Baby Boomers. With every step they’ve taken, they’ve simultaneously changed our culture, from being the first teens to be courted by marketers to enacting major social change as adults.
Today, this cohort is changing the meaning of aging, as they live healthy and experience-filled lives. Not to mention, they are tech-savvy and wide open to trying new brands, as shown in Annalect’s recent proprietary study (available for download below). So why are marketers ignoring them? Or even worse, mocking them? While Millennials seem to get marketers’ undivided attention, Boomers make up the largest US demographic and account for 60% of consumer spending. Yet nearly half of Boomers feel that the advertising playbook has not changed enough in order to reach them.
Let’s give credit to some brands who get it right.
In Toyota’s Venza campaign, the joke is on a Millennial who thinks life begins and ends on social networks, while her Boomer parents enjoy a vigorous bike ride with friends. Apple’s recent iPhone ad features people of all ages (Boomers included) living an active lifestyle. The spot is set to Chicken Fat, the 1962 theme song from JFK’s Presidential Fitness Program.
Some brands are missing the mark by relying on ageist stereotypes, such as Boomers being tech-challenged. It can be a fine line – Esurance’s mockery of older women being clueless about gaming apps (“Shirlee” thinks Candy Crush is played by smashing actual pieces of candy with a hammer) received widespread criticism. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Mother’s Day ad, which poked fun at the way Boomer moms text their children, was met mostly with fond amusement.
What kind of humor works best when marketing to Boomers? Keep it light and positive. Nielsen research finds that this cohort prefers clever, light-hearted humor (rather than mean-spirited or sarcastic) and relatable characters who are Boomers themselves or not much younger. For this optimistic generation, an upbeat tone works best, avoiding words like “don’t.” To reach Boomer women, brands should use family-friendly humor and sentimental themes. Boomer men respond best to storylines that are witty and dialogue-driven.
There’s an enormous group of Boomers out there, ready and willing to spend money. They are just waiting to be spoken to in ways that resonate with them. Marketers, the ball is in your court.