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Boomers Love to Kayak

(And Other Myths About Marketing to Boomers)

It's no marketing secret that Boomers are a sizable audience. We get it… there are 111 million 50+ consumers with more than $3.2 trillion in income: this is not a target to ignore.

Yet, when I look at advertising targeting Boomers, I'm amazed at how often we as an industry get it wrong. Here are the biggest Boomer myths that result in missed marketing opportunities.

Boomers aren't online or on social.

In fact, Boomers represent one-third of all U.S. Internet users. Boomers spend on average 27 hours per week online, which is two more than millennials. And 27.4 million people over age 55 are engaged on social. So why are so many Boomer plans stuck in traditional media?

So what:

While boomers are more likely to value direct mail and print-based marketing than any other generation, we shouldn't ignore the rest. Boomers are highly active in the digital world. We need to integrate our messaging plans to incorporate touches across channels.

All boomers kayak.

In a recent competitive audit, I found half a dozen Boomer ads with happy, young-looking, retired people kayaking. Within the same category, and across them. None were marketing boating equipment or travel.

Yes, this audience is active, and yes, they aspire to a more active lifestyle. But they don't all kayak. In fact, only 2.3 percent of Boomers kayak. Boomers don't feel old – 60 percent of people near 65 claim to feel much younger than their actual age. They exercise youthful mindsets, and they want to continue to stay active in retirement. Many brands realize this, but market to them the same way, using slice-of-life imagery and messaging that doesn't resonate.

So what:

Yes, we need to represent Boomers' active and varied lifestyles in ads. However, brands need to evolve their marketing as the Boomer and retiree mindset has shifted over the last decade. Brands must first be relevant. Then they must better reflect that relevancy in messaging and customer experiences that don't all look the same. Boomers will appreciate the effort.

Boomers are their own segment.

I suppose, technically, this is a true statement, not a myth. But too often, brands are targeting Boomers as though they are a singular group, and therefore of singular mindset. In actuality, there are myriad different ways to use attitudinal and behavioral data to segment this group and better target communications. Boomers resist the one-size-fits-all approach and reward brands that take the time to speak to them uniquely and relevantly.

So what:

We should resist the urge to group this audience based solely on demographics or life-phase and ask: How can our brands connect on a more personal and emotional level? We need to look deeper into Boomer attitudes toward aging, retirement, well-being, finance, travel or whatever category our brands are in. We need to understand Boomers' lifestyles and behaviors and why our brands are relevant to them. We must appreciate what drives the Boomer decision-making process and their purchase behaviors.

Boomer consumers remain focused on relationships and are brand loyal; brands that create relevant messaging and work towards on-going “conversations” with consumers will be rewarded with their advocacy.

Happy kayaking!