Baby Boomers Get The Message

Thirty years ago they were listening to the Beatles and enjoying the sixties after growing up in post-war austerity. Now, 45 to 55 year olds in the 'baby boomer' generation are looking at their circumstances and worrying about growing old in an increasingly insecure society.

That general conclusion comes from a study based on qualitative research into the attitudes of this group across 16 markets, including the USA, Japan, Australia, the UK and several countries in continental Europe. It carries strong marketing messages for those seeking to address this group, whose spending power outstrips its numbers. In the UK, for example, it makes up 14% of the population but accounts for almost one-quarter of household expenditure. In France, the 'boomers' account for 20% of spending on goods and services, while in the USA the figure is 17%.

Jane Gwilliam, author of the report, says there is a striking similarity not only in the cares and concerns expressed by the boomers across all the countries where they were questioned but also about the most effective ways to communicate with them.

The prime media for reaching the boomers are television and newspapers. They spend a substantial amount of leisure time at home and although they regard radio as more reliable than TV, the lack of 'grown-up commercial' stations makes it less relevant for advertising.

Most still take at least one newspaper a day, and are more inclined to pay attention to press advertisements than to inserts and flyers. While flyers and 'junk mail' are likely to go straight in the bin, the group seems to have a more positive attitude towards catalogues.

The study concludes that neither cinema nor sponsorship is particularly effective in marketing to boomers. That is partly because they spend so much time at home, but also because they fear their concerns will be ridiculed by the young.

Boomers' attitudes towards brands, as expressed in the study, are in sharp contrast to younger people's views. Gwilliam says that while young people value the brand name itself, and may buy the product without thinking about other brands, for boomers brand names are only as valuable as the goods and services they represent and are likely to have been chosen after other brands have been considered.

The research found that boomers do not like being patronised by advertising. According to Gwilliam, the boomers grew up with television and saw advertising evolve to become more sophisticated. They are therefore more discriminating and more alert to subtly patronising overtones than young people.

'I sometimes wonder whether a 30-year-old account manager really has an understanding of what boomers have gone through.'

Source: Smith1 (reprinted with permission)

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