Forget Millennial and Gen Z for a moment – Boomers are the next power generation

Is it me or is the entire marketing world somewhat fixated with the millennial generation and understanding how different they are from the generation they succeed? The fact there are big differences is true – we have recently completed a study which explored the conflicts caused when millennial workers come up against Baby Boomer managers – so we get the difference. However, lets also focus on something which is very different between the two groups and that is their relative size and spending power.

In the UK today there are more than 24 million people aged over 50 – more than 1 in 3 of the population and this is forecast to grow to over 30 million in the next twenty years.

Of far greater significance in a marketing context, this group hold an astounding 74% of the UK’s wealth. They are moneyed and often property owners with an asset base built on inheritance and no doubt hard work. This gives them freedom of choice, time and the ability to consume.

But they are a very differentiated group and becoming more so and yet our tendency in both research and marketing has been to lump them together as some ‘over 60’s’ or ’55+’; as though they might think, act and consume as one large group.

At The Buzzz we have spent the last 12-18 months supporting brands who in one way or another have seen the significance of getting the approaches to this large and valuable sector of the population as relevant and appropriate as they can. What has struck us is the subtle and not so subtle differences in attitude to life across people in this group. We remain convinced that the only sensible way to understand this age group is to forget about age and focus on attitude, emotional connections and how they relate to brands who get the communication appropriate and relevant.

I think I am rediscovering what it is like to be independent and free from some of the financial and emotional insecurities I had in my earlier years. I live for the minute, now – I love the age I am and what it gives me and I am determined to experience life for as long as I can

This attitude is typical of a new found confidence and a desire to take on age and the issues it may bring with a renewed vigour. It is why middle aged men are now seen in groups of cyclists, rather than on the golf course. It is why yoga and fitness classes are oversubscribed and why adventure holidays for the over 55’s are growing so quickly. But before we get carried away by the revolution of middle age, lets remember not everyone is like this or able to be like this. We find as many people who are concerned about the limiting factors of age, who have had a serious illness which makes them much more risk averse or who are happy to slide into the role of passive grandparent. We also find those who are chronically struggling to cope with the pressures of being sandwiched between caring for elderly parents and the demands of their own children for childcare duties and a heavy involvement with grandchildren while they struggle to hold down a job or build a career.

I never expected to be working so hard in my late 50’s as I am now. Not only am I working split shifts but I look after my grandchildren three mornings a week and the occasional weekend and I still cook and take meals for my 89 year old mum. I was expecting to be slowing down in my fifties not running harder than I ever have before

As researchers and insight consultants, we are often commissioned to look at segmenting customers and prospects in order to drive the effectiveness of marketing communication and customer experience. More than ever this huge group of consumers we refer to as Baby Boomers shows amazing diversity based on attitude, behaviour and income which, in turn, is determining the brand experiences they are seeking out. They don’t want to waste time on disappointments. They know what they want and so anything that falls short is very unlikely to get a second chance. Understanding the detail and granularity across this age group is increasingly the difference between real success and average performance. For once, this is an area where the volume of data available is far less relevant in defining segments than an understanding of the deep held beliefs and attitudes which are actually driving their behaviour and consumption. Finding ways to define your over fifty audiences is now more relevant than ever before because their behaviour and consumption are far less erratic or promiscuous from a brand perspective than you might think. For our boomers, finding a product, brand or experience that ticks their boxes enables them to repeat the experience again and again. Designing that experience to meet a number of segment needs is where the skilfully agile marketing strategies are now focusing – same product but presented in a number of ways is about maximising opportunity without losing brand integrity.

We have learned a lot from our recent focus on this age group:

  1. Most significantly, marketers need to acknowledge the diversity in attitudes within this age group
  2. As a group they are changing and reacting to change fast – often faster than most brands can keep up to if looking to traditional age or demographic classifications.
  3. This means that brands need to think about this age group not as people drifting into old age but as people seeking to extend their middle age for as long as they possibly can
  4. It is very likely that your current upper age range for your defined market is probably too low – there is your first missed opportunity
  5. Defining by reference to age is convenient but unlikely to be the key divider in your market. Consumers now gather around points of passion, interest, shared values. Millennials respect those people older than them who have transitioned to hold similar values, they listen to their experience and perspective, when it aligns to theirs.
  6. Develop a digital strategy which is inclusive of your extended target. This generation may not be digital natives but as technology becomes more intuitive and they see an advantage in it they are quick to adopt.
  7. Brand marketers increasingly need to ‘walk in their shoes’ and see the world ‘through their eyes’ to truly understand the potency of this group of people – here are some great examples of that selected by our friends at Caulder Moore: click here

If you would like to know more about our experience of getting into the hearts and minds of the ‘middle-aged ’til I die‘ consumer then please contact us directly on 0113 387 3222 or email Alan Bowman on