Boomers Continue to Be the Focus of Marketing Efforts

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Boomers Continue to Be the Focus of Marketing Efforts

The year 2006 will mark an important milestone in marketing:  For the first time, more than half of the Baby Boomers will be over the age of 50.

Also in 2006, the first Baby Boomers will turn 60.  The 3.4 million Americans born in 1946 signaled the beginning of the boom, compared to the 2.8 million born one year earlier.

Just as their births transformed American culture and marketing, so too will their 60th birthdays.  And this is just the beginning.  Over the next 18 years, all of the 77 million Baby Boomers will move from middle age to maturity. 

They may have lived for 50 or 60 years, but don’t call them old.  “Baby Boomers literally think they’re going to die before they get old,” says J. Walker Smith, president of the Yankelovich Partners market research firm.  According to Newsweek, the firm found that Boomers define “old age” as beginning three years after the end of the average life expectancy.  Even though 60-year-olds today can expect to live to an average of 82.3 years, Boomers expect to take advantage of future discoveries in health care and genomics to live past 100.

This is significant because no previous generation reached their senior years expecting to live active lives for another four decades.  Just as in every previous stage of their lives, Boomers will largely define their quality of life by what they can afford to buy.  For marketers in several industries, this is a tremendous opportunity.

Boomers aged 50 to 60 have more than $1 trillion in spending power each year, according to a special report in BusinessWeek.  They also spent more than twice as much on clothes as teenagers did in 2004:  $42.7 billion versus $20 billion, according to the NPD market research firm, as reported in Time.

But contrary to conventional marketing wisdom, Boomers feel less loyal to brands than the average consumer.  For example, 48 percent of consumers between the ages of 50 and 59 would switch brands of consumers electronics, compared to 40 percent of all shoppers.

Before we explore the specific forecasts for the opportunities the Boomers will create, let’s quickly review how the “generation wave” makes a predictable impact on consumer spending.

In his best-selling 1993 book, The Great Boom Ahead, Harry S. Dent Jr. showed that we can anticipate the direction of the economy by plotting the impact of demographics on consumer spending.  Specifically, we can expect to see one of history’s biggest upswings in the economy over the next few years, with an era of increasing prosperity lasting until the end of the decade...

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