The Boomer Attitude

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While everyone agrees that the U.S. population is aging, few companies have included Baby Boomers and their elders in their marketing plans. At age 52, if not 49, mature consumers silently drop into marketing oblivion. The bulk of advertising dollars continues to be placed against younger consumers who spend far less than their parents and grandparents. Of those who have grappled with the Baby Boomer and older market, few have done so successfully. Most have found that a mass-market approach doesn't work. Faced with a highly diverse and largely unknown market, frustrations arise over how to identify and reach mature targets.

While today's technology enables us to embed attitudes or psychographics into databases and use them for media selection, many marketers remain mired in simplistic views of the mature market. Profitable marketing to the mature entails capturing this population's complexities. Rather than segment the mature market based on one variable, such as age or life stage, what's needed is a comprehensive approach that takes into account an entire range of variables. Behavior, demographics, media and Internet usage, informal sources of information and life-stage issues must be layered on a psychographic segmentation strategy in order to develop realistic and effective targets.

Our 35 years of experience focused on developing proprietary segmentation strategies for clients on a wide variety of topics, as well as our work in segmenting the mature market, demonstrate to us that the most reliable and actionable segmentation strategies fulfill the following five criteria:

  1. The segmentation strategy must be closely tied to a specific product, issue or service.

    The more specifically a segmentation study is focused on a product, service or issue, the more actionable the segmentation strategy will be. Studies based on cohort analysis, general personality traits, life stage, values, general psychographics and lifestyle are inherently weak because they do not tie mature consumer segments to anything specific. The usefulness of such studies for sales and marketing tasks, such as product development, messaging, pricing or database marketing, is extremely limited.

    We would counsel a cruise marketer, for example, to consider a custom segmentation specifically examining attitudes toward cruises or, even more specifically, one examining how destination affects the motivations to cruise. But cruise marketers face competition from all forms of travel, from recreational vehicles to packaged tours. Important insights can be obtained by overlaying a more general travel segmentation with a custom one specifically on cruising.

  2. The segmentation strategy should be based on multiple and redundant measures.

    Today, many other psychographic segmentation studies are created using statistical techniques that can often mislead marketers and reduce the value of such studies. In the process of creating a psychographic segmentation, these scientific techniques define some of the attitudinal measures as redundant. The statistical software used pulls out a group of scales as related in some way.

    As a next step, these methods require that marketers reduce the number of attitudinal measures or scales the program has selected. In this second step, marketers use intuition, not scientific methods, to figure out the relationship or shared meaning among the group of scales, selecting a scale as representative of the group.

    For example, in measuring the dimension of frugality, an interest in saving, a dedication to investing and a search for value, may all have been included in the original set of scales to which respondents reacted. These commonly used techniques and the marketer's resulting need to find a representative scale could lead him or her to intuit that any one of these scales actually represents the dimension of frugality.

    This approach can result in incorrect interpretations and a vast reduction in the insights a psychographic segmentation can deliver. From our perspective, these conventionally created segmentations provide little depth. The nuances, shadings and details of a target segment's motivations, all of which provide marketers with valuable guidance, are missing.

    In creating our segmentation strategies, we cast the widest possible net and examine scores of attitudes. These attitudes represent different perspectives on a dimension, such as cost or convenience or ease of use, related to a product or service. It isn't sufficient to measure, for example, a respondent's reaction to one scale. For greater assurance, any dimension should be explored from several different perspectives. A sufficient level of redundancy creates a higher level of certainty of developing a credible segmentation.

  3. The segmentation strategy should overlay multiple psychographic segmentations.

    In order to understand and reach their best target(s), we believe companies need multiple psychographic segmentation strategies focusing on various aspects of a product or service. This approach recognizes the great difficulty in understanding human motivations and their complexity.

    The practice of some major corporations to commission multiple psychographic segmentation studies on the same topic or issue in order to compare them is not what we are suggesting either. But multiple psychographic products can be overlaid to obtain a far richer and far deeper understanding of segments within a market.

  4. Successful segmentation strategies present a multidimensional approach.

    Rather than a one-dimensional approach to the mature market, or any market, we've realized that the need for a multidimensional perspective is imperative. No single perspective can identify a marketer's best prospects. While the percentages vary depending on the product or service, demographics can perhaps explain 20 percent to 60 percent of why someone buys a product or service. For example, a certain percentage of women in the mature market who are incontinent use absorbent undergarments. A physical need that occurs more frequently among mature women explains a significant part of their purchase of these products. Behaviors add a similar range of percentages. We can infer that women who purchase absorbent undergarments are either incontinent themselves or are buying them for someone who has this condition.

    But even knowing the demographics and behaviors of a target market, a gap in our understanding of this market still exists. Why have these buyers of absorbent undergarments opted for this solution to their problem of incontinence rather than others, such as having surgery, implants, medication, bio- feedback or doing Kegel exercises?

    We advocate that psychographic or attitudinal segmentation strategies we create serve as the hub of all marketing efforts (see figure, page 43). Marketers will make the most of their budgets and be most successful in targeting prospects already receptive to their products or services. The cost of convincing someone who has no interest in your product or service that he or she must buy it is immense and probably futile.

    Without an attitudinal or psychographic segmentation, we don't know the why, the motivation, behind a purchase decision. This knowledge gap weakens our ability to predict future behavior, particularly for new products and services for which behavior doesn't yet exist. Lacking a psychographic or motivational segmentation, we are also at a disadvantage in predicting behavior among a population, such as the Baby Boomers, undergoing a new experience, such as growing old.

