Walk into any digital marketing meeting and you’re bound to hear “Target millennials,” “This is what Gen Z wants,” and “The new generation responds well to this content.”
But what about the rest of the consumer base? Often, in meeting with my own marketing teams, I look around at the young and hip employees who know how to navigate the digital sphere and social media, but have no idea how (nor inclination) to reach the older generations, especially the baby boomers.
This inattention to older customers through digital advertising is frequent, but there’s no reason it should be. Younger generations may seem easier to reach through YouTube ads and Instagram posts, but the reality is, millennials and Gen Z don’t have any money. You’re targeting an audience with very little purchasing power. Meanwhile, statistics show that approximately 70% of all disposable income in the U.S. belongs to baby boomers, and they make up the largest segment of consumers.
Don’t leave a customer behind. AARP found that most smartphone owners aged 50 to 59 used their phones to check email, get directions, browse the internet and see news, with more than half also using their smartphones to play games and make purchases. If you think this age demographic is unreachable, you’re missing out on a significant opportunity.
1. You can and should target baby boomers on mobile sites.
Marketers often get tunnel vision on who they’re reaching and forget about who they’re missing, which is easy to do when you see the younger crowd walking down the street glued to their phones. But those aged 55 to 73 are actually more tech-savvy than people realize. By 2020, 100 million (paywall) smartphone users will be age 45 and over. That’s 42.43% of the market share. Social media is stereotyped as a platform to reach young people when, in reality, it is a relevant way to connect with all generations. You can still connect with consumers above 50; you just need to design your ads differently.
2. Monitor the pacing of your media.
Despite having smartphones, boomers still need to be presented with an easy-to-use interface, and will likely need things explained slowly. Media consumption has increased in speed over the decades. Millennials and Gen Zers have shorter attention spans and therefore require quick jumps in content to keep them engaged. Older generations are still used to the slower-paced TV shows, commercials and movies they grew up with, and marketing toward them should be presented as such. When using an image, present straightforward text and facts to engage the user.
3. Save advertising money with brand loyalty.
Brand hopping wasn’t as much of a thing 30 years ago; first, because there weren’t as many brands, and second, because discovering them without the internet wasn’t as easy. Brand loyalty has stuck with the pre-retirement generation, as they enjoy supporting their tried-and-true products, especially the ones that spark nostalgia of their childhoods. Newer companies often avoid resonating with anyone over 50 out of fear of being stereotyped, but look at Levi’s, Keds, Champion, etc. The expert marketing of those brands now appeals to all age groups.
4. There’s no need for flashy frills.
Marketing toward boomers requires a dynamic approach that will continue to need adapting over the years. We’re looking at a practical generation that likes to keep things simple, but is also getting ready for retirement and ready to indulge in a comfortable, well-deserved life. With over 7.5 million people belonging to this generation, it’s worth it to create an additional campaign. Ads appealing to the Woodstock era of independence, free spirit and compassion will broaden your audience, as long as the ads are presented in a way that is easy to identify with.
5. Voice search is for everyone.
Using hands to type and search is already becoming too slow and outdated. The ease of voice search on smartphones and smart speakers is gaining traction. It has increased from 6.4 million in 2017 to 8.2 million users (up 28.6%) in 2018 within the boomer generation. Voice technology you can activate and adjust by speaking a command is exceptionally user-friendly for older adults, meaning any app integrated to a voice-activated virtual assistant has extensive advertising reach.
Among business owners, one of the largest demographics is made up of baby boomers, so you should be paying attention to marketing to them effectively. While the new and hip startups are obsessively searching for a fountain of youthful consumers, you can tap into a robust consumer base of valuable, easily accessible media users over the age of 55.