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With annual spending power of more than $1 trillion and a

propensity to spend, baby boomers are an attractive market.

But the demographic is complex and elusive. Old assumptions
can lead a marketer astray.

By Paige Muller

If success in the real estate business is underscored by "location, location, location,"

for DR marketing it should be "homework, homework, homework." If you don't do
your homework, you may find yourself marketing denture adhesive cream to
teenagers and automotive performance accessories to octogenarians. In short, it's
imperative that you know your target market intimately.

For our purposes, that target market is the baby boomer generation, which includes
anyone born between 1946 (right after World War II) and 1964. More baby boomers
went on to college after graduating high school than previous generations and more
strove to enter white-collar career fields. According to many experts, baby boomers
tend to be more materialistic than prior generations. Boomers represent a high-water
mark in the birth rate in the United States after World War II, and remain a potent
financial force today.


So, which marketing medium is most effective when targeting baby boomers?

"Boomers were brought up consuming traditional offline media such as TV, radio and
print," says Peter Koeppel, founder and president of Koeppel Direct of Dallas, "so we
have successfully utilized all these mediums in targeting boomers.

"However, we have found television to be the most effective form of media for
reaching boomers. Over the last five to seven years, online has also become an
effective medium, as their usage of the Internet continues to grow."

John McNamara, CEO of Halogen Response Media, with offices in New York, Chicago
and Toronto, Ontario, agrees that television is very effective.
"We're talking about a demographic that's known as 'The TV Generation'; they grew
up with television and trust it," he says. "They're also used to making purchases off
it and are receptive to direct response marketing, such as infomercials."

"Baby boomers like to spend money," says Melissa Safer, a marriage and family
therapist in Woodland Hills, Calif. At 54, she is in the first part of the boomer
generation. "We're the generation that was first exposed to television, computers
and billboards, advertising to us items that in some cases we didn't even know we

"That marketing is working, too. We're a generation

that is interested in impressing ourselves and others,"
Safer adds. While admitting that she hates much of
current advertising and dismisses it as an irritant,
those spots that are most effective in communicating
the benefits of their products hold her attention and
keep her away from the remote.

"Anything that people can identify with a human

emotion is a winner," she says. Safer cites the current Target television advertising
campaign as an example.

"It's effective advertising. They change them frequently, they are intelligently done
and they force you to watch. Their advertising people have figured out a way to
expose the public for just enough time to absorb the visual images. I never change
the channel on them."

"The biggest misconception about this generation is that they are not Internet
savvy," says McNamara.

"But the fact of the matter is that they certainly are. We're talking about a group that
uses the Internet constantly for information on finances, medical issues and travel
planning, to name just a few categories. They're just as well-wired as everyone else.
What this means is that, as boomers move forward and become seniors, everyone
following them will also be Internet savvy. I think thatopens up a lot of opportunities
for the future of Internet marketing."

Says Koeppel, "Many marketers focus almost exclusively on the 18 to 49 audience

segment. However, this is often a mistake, since the spending power of the boomers
is considerable.

"There are 78 million boomers and they have a combined spending power of more
than $1 trillion a year. And boomers don't view themselves as being old. They have a
youthful outlook on life. Many of them may be in their 50s, but they feel like they are
in their 30s. And they are anything but a homogeneous group: Some may be
retiring, some starting a new career or hobby, some may have remarried and are
starting new families."
Baby boomer Mike Martin, vice president of corporate communications for an
international producer and marketer of beverage alcohol headquartered in New York,

"Television is an excellent way to reach boomers," he says, "but the market is now
fragmented all over the place. Twenty to 30 years ago, the most effective marketing
dollars were spent on a few broadcast television networks.

"But with cable programming and satellite programming, while audience numbers for
hit shows can still be large in number, they are not as concentrated as they used to
be. We're on the Internet; we're everywhere," he continues. "Marketers really have
to do their homework because many of us are quite savvy to the Internet. Not only
that it's there, but how to use it to our advantage. People are going for information
more and more, and with boomers, they have more disposable income than previous
generations, with a large percentage picking up their buying habits from television
and the Internet."


If boomers are regularly using the Internet, social networking and mobile marketing
should apply to them, too, right? Perhaps surprisingly, most agree the answer is no.

"Social networking and mobile marketing are primarily targeted at a younger

audience right now," explains Koeppel, "so I would not recommend utilizing these
venues--at least at this time--for reaching baby boomers."

"Only 20 percent of people 55 and over express interest in using current social
networking sites," says McNamara, citing a 2006 survey by JupiterResearch,
"compared with 75 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds."


"It's a huge market with significant buying
power," says Koeppel, "so it's definitely an
audience that smart marketers need to
continue pursuing. However, it's important to
understand boomers prior to trying to market
to them.

"For example, boomers aren't obsessed with looking young, so ads targeting them
don't need to feature people in their 20s," Koeppel explains. "They are comfortable
with aging, but they still want to look and be healthy. If marketers trying to appeal to
boomers don't understand their mindset, then they likely will not be successful at
penetrating this market and building a business within this niche."

McNamara contends, "With $1.1 trillion in spending power, this is definitely a market
with lots of discretionary income. They have a high annual household income and
spend money on their kids." He adds that the group spends 11 percent more than
average on pets, toys and other goods for their children."


Safer considers her generation to be somewhat impulsive, one that likes to spend
money, especially on high-end items. "Our generation seems to have more outdoor
kitchens, telephones all over the house and wide-slice toasters," she says. "I have a
toaster oven and a bagel toaster! And we all seemed to be convinced that we need
gigantic refrigerators. Previous generations managed to get along with much smaller
refrigerators and without the latest gadgets and somehow, they managed to

Martin says boomers, in comparison to other generations, tend to exhibit less brand

"Our parents tended to stick to their Chevy and never touched a Ford, or vice versa,"
he says. "Now, baby boomers are also driving Toyotas and Hondas--and cannot be
counted on to automatically stay with that brand."


If the baby boomer demographic is so complex and fragmented, is it worth the effort
to chase this market? The statistics speak for themselves.

"It's important to know that baby boomers represent more than 27 percent of the
U.S. population and make up 46 million households," says Koeppel. "Boomers were
born between 1946 and 1964, and half are 50 or over. Many started turning 60 this
year. Since the average life expectancy is now 77, many boomers look at 50 as a
time to restart their lives."

Which then begs the question: What categories are the most successful for targeting

"With younger boomers, you'll find they're looking more at investments for things
like their children's tuition," says McNamara. "In fact, younger boomers don't seem
as concerned with the future, and spend about 10 percent less than average on life
and other personal insurance.

"With the older boomers, categories like health care, insurance, financial services
and travel are really going to appeal to them. They've got all this disposable income
and as they age, health and finances become more of a concern. They rely on these
services to feel a sense of security for themselves and their families."

"They also like to keep up with latest advances in electronics, so they will buy
products like the iPhone to stay on the cutting edge," adds Koeppel. "However, they
don't always have the technological background that their kids have, since they
didn't grow up with computers. Businesses need to be aware of this and consider
providing services to tailor to the baby boomer's technological needs."

Copyright © 2008 Electronic Retailer. All rights reserved.