  5. Successful segmentation strategies are measured empirically.

    In the initial phases of developing a segmentation strategy, a market researcher must decide if the segmentation will be developed a priori, or before the fact, or from the data provided by the respondents themselves. For example, a researcher who decides to carve up the mature market by those ages 40 to 64 and those 65 and older before any research has been done, has created an a priori segmentation scheme. In contrast, an a posteriori segmentation develops from the data itself and the way in which respondents have reacted to specific questions or materials.

Boomers can be carved into four distinct lifestyle segments.

In order to create successful segmentation strategies for the mature market, we began by determining the general issues that were important and relevant to the mature market in reference to that product category or behavior. The initial process entailed a review of secondary research as well as interviews with mature consumers. The lifestyle psychographic segment — featured below — is one of nine separate segmentation strategies mentioned in our book. This segmentation, as well as the eight others on subjects such as food, travel and health, serves as a starting point for building a 360-degree perspective on the market of those 40 and older. Research we've conducted since 1989, gathering more than 50 million pieces of data from 20,000 respondents, completes the profiles of best mature targets from this or the other segmentation strategies.


The key to understanding Upbeat Enjoyers is realizing their profound and pervasive optimism. They believe they are successful and are optimistic about their futures. The optimism that Upbeat Enjoyers radiate apparently makes them attractive and appealing to others, because those in this segment are the least likely to report feeling lonely.

Because of these attitudes, they tend to view the world — and themselves — through rose-colored glasses. Their attitudes about how they look really separate Upbeat Enjoyers from the other lifestyle segments. For Upbeat Enjoyers, the mirror reflects a face that has actually become more attractive with age. These attitudes about looking young are also connected to exceptionally strong convictions that they feel young.

Upbeat Enjoyers get a boost from wearing clothes that are in the latest styles. They are the only lifestyle segment enthusiastic about shopping through a catalog, and are the lifestyle segment least focused on mature consumer discounts.

Upbeat Enjoyers are enthusiastic, active and involved. They would like to spend their retirement expanding their intellectual horizons by going to lectures or taking courses through the mail or that are offered on television. They don't believe they will ever retire, and plan to work when they find it convenient or interesting to do so. Besides working for pay, individuals in this segment are the only ones interested in doing more volunteer work.

Upbeat Enjoyers show little concern about savings, investments or their future financial security. Other interests have far greater importance. Upbeat Enjoyers can see themselves living in a condominium, the only lifestyle segment that finds this option appealing.


The Insecure are deeply troubled by their lack of financial resources. Not having enough money to live on is the one issue that sets the Insecure segment apart from the other three lifestyle segments. With few financial resources, the Insecure are the only lifestyle segment that plans to spend solely on their own needs. Their children will have to take care of themselves.

The only lifestyle segment that sees themselves as unlucky in life and unsuccessful, the Insecure view their lives as bleak and offering little chance of improvement. Looking back on a difficult past, they see themselves facing uncertain, lonely futures. Retirement for the Insecure may include working because of financial need but includes few other plans and goals.

Those in the Insecure segment do not rush to embrace all aspects of change, and they don't like the way American values are changing. They would be happiest if they could live out their lives in their own homes. The Insecure are also concerned with the possibility of being crime victims.

The least pleased about the effects of age on their appearance, the Insecure are open to products that will make them younger, including those that will make their skin look younger. They also find that aging has brought them a decrease in stamina and that their memories aren't as good as they used to be.


As they look back over the years, Threatened Actives feel they have been successful and that the future will bring more good times, which includes remaining in their own homes. Threatened Actives reject retirement communities, such as Sun City, as the perfect place to retire. Nor do they find condominiums appealing. They would, however, like to move to a house in a safer neighborhood.

Those in this segment do not view retirement as a time to grow and cultivate new interests. They tell us they don't believe in retirement. Far more than the other lifestyle segments, Threatened Actives want to continue working — but on their own schedules. They need their car and very strongly oppose efforts to have older people retested when it comes time to renew their driver's licenses.

With a generally positive outlook on life, Threatened Actives accept themselves as they are. They wouldn't spend a lot of energy improving their appearance. Wearing stylish clothes doesn't make them feel good, and they don't think it is important to look as young as possible.

Threatened Actives tell us that openness to change is not important to the quality of their lives. This segment isn't comfortable with changes in American values, especially changes that may increase crime. Threatened Actives feel somewhat financially secure and would like to pass on some of their assets to their children.


Financial Positives consider themselves very successful people who have been very lucky in their lives. They are optimistic about their futures and are not at all lonely. They are realists and long-term planners. And they have definitely planned not to work in retirement. Motivated by a concern to be financially secure, Financial Positives believe very strongly that they have attained their goal. They have done so through planning and making conservative financial investments. Unlike the other lifestyle segments, Financial Positives have relied on the advice of financial planners.

Besides saving and investing, Financial Positives are savvy shoppers, whether they are purchasing a couch or a cruise, and are careful with every dollar. Financial Positives are wholeheartedly committed to shopping for value, and purchase items they believe will last a long time.

The only lifestyle segment interested in living in a retirement community, Financial Positives are even more interested in living in their own homes for the rest of their lives. They find their current neighborhoods to be low in crime, and they aren't interested in moving for greater safety.

Financial Positives are not satisfied with their current appearance or their memories. They agree that aging has created changes with few benefits. Their memories, they believe, aren't as good as they used to be, and Financial Positives, who place a great emphasis on looking as young as possible, find their appearance in their mature years to be less than acceptable. Their realistic perspective prompts them to favor rejuvenating cosmetics and plastic surgery as ways to recapture a youthful appearance.

Carol M. Morgan and Doran J. Levy ©2002. All rights reserved. Adapted with permission from the book Marketing to the Mindset of Boomers and Their Elders (Attitudebase). To order, call 888-787-8100 or go to or

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