It’s happened to nearly every baby boomer … approached by a marketer but then dismissed from their interest for some reason. Is it the gray hair or a wrinkle on our faces or the look of savvy life experience in our eyes? It happened recently to BoomerCafé’s Co-Founder and Executive Editor, Greg Dobbs, who observes how marketers miss real opportunity.
I was walking along a downtown sidewalk the other day when a guy approached me with a clipboard in his hand and a tag hanging around his neck. But then, as it turns out, he wasn’t approaching me at all; he was approaching a younger guy who was walking about ten feet behind me.
I didn’t think much about it, or care. It was obvious that he was doing one of those annoying “man-on-the-street” surveys, when you’re asked a bunch of personal questions and offered nothing in return for your time and trouble.
But five minutes later, I was headed back in the other direction, and there he still was, again seemingly summoning me to stop. So, obligingly, I did … but once again, he was looking right through me, beckoning instead to a younger woman walking a few paces farther back.
No surprise; you get to a certain age — let’s just say it’s defined by white hair and wrinkles — and you know you’re invisible. It doesn’t matter how energetic and fit you are; hell, just a few days before my non-encounters with the clipboard guy, my wife and I spent five days in Vail, Colorado, and on four of them, I rode my bike up Vail Pass — 11 ceaseless miles uphill, about 2,500 feet of vertical gain, each day. But apparently, in the eyes of a marketer, that doesn’t make me young. All that matters is, I’ve reached an age where marketing companies ignore me in favor of a younger demographic.
Their mistake! I’m a baby boomer, and thanks to more years of prosperity than decline, my generation — more than 75-million strong — is the richest on the planet: according to Nielsen’s market research, we control 70 percent of disposable income in the U.S. and we buy 49 percent of all consumer-packaged goods. What’s more, with an estimated 10,000 baby boomers retiring from the working world every day of the year, more and more of us have more and more time on our hands to try the products and services that companies have to sell.
The trouble is, they think we’re set in our ways. Their mistake, again. Our parents, from The Greatest Generation, were like that. Once they bought an appliance from Sears, they bought all their appliances from Sears. Once they drove a Buick, they always drove a Buick.
But baby boomers, which is anyone born between 1946 and 1964, have long since turnedthat practice on its end. Tell me about a better car and I might buy it. Convince me there’s a better beer and I might drink it. So before dismissing us, remember that it was baby boomers who invented everything from smartphones to the Big Bertha golf club to the Internet. Maybe our hair has changed, but our appetite for innovation hasn’t.
I eavesdropped on this marketing guy the second time I was passed over, and the questions he was asking his younger subjects were about how often they shop there and where they like to go and how much they typically spend. Like, isn’t that exactly what I was doing there?!? Are younger people’s dollars greener than mine?
Each year when the Super Bowl becomes the Olympics of TV commercials, do you know what most of the ads are trying to sell? Cars and trucks, colas and beers, detergents and deodorants, and more cars and trucks. Excuse me, but whether our hair is black or white or blonde, baby boomers use that stuff too. All of it. Yet less than 5 percent of advertising is geared toward my generation … OUR generation.
Advertisers have always defined their ideal demographic from the age of 18 (when you start to make some money) to 49 (when they think you’re still flexible enough to spend it on something new). My message to those advertisers is, the numbers have shifted. Our flexibility lasts longer. Ignore that at your peril.
Greg lives near Denver, Colorado.