MetLife Mature Market Institute's John N. Migliaccio on What Direct Marketers Should Know about Middle Boomers
Jan Brady may finally have come into her own. Research just out from the MetLife Mature Market Institute takes a closer look at what it terms the "middle boomers," comparing them to middle children who've long lived in the shadow of the older boomers. Much like Jan Brady, the character from the '70s ABC sitcom "The Brady Bunch," whose angst-ridden exclamation "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" was felt by middle children everywhere, middle boomers need to be taken seriously as having needs of their own.
John N. Migliaccio, Ph.D., the Westport, Conn.-based institute's director of research, commented on the study Boomers in the Middle released in March. On behalf of the institute, GfK Custom Research North America surveyed a cohort of 1,000 boomers born between 1952 and 1958. The survey, conducted from Nov. 18 to Dec. 12, 2009, found that these boomers are the connection between the oldest and youngest boomers. But they have unique characteristics and represent the largest portion of boomers, as well as 10 percent of the total U.S. population.
Target Marketing: How has Internet marketing helped speed the need for direct marketers to think of middle boomers as their own demographic?
John N. Migliaccio: ... The middle boomers have a number of attractions. One, there are a lot of them; they're the largest subsegment of the boomer cohort [at] 29 million or 38 percent of all boomers. Two, they're in their prime earning years. Three, half have children under 18 living at home, and half have grandchildren; they're tied in to the Internet because their kids and grandkids are. They share some aspects of both older and younger boomers. So they're somewhat of a hybrid between the classic youth-culture boomer stereotype and the youngest boomers, half of whom don't even like the term "boomer" to describe themselves and identify more with Gen X.
TM: What sort of direct marketing campaign or strategy would work best with this group and why?
JM: The middle boomers are like their slightly older boomer counterparts in many ways. They share a lot of the same life view[s] and influences as older boomers, such as the JFK assassination, Vietnam and the women's movement. However, they're ... at a different life stage. Many still [have] children at home, and two-thirds have parents still alive, as well. As they are getting older, family and friends, financial security, personal wellness, and purpose and meaning in their lives are taking a higher priority. So helping them focus and figure out these issues at a personal level is very important.
TM: Which marketers would benefit best from treating this demographic differently from the rest of the boomers?
JM: Middle boomers' biggest concern is not being able to afford their health care costs in the future. And they are getting close to really having to pay attention to retirement issues, as well. ... Many still [face] education costs for their children. Almost a third of them are also anticipating a good-sized inheritance from their parents, so financial and benefits issues are a significant concern. About half of them feel like they're behind in their retirement savings. They've been affected by the recession like everybody else, but also have some time to recover from it before retirement. So safety, financial security and income they can count on are leading issues for them.
TM: What direct marketing channels work best to reach this group?
JM: Middle boomers are hooked into all of them, since they bridge having been exposed to marketing from both new and traditional media. Social media is certainly growing, since it's a way to stay current with their children, as well as more focused social media for business and professional contacts. And Skype may be the new VCR challenge. Remember all those blinking digital clocks? They'd love to use [Skype] if someone would just help them figure out how to do so.
TM: What should direct marketers do to retain these consumers?
JM: Middle boomers offer a wide target since they have personal needs, and also respond to child and grandchild needs and parental needs. And most are two-earner households. Offering resources in all these areas that will save them time while they juggle all these demands is a great way to make sure they keep coming back.