Why Brands Should Embrace the New Wave of Older Audiences
Jane Crisan, President + COO
Advertising has always had an obsession with youth. Countless brands align themselves with Millennials through “youth-marketing” in the hopes of capturing the attention of the most culturally relevant and largest generation group in the U.S. From ads to agency brand positioning, it is evident that the majority of the industry is focused on keeping up with Millennials and their needs and tastes. But what about brand alignment with, or at least recognition of, the most affluent audience segment, Boomers or adults over the age of 55?
In our 20+ years of experience as a performance marketing agency, Rain the Growth Agency sees quite a few brands, especially emerging DTC brands, falsely identify their customers as only Millennials through primary research and persona work. However, when we delve into the actual customer segmentation data, what often emerges are Gen X or Baby Boomers as the actual customer (Surprise!). As we all know, the Baby Boomers are now the second-largest generational cohort. Moreover, the roughly 70 million Baby Boomers constitute a steep increase in seniors within the U.S. This phenomenon has shaped a large “wave” in the population that has been appropriately referred to by some as the “Silver Tsunami.”
Baby Boomers might come in second for population size, but they are indeed the generation with the most significant spending power at $2.6 Trillion — a bigger splash than Millennials ($1.4 trillion). So with this overwhelming knowledge of where the real purchasing power lies, why do we see a lack of brands aligning themselves with Boomers or 55+ in their marketing efforts?
Millennials are one of the most accessible generations because they are tech-savvy and culturally progressive. We know what they want, when they want it. Their voice and social influence is not only attractive but profitable for many industries. However, the 55+ population of Americans are often left in the shadows of advertising and marketing. Plus, it just isn’t “cool” to claim territory with an older audience. Being the agency obsessed with marketing to older audiences doesn’t shine very bright for attracting talent or clients. However, I feel a fundamental shift is happening right now.
I’ve been closely watching the movement toward “inclusive marketing” over the last 18 months. From wider representation in sexuality to age to body type, we’ve seen the accountability from consumers and the intentionality of companies to target audiences from various walks of life. For example, an investment newsletter that I follow highlighted the increasing interest and deal flow money moving towards the “longevity economy” or “age tech.” I even saw a recent marketing job posting for Vice President of Age Inclusion. So maybe the rallying cry by Cindy Gallop to stamp out ageism and Paulina Porizkova’s “Gray Pride” movement has finally taken hold in our industry, or perhaps as someone in that 55+ cohort, I personally just want to be one of the cool kids finally.
As an agency obsessed with audience identification and scale potential based on real customer purchase data, we have clients that we have successfully scaled in all demographic categories. Still, our depth of experience in the 55+ category is unsurpassed, and we want to share it with the world. Here are some of the ways brands can harness the Boomer Silver Tsunami and authentically engage with their older audiences.
Identify Segments Within the Generation
As a child, I was quite fond of my grandparents. I mimicked everything they did, even their morning routine. We’d get up, brush our teeth, put on freshly ironed clothes, and go to the front porch to read the newspaper with a fresh cup of coffee (OJ for me). It was a very predictable routine that I later found out wasn’t just unique to my grandparents. As I got older, I assumed that routine was just an “old person” thing to do. Unfortunately, over the years, we’ve seen brands advertise and speak to older audiences through that same “all old people are like this” lens, talking to their audience as if they’re all the same without taking the time to identify how they may be different.
One of the main contributors to our success with the 55+ cohort is our research dedicated to identifying demographic segments within the generation. Looking at age, income, values, interests, and lifestyles allowed us to identify three discrete groups within the Boomer Silver Tsunami — Nostalgic Conservatives (thrifty, fixed-income), Seniors Simply Living (traditional, mid-income), and Progressive Knowledgeable Nesters (savvy, affluent). Though they are within the same generation, each segment values, spends, and thinks differently. This data allows us to strategically and authentically align our campaigns to speak directly with our audiences’ needs. Taking the time to identify segments will provide actual data that can guide you during campaign development.
Understand how retirement is valued
Retirement is valued entirely differently within the Boomer Silver Tsunami than previous generations. New entrants to retirement view it as a new chapter in life — a more optimistic lens than the view of many past generations. In our research, we uncovered four key pillars of retirement. They include health, family, purpose, and finances. The current 55+ consumers invest time and money to align their livelihoods to maintain these four pillars. It is also important to note how each of these pillars are prioritized within the generations’ segments.
Tap into the 55+ segments increased use of online shopping
The pandemic has caused changes to the shopping landscape. Last year, e-commerce skyrocketed like never before. People were consistently spending their money online due to lockdowns and the convenience of delivery. However, many didn’t realize that one of the largest groups spending online was the 55+. Consumers 65+ spent 49% more online shopping in 2020 than the year prior. At Instacart, 60+ shoppers order groceries 25% more than younger shoppers. Many brands did not expect the cohort to be savvy to online shopping, and data has proven that the new digital habits are likely to stick. Though in-store shopping is still valued amongst the cohort, brands should tap into their older audiences who are eager to spend their money online. Additionally, there has been a direct correlation in increased online shopping habits and the technology gap narrowing for the generation. The Boomer Silver Tsunami has proven that Millennials are not the only ones who know how to make quick purchases from their mobile phones.
We recognize the differentiated need, whether it is research around preferred visual imagery or the ability to target the Boomer Silver Tsunami in linear television, OTT, and digital media. In addition, we want to contribute to the cultural conversation around connecting to the all-important consumer, regardless of age. The 55+ might not be a marketer’s primary target or a potential secondary growth target, but we will continue to effectively nurture their essential inclusion into the marketing mix.