Boomer consumers: Different from you and me (Part 1)

No matter how old or young you are, if you’re an advertiser or a marketer, the Baby Boom generation is a fact of life – and has been for all your life.
Projecting from the latest completely crunched set of census numbers available (2000), there are some 351,966 Baby Boomers in the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area – 25 to 30 percent of the total population. And Richmond’s a pretty good demographic mirror of the country as a whole, which is why it’s one of the top ten US test markets.

Talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation

First, let’s make sure we’ll all talking about the same thing. There are many different definitions of just who the Baby Boomers are, but for the purposes of discussion here, let’s define them as people who are between 47 and 65 years old this year. Nothing rigorous about that; it just dovetails very nicely with BIGresearch’s December 2010 Simultaneous Media Usage Study. In it, they asked 24,000 adults age 18 and over, among other things, to name their favorite leisure activities in descending order of preference. Then, they sorted the results by age group: Silent Generation, 66 to 85 years old; Baby Boomers, 47 to 65; Gen Xers, 30 to 46; and Millennials, 18 to 29.

The differences are surprising. So are the similarities.

Some of the findings are what you might expect, while some are anything but. The number-one pastime for all four generations was – are you ready for this? – watching television. So if you’re selling to a mass market, and your product cuts across generational lines, TV is the way to go. Be warned, though: different generations watch different things. “NCIS” on CBS has the most over-50 viewers of any show on the tube. Millennials? Forget it.

Not only are the different generations likely to be watching different shows, but they could be watching them in different ways. Gen Xers and younger Boomers are more likely to timeshift their viewing, so if you’re advertising that one-day-only sale, be careful. Millennials are more likely to watch over a laptop, a netbook, an iPad or Android device or even a mobile phone. When TV shows stream online, they carry only national advertising, so if you’re a local Richmond advertiser, you’re out of luck.

Both Boomers and Millennials say their second favorite thing to do in leisure time is listen to music. But it’s not the same music and maybe not even the same medium. For Boomers, it’s very likely the oldies station. For Millennials, an iPod.

All except the Millennials say that eating out is their second-favorite activity. So if you’re advertising a restaurant, particularly one specializing in dinner business, you’ll want to skew your media mix older.

Don’t get around much any more

The younger the generation, the more different ways they like to chill. The Silent Generation mentioned only five leisure activities, the Boomers six, the Gen Xers seven, and the Millennials nine.

The medium is the audience

Only the Silent Generation says it reads magazines and newspapers, so if your target demographic is anyone else, plan your media schedule accordingly.
Millennials’ second-favorite activity is movie-going, so if they’re your target, consider cinema advertising. Boomers surf the Internet, but not as much as Gen Xers and Millennials, so the older your demographic, the more you’ll probably want to include traditional media in the mix.

More time for leisure?

Gen Xers are now becoming homeowners and parents, but Boomers do far more in the way of home improvements and gardening to beautify their empty nests – maybe because, with the kids all grown, they have more time to.

More to life than leisure

Of course, there’s more to life, and to marketing, than leisure. So keep an eye out for future articles which will cover other things that make the Baby Boomers a different target audience.