the key creative guidelines detailed below.
1. Don’t stereotype
One of the first and biggest mistakes a marketer can make is to place a boomer in an age stereotype. “You really do have to segment out who you’re talking to and why you’re talking to them,” warns Thornhill. Boomers are elastic in their life stages—they could be empty-nesters, parents of small children or grandparents, just as easily as they could be retiring or starting new careers, having triple bypass surgeries or running their first marathons. “Boomers are all over the map … so using age as a shortcut is just a big mistake,” Thornhill warns.
2. Sell experiences, not just products
“The boomers are not seeking products in and of themselves today. They basically own a lot of stuff and what they’re looking for are experiences,” says Brent Green, president of Brent Green and Associates, a Denver–based marketing and communications firm. One example Green gives is a travel company selling not just a high-end luxury vacation, but also an engaging learning experience.
3. Make an emotional appeal
Avoid the tendency to sell to the rational left brain and go for an emotional appeal instead. “Baby boomers probably don’t need what anybody is selling, they can only want it. What are the emotional triggers that are deeply rooted behind the marketer’s offering?” Green asks. He advises his clients to begin with an image-driven emotional message to trigger interest, followed by several layers of copy further detailing the product or offer.