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Guest Opinion: What Is the Richest Target Audience of All?

1 Oct, 2013 By: Peter Koeppel Response

Which generation represents 35 percent of the U.S. market, yet accounts for 40 percent of consumer demand? That’s right: baby boomers! This domestic market of roughly 77 million people born between 1946 and 1964 is often overlooked, despite its enormity.

According to Nielsen, the reason advertisers ignore boomers dates back to when the research company began measuring audiences in the 1970s. At that time, the demographic groups of 18-49 and 25-54 were established based upon the belief that if an advertiser could establish brand loyalty with a consumer as they entered adulthood, their lifetime value would pay dividends for decades to come.

However, as boomers have aged and gained access to information about products and services through the Internet and other forms of media, that theory no longer holds true. Advertisers need to pay attention to boomers and for good reason: Americans older than 50 control two-thirds of the country’s wealth — with an annual income of more than $2.4 trillion. According to the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey, boomers outspend other generations by roughly $400 billion a year.

Fact: more than 50 percent of adults 65 or older are Internet users. Among boomers, 80 percent of consumers between ages 47-56 engage regularly with the Web. In fact, “adults 50+” is the fastest growing Internet demographic, using social media to connect with family and friends.

While younger generations may be abandoning Facebook for the likes of Instagram because it’s no longer cool once the parents and grandparents engage, 57 percent of Internet users between the ages of 50-64 are now on the dominant social media platform. And they are using multiple screens to reach out: about one in three boomers own a tablet and the same statistic holds true for smartphones.

Though they’ve lived through the tumult of the 1960s, Watergate, 9/11 and endless wars, boomers have also witnessed great achievements such as civil rights equality and man landing on the moon. So while they possess the wisdom of age, they may, ironically, be less jaded than their younger counterparts and more open to trying new product and service advancements.

Statistically, two-thirds of Americans older than 50 regularly purchase from online retailers. What are some of the biggest direct response categories that appeal to boomers?

Financial Services. This category includes wealth management, discount brokerage services, credit cards, insurance, tax planning and reverse mortgages. Most advertisers employ a classic two-step model where a lead is generated and then sent a packet or driven to the Web to obtain more information. Outbound telemarketing, E-mail and retargeted online ads can then be used to close the sale.

Health and Wellness. As boomers age, they have a strong desire to remain healthy and active into their later years. Solutions encompass a broad spectrum, from pain relief products to diet and exercise programs. But this demographic can’t scale a building like Spiderman, so the current wave of extreme workouts doesn’t speak to them. At the same time, the stereotypical scene of a water aerobics class is perhaps even less appealing.

Automotive. In 2012, boomers spent $87 billion on new cars. Additionally, there is great potential between the do-it-yourself types who will buy car care products because they derive joy from polishing their pride and joy, and those with the desire to pay for services that will take care of their cars for them.

Travel. Boomers, the generation that pioneered global travel, purchase 80 percent of luxury travel. While cruises are frequently advertised, what other opportunities exist to capture the desire of this generation to pursue new experiences?

Clearly, there is tremendous opportunity for marketers to tap this thriving marketplace. Appeals that avoid stereotypes and treat boomers with respect and intelligence have an enormous opportunity awaiting them — an opportunity that is only ripening with age. ■

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