Don't Make This Old Marketing Mistake

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Promise them anything, but don't tell Boomers they're old.
Promise them anything, but don't tell Boomers they're old.

When marketing to today's active, health-conscious, digitally engaged, and often still employed Baby Boomer's, be sure not to make one unforgivable mistake: Do not imply in any way, shape, or form that they're old.

“They're trying to corner the aging process and stop it; they don't want to be called old,” says Anna Son, analyst at IBISWorld research and coauthor of a new report about the consumer habits of that prodigious generation born between 1946 and 1964. “You may want to simplify the marketing messages you send them, but you definitely don't want to say, ‘Hey old people, this product is for you.'”

Boomers have become important segments in industries such as fitness and online dating. A focus on physical appearance and weight, says the report, will continue to make Boomers prime prospects for health clubs in the next five years, for example. One quarter of all health club members are over 55, according to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, and IBISWorld expects that percentage to rise.

More than 30% of the age group is widowed, divorced, or never married, and the report says that this trend is helping fuel a 3.7% annual increase in dating services. Also increasing at a 4% clip are plastic surgery procedures among the 55-and-older set.

AARP provides a good example of the “keep it simple” approach to the generation with its dating service, AARP Dating Powered by How About We. For people who may be awkward about dating after several years of marriage, it suggests activities to get the ball rolling: “How about we go to a lecture,” or “How about we go to a museum?”

“It's not just about demographic segmentation, it's about life stage. We take a look at an audience and ask, ‘What's going to trigger their behavior?'” says Patricia Lippe Davis, VP, marketing at AARP.

What triggers responses from Baby Boomers, Davis notes, are more and more likely to be communicated digitally. AARP is aggressively increasing video releases on You Tube, social media engagement (the group has a million Facebook fans), and web content that leads people to what she calls a “premium content” website.

“We still use a lot of direct mail. It has its purpose. But our inclination is toward digital, even toward our older segments,” Davis says. “For a while, it looked like our 67-plus members might not go digital, but the iPad changed all that. Just walk into an Apple Store and look at all the white-haired people.”

But IBISWorld's Son points out that Boomers will continue to require a true multichannel marketing approach, as they cling to traditional media forms long after younger generations have abandoned them. ”There still is a segment within this group that is less tech savvy,” she says, “and will continue to prefer older ways of communication like email and television.”

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