Marketers Would Be Foolish to Ignore Boomer Audience

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

We applaud Unilever's "discovery" of the boomer demographic and strongly urge other marketers -- those interested in making money, at any rate -- to follow suit.

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The boomer generation isn't the first in America to age gracefully. Their parents' generation boasted substantial numbers of older folks living longer, more active lives. But where members of the "Greatest Generation" silently soldier on, their offspring aren't so demure.

To hear boomers tell it, they practically have to beg marketers to sell them products. And while there's a certain irony when the Summer of Love/Down With the Man generation becomes perhaps the first generation in history to complain that they're not getting enough commercial messaging targeted at them, they have a point.

But there are two considerations bigger than boomers' demands to be seen -- their numbers and their disposable income. There are an estimated 78 million boomers in the U.S. They're living longer, working longer and spending more, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 trillion annually.

Marketers would be foolish to turn their backs on such a demographic. Sure, drug manufactures and financial-service and insurance providers do a fine job of pitching their products to boomers. But many others are passing up a golden opportunity. For example, the travel, electronics and apparel sectors would do well to pay close attention to a group that wants to travel the world, embrace new technology and look good doing it.

What's shocking is that a package-goods company would even have to debate this issue. According to Information Resources Inc., boomers spend $46 billion annually on package goods. And Unilever's research has "unveiled" the fact that boomers account for 60% of spending on package goods.

If readers are tempted at first to mock the expenditure of large sums of money to research the seemingly obvious, they'd do well to remember that in the hive mind of the average marketing department, human life begins at 18 and ends at 49. There's been some "progress" on the younger end of the scale -- preschoolers are getting their fair share of ads -- but like old generals, older people still seem to just fade away.

If Unilever's findings change even one under-50-mind in one marketing department, it will be money well spent.
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