Boomers Set to Control 70% of Disposable Income – Who Are You Marketing To?

Baby Boomers represent 44% of the US population and by 2017 are estimated to hold 70% of US disposable income. Combine their buying power with their fast adoption of technology – one-third of Boomers say they are heavy internet users, with more than 8 million Boomers spending more than 20 hours a week online
– and marketers have a huge opportunity.

A collaborative study between BoomAgers and Nielsen found that those born before 1965 spend more than 50% on all Consumer Packaged Goods. While marketers have traditionally considered the younger generations as the rapid technology adopters, the stats show Boomers and seniors are increasingly integrating new technology into their lives. Lest we forget Bill Gates is a Boomer and so was Steve Jobs!

The fact is 80 million Boomers are controlling the wealth and product movement in the US market. The 50+ segment is close to 100 million consumers and by 2050 will be over 160 million strong. Yet only 5% of marketing goes into reaching this highly lucrative group. Seniors and Boomers are being ignored by online marketers!

A Quick Boomer History Lesson
I remember when the PC hit the market place and advertising copy was written by IT engineers for IT engineers. It didn’t make sense to the average person. The massive sales that evolved from the PC introduction on the market definitely weren’t driven by the advertising copy that was published.

What consumers really needed to learn from advertising and marketing was how the PC would improve efficiency and how to work the thing. The business world wanted the product to reduce the cost of bookkeeping, sales tracking and production scheduling. Office workers wanted the time saving abilities. Unfortunately these concerns weren’t addressed in the marketing plan.

Instead, marketers spoke to the techno-nerds with information on all the memory, ram, the type of hard drive, featured components and technical buzz words that no one understood. Marketing departments and copywriters completely missed the mark on delivering the content that buyers were looking for. Consumers were left to figure it out on their own. I don’t know how Microsoft or Apple survived.

They didn’t tell the consumer that the PC allowed the little guy to generate information like the big guys using super computers. They didn’t look at the myriad of alternate uses for the personal computer. Other operating systems came and went. Other superior software packages came and went, but none of the competing suppliers thought to talk to Baby Boomers, the largest buying demographic the world had seen. So the first to the market developers got the popular votes.

Today, PC’s are in every school because Boomers wanted them there. The same is true for the internet. The Boomers put both in the schools as teaching tools. Had it been left to marketers, I have a suspicion that the government and spies would be the only users.

Along came Steve Jobs and Smartphones
Cell phones are another example of missing the mark with Baby Boomers. They were originally developed and sold for business use. Marketing and advertising didn’t cause cell phone sales to explode into the general populace! In fact, the sales force discouraged personal cell usage. As parents, Boomers saw it as a way to keep in touch with their children. That was all it took! Parents demanding the product and the sales exploded!

Steve Jobs (a baby boomer himself) saw the growth of the PC, the explosion of the internet plus the cell phone and thought – Let’s put it all together. That is what he did. But, was it marketed to the Boomers? No! It took the tech savvy children to show their parents the benefits of the smartphone.

Boomers are the Big Spenders Online – In Time and Money
Today, Boomers represent about 40% of the consumers paying for wireless service. They represent one-third of all online and social media users and 8 million Boomers admit to spending over 20 hours per week online. Their Social networking has doubled in the last year alone!

Current statistics show that those over 50 spent nearly $7 billion per year online. They are using the internet for comparison shopping for large ticket items and aren’t afraid to buy online. A study by Forester Research found that over 3 months those Boomers aged 56-66 spent an average of $367 compared to those 23- 31 who spent $311 and those 46-55 who spent $318.

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) found in a post-buy analysis that $50 billion of US ad spend is “wasted” every year, $30 billion of that is wasted on sending the wrong message. I suspect that this is the case with many Baby Boomers judging by our past experiences. Imagine what figures a savvy marketer could produce if they sent the right message with the right information that Boomers could use and would use.

Yankelovich Consumer Research reports that people are exposed to almost 30,000 marketing messages per day and that consumers can barely remember 2 of the messages they have seen. Is your marketing budget “wasted” on targeting the wrong audience with the wrong message?

Marketing Oversights – Know thy Customer
Boomers don’t appreciate feeling belittled or tricked. Content should include pertinent information to them. Understand that Boomers won’t waste time on useless information. They want information on what you have to sell! Answer their questions. Tell them how your product works, how it meets their needs, how it solves their problem or how they can put it to use. When Boomers want to buy they want a number to call, quick and easy contact information and access to more information if needed.

Jim Gilmartin with Coming of Age Marketing gives these helpful tips on marketing to Baby Boomers:

  • Design your marketing to allow buyers to use imagination to define the attributes that meet his/her needs and desires.
  • Less is more in the Baby Boomer market.
  • Use functional social reinforcement and related experiences to meet advertising expectation.
  • Capitalize on the fact that Boomers use new products as a gateway to meaningful experiences beyond the intrinsic value traditionally advertised.
  • Consider using Boomers to assist in product, communication and service development.
  • Be authentic and give them the facts (stop using hyperboles).
  • Portray Boomers as doing for others, as individuals, as smart, as active, as wise.
  • Touch their hearts and they will allow you to enter their minds.

Perhaps you just assume that Boomers will come buy your product no matter what. With 30,000 marketing messages cluttering up the view, your message better stand out from the pack and speak directly to the Boomers or else they won’t even see your product to buy into your product.

Key Boomer Takeaway
Figure out how to connect with the boomer market! Think about it – Boomers are increasingly tech savvy, they have the time and ability to find you online, and they have the money to spend on your product.

About the author:
Chris Genge is the President of 1st on the List Promotion Inc, a website promotion firm that specializes in search engine optimization and pay per click management. Chris writes on current and emerging search engine marketing theories and has been involved in the SEO industry since 1997. He and his team focus on researching and implementing the most effective search engine optimization techniques.
My website is at:


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