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Targeting Older Consumers: Why Baby Boomers Deserve Another Look

June 26th, 2019   ||    by Todd Wasserman

Advertising can seem like a young person’s game. That’s because in a youth-driven industry there’s little talk of targeting older consumers. Add to that Knowable Magazine’s report that the earlier you reach a consumer the more likely you’ll influence lifelong preferences, and you can see why the industry has such a youthful focus.

Unparalleled Buying Power

But while brand affinity may be formed earlier, older consumers tend to be more well-heeled. According to The New York Times, nearly 50 percent of the adult population in the US were 50 years and older in 2017, controlling 70 percent of the country’s disposable income. When a demographic stands to inherit $15 trillion in the next 20 years, marketers need to stop and rethink targeting older consumers.

A Harder Sell

A Nielsen study cited by AARP noted that 49 is the age when most people fall off marketers’ radar. Partially, that’s because consumers this age are a tougher sell.

In an interview with Tony Hagerich, associate at ad sales agency Russell Johns Associates, he explained, “a lot of advertisers forgot about [50+ adults] . . . they still listen to the radio and still read print.” Hagerich said that one assumption about this group—that they’re resistant to overt pitches—is true. “They do have their set ways.”

However, Baby Boomers are still viewing an abundant amount of traditional TV, according to Forbes. So while the 50+ demographic is set in their ways, TV advertisers have a faithful audience who not only will watch but spend, too.

Missing the Mark

Of course, the irony is that effective advertising rests on knowing the target consumer beyond their demographics. In a conversation with Peter Hubbell, CEO of ad agency BoomAgers, he noted that the average baby boomer doesn’t see themselves as old. “They believe they’re ageless,” he said. “They believe they’re absolutely getting better with age and have the time now to do all sorts of things.”

In a McCann Truth Central study in Forbes, researchers asked participants to tell them how old they felt on a scale from one (not old) to 10 (very old). The average response from those ages 30 to 70? Five.

The Honda Element and its advertising misstep is a prime example of this, according to Next Avenue. Marketed to young men in their 20s, very few of the targeted demographic ended up buying the vehicle. But guess who did end up driving off the lot with a new Element? Those between 35 and 70 years old—”older hobbyists, gardeners and dog owners.”

On the whole, the ad industry still has its work cut out for it in targeting consumers over 50. However, this demographic, while harder to convert, has spending power that the younger generations just can’t compete with. Coupled with their self-perception that the best is yet to come, TV advertisers should take note.

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