Small Business


Businesses Fighting For Baby Boomer Dollars

Marketing Campaigns Aimed At Boomer Generation

A couple of years ago, Dove soap took a risk and created an ad featuring nude women over the age of 50 to promote their ProAge product line.

The ad caused a stir and raised the question -- why show older women in a revealing ad?

Because Dove is just one of many companies trying to target the baby boomer generation.

According to Mark Bradbury, the research director at AARP, the baby boomer generation totals more than 70 million and -- even in the current economic crisis -- it has more money than any other generation.

More than their number, boomers are also in the position where they are providing for generations above and below them, as many have children and grandchildren and some care for their aging parents, Bradbury said.

"Marketers can't afford to overlook them," Bradbury said.

With those over the age of 50 becoming one of companies' main targeted audiences, advertisers and businesses are trying to find the right formula for how to appeal to the baby boomers.

How To Appeal To Baby Boomers

With money and customers at stake, marketers are trying to tap into the baby boomers' mindsets to launch successful marketing campaigns.

According to Bradbury, baby boomers are used to redefining what it means to be a certain age. They did it when they were young, then again in their teens and 20s, and now they're trying to redefine what it means to be 50. Bradbury said that baby boomers understand that they're not young, but they don't feel old, either. They see themselves as staying active, staying healthy, staying social and having a purpose in society as they age.

Marketers, according to Bradbury, can tap into that mindset by creating advertising campaigns that feature self-sufficient and vibrant images.

"It's not just about looking youthful, it's about what youth can do for them," Bradbury said.

Chuck Nyren, the author of "Advertising to Baby Boomers," said companies also have to use traditional media outlets to push those over the age of 50 to their Web sites. Nyren said baby boomers like to be informed and they like to research before they buy.

What To Avoid When Targeting Baby Boomers

While baby boomers are open to advertising, there are certain avenues companies should avoid as to not turn their targeted audience against their product.

When creating an ad aimed at baby boomers, Harry Moody, the director of academic affairs for AARP, warns companies to not generalize those over 50 into one group. Moody said that grouping all baby boomers together as the same audience "is sure to lead to disaster."

"There's a difference in boomers who are joining the Red Hat Society, from those who are looking for Botox," said Moody, who added that there is a large age gap between a boomer who was born in 1946 and one who was born in 1964.

Aside from age issues, Nyren added that there are many different personality types included in the baby boomer generation, from former hippies to conservatives.

"Evoking the '60s, it's not the smartest thing to do," Nyren said,

Nyren said that when using a certain song, for example, you risk immediately turning off a group of potential customers because they might not have liked that genre of music when they were younger, and you also risk losing a group who did like the song but might have memories tied to it. Nyren said he recently watched a commercial and was distracted because the song triggered memories and made him focus entirely on the song not the product being advertised. To avoid that, Nyren suggests not "bringing up emotions or memories from the past that have nothing to do with the product."

Products That Have Succeeded

While many products have struggled to convey the right message to attract baby boomers, some have succeeded.

Moody said "silver age" industries -- financial services, retirement housing, health care and travel -- appeal to boomers because of the need for their products and services.

Bradbury added that more general products that would appeal to all ages recently ran ads in the AARP that were effective in appealing to boomers in that they hinted at their target audience without actually portraying an aging man or woman.

One successful ad, according to Bradbury, was by Geico. The ad portrayed an image of a younger boomer and used the line "you deserve special treatment" to appeal to the boomers' need to feel special and important.

Another ad Bradbury thought was effective was created by Campbell's, promoting its Healthy Request line. The ad uses the image of a heart to appeal to the boomers' need to consider health issues that might be relevant to their age group, and states that the product has "heart-healthy levels of sodium."

Bradbury also thought Tylenol and Verizon Wireless appealed well to boomers. Tylenol used an image of a water bottle and a weight to imply a healthy lifestyle and focused its message on overcoming arthritis pain and stiffness to still participate in daily exercise.

Verizon used an image of a silver-haired woman, but Bradbury thought the she would appeal to boomers because she was dressed well and had trendy accessories, which would touch on boomers' needs to feel youthful and active.
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