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Boomer Marketing—Part 1

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Baby boomers are people who were born between 1946 and 1964, according to most experts. The sheer size of this group of people is mind-boggling. There are approximately 75.8 million baby boomers. Put another way, they make up one-third of the population in the United States.

Generally speaking, baby boomers range in age from 45 to 65. Many of them are what demographers call “empty nesters,” which means the children have left home. Which means that a tremendous amount of income that was formerly spent on “the kids” has now become discretionary income. According to Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave LLC, baby boomers take home $2 trillion per year and, as a group, embody 50% of all discretionary spending. They control 70% of all the wealth in the United States. They own 77% of all financial assets. They own and use 50% of credit cards in the United States. Fully 80% of the money deposited in savings accounts belongs to the baby boomers. And 50% of all luxury cars sold are purchased by baby boomers.

The psychology of affluent baby boomers may be profiled in the following manner:

Baby boomers focus on their lifestyle, which means they are very busy and always on the go.

Baby boomers love to travel. There is an old adage that states, “Travel broadens one’s horizons.” Baby boomers believe it. They want to live it.

Since they have spent most of their working lives accumulating “things,” they now want to accumulate experiences. Which means they want to feel what they haven’t felt before. They want to undergo the adventures they believe they have missed, because they were so busy working. They want to encounter new and unique experiences. They view travel as the primary means of attaining these experiences. Which explains why 80% of all luxury travel purchases are made by baby boomers.

When they purchase a vacation or travel destination, they expect superb personal service. If they get it, they will keep coming back and spread the word via referrals to friends, family, associates, and neighbors. If they don’t get it, they will take their business elsewhere.

Keeping this psychological profile in mind, the way to appeal to affluent baby boomers means avoiding marketing that appears static. Baby boomers see themselves as vibrant, active individuals. Baby boomers do not become less active with age. They just become active, older baby boomers. Baby boomers have longer life expectancies and they know it, so they want to make the most of their life spans. Which means 60 is the new 40.

So if they’re taking a cruise, they want to get off the boat and walk around. They don’t want to see the sights from an air-conditioned bus. If they’re taking a vacation to Miami Beach or the Bahamas, they want to participate in hang-gliding and water skiing, golf and tennis, hiking and sightseeing. Since most baby boomers are not retired, but still engaged in careers, most of their traveling is done in spurts of 7 to 14 days.

Be aware of lifestyle differences among affluent baby boomers. Beware of the trap of predicting behavior based upon age. There is great diversity among baby boomers. Some prefer wine tasting in Napa Valley. Others like to attend motorcycle races. Still others want to hike up Halfdome in Yosemite National Park. Knowing the client’s preferences is important. Once those are known, information and brochures may be sent directly to them.

Getting to know the baby boomer preferences demands that marketing directors profile their customer databases, so that they can identify various groups of baby boomers according to similarity patterns. Lifestyle characteristics can aid in forecasting what activities a particular group prefers. The different characteristics include income, education, hobbies, and how and where the baby boomers shop.

Jupiter Research recommends an easier way to profile baby boomer preferences. Just ask them what luxury goods and services they like to buy. Then ask them why they bought them. Take the answers at face value and go with them. Although this method seems simplistic, Jupiter Research has found it to be as accurate as its scientific surveys.

Affluent baby boomers grew up in an affluent society. This means they are cosmopolitan buyers who utilize all their alternatives. They research products and services before they buy. Which means they are less susceptible to brand influence than other affluent customers. Baby boomers want to know if a brand is based on image alone, or if it actually provides quality. Both affluent male and female baby boomers have discovered the internet as a primary source of research. According to Jupiter Research, affluent female boomers are more prone to buy online than affluent male boomers.

For example, Travel Marketing Decisions surveyed travel-industry experts and baby boomers regarding travel marketing. Here are the summarized results.

Baby boomers believe travel is essential to their lifestyle. They do not see travel as a luxury. Which means baby boomers perceive travel as a necessity, almost a birthright. Health considerations, along with age and financial considerations do not have much impact on the travel plans of baby boomers. However, Travel Marketing Decisions noted that, because of the recent recession and the sluggish economy, baby boomer travel had fallen off 23 percent. Psychologically, baby boomers are ready to go, and Travel Marketing Decisions forecasts boomers will again begin to travel as the economy improves.

As a group, baby boomers are the most-traveled generation in history. They began traveling as students, and are now seeking to travel the world. This translates into more exotic travel destinations. Baby boomers want to enrich themselves both physically and intellectually. Which means they want “hands-on” experiences. They desire not only to go see the mountain, but to climb it, as well as know the history of the mountain.

Baby boomers believe that they are only as old as they think they are. Age is just a number. This means they still want to see and do the things they missed doing when they were 25 years old. They do not want to travel with “old people,” which is anyone older than they are. This means they spurn “senior discounts,” because they do not perceive themselves as seniors. In marketing terms, this information means “youthful images” sell luxury products and services to baby boomers. “Mature images” cause boomers to seek other places to spend their money.

Fun sells. Baby boomers want to say, “What a rush!” To do this, they require sensory stimulation, preferably with other people around. The experience has to be social and sensory, as well as quick, easy, and convenient. In other words, fun is no longer fun if it involves too much work. “Bring along a friend” destination-packages appeal to baby boomers.

The baby boomers invented the phrase “Are we there yet?” Which means baby boomers are hungry for the feeling of individual well-being, health, and psychic satisfaction. They want it now, not tomorrow. Instant self-gratification is the mantra of baby boomers. Travel is the therapeutic. This means baby boomers dislike waiting to fulfill their desire to travel. This, in turn, means baby boomers have a tendency to book their reservations at the last moment. When they do finally book, they expect it to be easy, quick, and convenient.

Baby boomers, since they are seeking experiences, do not want to be spectators. They want to participate in every part of their globe-trotting adventures, from the actual planning of the trip to what they will do when they are at their destination. They do not like pre-programmed activities. Rather, they want to choose what they will do. For example, on a trip to Italy they don’t want to watch the locals pick grapes and stand idly, watching them stomp the grapes in the winepress. Baby boomers want to do it. Travel agents call this “sightdoing versus sightseeing.” Boomers want to experience what the Italians experience.

To be continued in Part 2.

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