Historically, typical marketing segmentation strategies have dictated that the 18-49 year old adult should be the primary focus of firms’ promotion efforts. However, as the last of the baby boomers, the 78 million individuals born between 1946 and 1962, celebrate their 50th birthdays, marketers are quickly realizing that they will have to alter their traditional tactics if they hope to tap into this group’s collective spending power of more than $2 trillion - some 50 percent of U.S. discretionary income.[1]

In particular, reaching aging boomers online represents both a challenge and an opportunity for today’s marketers. The 53 million baby boomers online make up the largest generation surfing the Web, and represent 29.8% of all US Internet users.[2] Yet, regardless of their intentions, businesses are not taking full advantage of the chance to target this generation online; more than 72.5% of adults aged 45-54 and 83.2% of adults 55 years and older believe online advertising is focused on younger generations[3].

Boomer Marketing Challenges:

In trying to determine the difficulty in reaching baby boomers, some demographers have noted that the generation might actually be better understood if split into two distinct groups: older boomers (born between 1946 and 1954) and younger boomers (born between 1955 and 1964). While there may be a case for further segmenting the boomers by past experiences given the number of years this age cohort spans – this is really only the tip of the iceberg for marketers looking to reach this diverse group.

Raised by permissive parents, who were anxious to provide their children with the material goods, security, and pocket money which they had been deprived in their own childhood, baby boomers grew up in an era which celebrated youth and prized individualism.

In fact, if you are looking to find the greatest common denominators underpinning the boomers' collective aspirations, you may discover that they can be found in this generation’s desire to be perceived as youthful and unique – and, of course, to see themselves through this lens.

To this end, marketers using messaging tailored to ‘seniors’ or ‘aging hippies’ may find themselves alienating a group whom expects to be catered to on their terms. It’s necessary to consider the goals and concerns of the baby boomer audience based on that which is relevant to them today, rather than focus purely in terms of past shared experiences.

Themes in the Midlife Stage:

Among other things, this involves a closer look at the impact of increased life expectancy on the midlife period, which is characterized by distinct rites of passages that mirror neither those of senior living nor young adulthood.

To do so, it may be valuable to consider the roles that each of the following play in the lives of boomers:

Indulgent Caregivers

According to a recent study conducted for Grandparents.com 54% of all grandparents, almost 38 million, are younger than 65 years old and 51% of the grandparent population will be baby boomers by 2010. Spending by grandparents on their grandchildren has grown an average 7.6 percent per year since 2000, nearly double the average annual growth rate for consumers overall and the study expects grandparents to spend $52B on their grandchildren in the next year.

Additionally, adults over 40 spent nearly twice as much per month on children and three times the amount per month on teenagers as those under 40[4]. As the Hallmark Channel’s Henry Schleiff recently noted in a NY Times article, in the midst of a recession, the boomers offer advertisers “an audience — and here’s your quotable quote — that has assets, not allowances.”

Cougars: Sexy at Any Age

In a recent interview with Marketing Daily, Carol Davies, a partner at innovation consultancy Fletcher Knight, discussed the new TV Land show ‘The Cougar’ and its place in highlighting boomer women’s desire to look attractive and – yes - feel sexy.

Davies highlighted the growing cultural sense that women want to continue to be sexually relevant even after they turn 50 as well as the hyperactive beauty trial mode, in which boomer women conduct a mad search for beauty products, exercise regimes and nutritional solutions to help them look as young as they feel.

Health & Wellness Information Seekers

Boomers are highly motivated to go online to find out more about a drug, condition or regimen they have seen advertised on TV. In an earlier ThirdAge/JWT BOOM survey of 1,039 people over age 40, 68% said that seeing a health-related TV commercial had prompted them to go online for more information.

And, among those seeking additional information, a whopping 80% said they clicked on an online ad related to health issues!

Targeting Tactics:

By targeting based on the needs of the midlife stage detailed above while simultaneously considering boomers’ collective aspirations and beliefs in messaging, marketers may find that they grow increasing effective in reaching this elusive group.

Here are some ideas on tactics that may resonate in marketing messaging:


One way to achieve success in the boomer arena is to create a brand that is associated with trust – and prove it. Boomers tend to be less brand loyal than younger generations, and, in fact, according to an AARP/Focalyst survey in 2008, some 61% agreed that “in today’s marketplace, it doesn’t pay to be loyal to one brand.”

On the other hand, once a firm manages to attract a boomer following, it can pay back in droves, particularly among female consumers. A year-long survey by Keller Fay Group for Prevention magazine found that word-of-mouth is a strong influence in buying decisions among boomer women. Some 68% of boomer women rated information they heard in conversations as credible and 55% said they made purchases based on their conversations.

Quality Products and Accurate Information:

Perhaps because they have seen more trends come and go than their millennial counterparts, your messaging should reflect boomers’ focus on a products long term quality and value; this generation is not typically interested in short term fads.

According to a 2008 Focalyst Survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents ages 43 and older said they paid more attention to ads for products they already planned to buy. Since boomers are not brand loyal, they are likely to decide on a product purchase without having a brand in mind, as a result, they are highly receptive to advertising that provides additional information on products they intend to purchase and more likely to be willing to experiment with new brands.

As a caveat, false advertising can be harmful to your brand, the same Focalyst survey revealed that two-thirds of Boomers would be less likely to buy a product if they found the advertising to be offensive – such is the case with ads that bucket them as ‘seniors’.


Recently, we've seen nostalgia-themed advertising campaigns for companies like Target, Coke, and Nationwide Insurance; marketers' goal in revisiting the past is to distill the economic anxiety of the present. Some of these campaigns involve combining the best of the past and present in order to bring in younger audiences, but boomers, in particular, tend to benefit from nostalgic targeting that reminds them of their youth.

[1] Value Retail News; Dec2008, Vol. 26 Issue 10, p19-19, 1/3p
[2] comScore Media Metrix Research, September 2008.
[3] Burst Media Corp., March 2008
[4] TV Land’s “Generation BUY: A Close Look at the Boomer Consumer” study.