Baby Boomer Background
Wikipedia defines baby boomers as “individuals born in the United States between mid-1946 and mid-1964.” The Baby Boom generation is perhaps the most economically powerful, culturally influential generation in our history. They number 74 million, and exert significant economic influence on sectors including health care, technology, travel and e-commerce. From gender roles to elder possibilities, they don’t see themselves receding into the background. As they “keep on keepin’ on”, reaching Baby Boomers with direct mail marketing can be quite rewarding.
Baby Boomers Keep On Working
According to a fresh Pew Update, 29% of older Boomers age 65-72 – men and women – are actively engaged in the workforce, the highest rate for people their age since the 1970s, and exceeding the percentage of the prior two generations at that age. Younger Boomers age 54-64 are still in the labor force to the tune of 66%.
Factors contributing to this trend:
- Female Boomers entered the workforce continually throughout their adult lives, and are remaining as their generation ages.
- The Great Recession had a significant impact on Boomer’s retirement plans, so they have remained in the workforce out of necessity.
- About 40% of Boomers staying in the labor market have at least a bachelor’s degree, which may contribute to their professional marketability/agility.
- Life expectancy for men and women has increased, so those who reach traditional retirement age in good health choose to continue working.
- Boomers are holding off on retirement to maximize Social Security benefits.
Baby Boomers Keep On Buying
By most estimates, Baby Boomers have been surpassed by millennials as the nation’s largest living generation. Boomers deserve lots of marketing love. Even in retirement they represent a consumer bloc of formidable wealth. According to U.S. News & World Reports, Boomers control 70% of the nation’s disposable income. In 2019 Baby Boomer households control 54% of total U.S. HH net worth. (Packaged Facts).
Boomers are influential executive decision makers. They travel. They spend. They crave sound financial advice, and seek restorative healthcare that supports their “live forever” worldview.
This cohort does not intend to grow old quietly. Rather, their strategic financial and health decisions today could enable them to live a fuller life in retirement. Insights from an AARP study indicate that 70% of Boomers plan on taking an overnight vacation in the next 12 months. 49% of Boomers plan to spend between $1,000 and $5,000 towards a vacation this year.
The combination of senior status and active participation in all walks of American life and commerce has resulted in the creation of detailed B2C and B2B databases. Within those databases lie a rich trove of selectable details. This enables marketers to craft offers and messages that resonate with the Baby Boomer experience personally and professionally.
Baby Boomers Keep On Donating, And Voting
Boomers are socially and politically active on both a local and national level. An AARP poll found that the average Boomer donor gave $1,061 in 2017 to an average of 4 charities. In addition to their significant turnout in elections – 69% voted in 2016 (Pew) – they actively engage with current events in order to create informed opinions on today’s national agenda issues. It should be noted that despite the tectonic cultural shifts that rocked American society during their youth, some Boomers have moved toward a more conservative ideology in later age while others have intensified their liberal leanings. A Pew survey conducted in 2017 shows that nearly twice as many Baby Boomers identified as consistently conservative in 2017 as in 1994, while more than four times as many identified as consistently liberal.
Baby Boomers Keep On Creating
The Baby Boomer generation has not only given us creative business and technology icons like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. It has also produced stellar figures in art, literature, music and theater. Following are just a few members of the Baby Boom generation who have continued to achieve at the highest level, defying our youth obsessed culture:
- Frances McDormand (b. 1957) won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2018.
- Gary Oldman (b.1958) won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2017.
- Bryan Cranston (b.1956) won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a play in 2019.
- Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) received an expansive retrospective at the Met Breuer, MCA Chicago, and MOCA LA in 2017.
- Adrian Piper (b. 1948) in 2018 became the first living artist to have the MOMA devote its entire 6th floor gallery to a retrospective.
- John Grisham (b.1955), David Baldacci (b.1960), Danielle Steele (b. 1947), and Delia Owens (b.1949) all topped the New York Times best seller list in 2019.
Their achievements are both aspirational and inspirational for Baby Boomers who grew up in an atmosphere of possibility as in, “I could do that.”
The Baby Boomers Deserve Some Respect
The Baby Boomer worldview has been continually evolving through tragedy and triumph. In youth this generation endured assassinations, gave birth to the Woodstock Nation and stayed up late to watch Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon. They were well into adulthood on 9/11, and starting to eye retirement until the Great Recession. Those still working tend to be well-educated. They are still a force in management as they mentor the younger generations that will follow.
Yet a curious thing is happening. A TotalRetail report cites brands are spending only 10 percent of their e-commerce marketing budgets on this segment, compared to 50% on millennials. Several report statistics suggest this is something of a mistake. First, Boomers spend around 17% more per purchase than Millennials. Second, they provide over 50 percent of U.S. consumption. That amounts to $13.5 trillion annually. Building a fresh customer base is fine, but retailers can’t take this powerful market force for granted. Boomers have worked and continue to work for marketplace respect.
Reaching Baby Boomers With Direct Mail
Successfully reaching Baby Boomers demands a direct, no-nonsense approach. They came of age in the Mad Men/creative revolution advertising era so they can distinguish between hype and substance. They still enjoy the tactile, sensory experience of physical media (as Millennials are beginning to appreciate). Statistics show they are influenced by direct marketing offers even more than word of mouth or online reviews. In a Gallup survey, Americans aged 65 and older were far more likely than those younger than 50 to say they look forward to checking the mail every day (56% vs. 36%). This connection to physical mail bodes well for marketing offers, so long as they are relevant and forthright.
Boomers are tech savvy. A MarketingCharts study found that Boomers use search engine ads as a tool for decision making, similar to Millennials. This is consistent with Boomers identifying as much with their children as their parents. It would seem a well integrated multi-channel approach is key to recognizing the continued energy, and unlocking the awesome wealth and purchasing power of the Baby Boomer generation.
Even as they age, Boomers continue to have an impact on nearly every aspect of American life. As more Boomers reach retirement age, they face crucial lifestyle decisions. These include financial planning, healthy lifestyle, medical care, plus travel & leisure. Boomers work hard to make informed choices and plan well. They do not condone wandering blindly into the future, but rather plan to take full advantage of whatever is next. From the rock & roll revolution to a rocky rollercoaster retirement they still strive to make headlines.