Baby boomers believe they are special. This means they demand the best, because the best bolsters the idea that they are extraordinary. This translates to mean they are attracted to perks, such as frequent flier miles, credit cards that offer access to upgraded hotel suites, and travel packages that give them special access to creative performances, such as art shows or stage shows. It also means they desire customized luxury goods and services. Baby boomers dislike being part of the rank and file. For example, when traveling to San Francisco and visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, boomers don’t want to stand in line with everyone else to ride the ferry to Alcatraz. They want to take one of the exclusive evening tours offered only by the Blue and Gold Line. These tours cost more, but offer more personal touches, such as a visit to the ferry’s control room, and human guides on Alcatraz rather than the standard audio guide.
When baby boomers say they want an experience, they mean they want a luxury experience. Gourmet food, panoramic views and superb service are essential to this experience. They do not want to rough it or stay in a standard motel room. Only the finest hotels complete with the most luxurious decor fits the tastes of boomers.
Baby boomers have hectic lifestyles, because they are trying to pack so much living into each day: work, spouses, hobbies, sports, and social activities. This explains why boomers like products and services that save time. Laptop computers, the internet, smart phones, and iPads are absolute necessities for baby boomers. Service providers have to earn the trust of baby boomers. Once they do, the boomers remain loyal.
Baby boomers do not balk at paying for convenience, expertise or luxury. In fact, they expect to pay for it. They also expect value for their money. They use ATM machines and pay the fees for such convenience. Boomers hire nannies, paying them well. Having a nanny implies status. They are also willing to spend money on bottled water, which they buy by the case. Expertise is highly valued by baby boomers, because it too implies status by association. But boomers insist that the expertise provide skill and knowledge the boomers do not already have on their own. This means providers, whether individuals or businesses, must stress their expertise and demonstrate it.
Baby boomers coined the phrase “Never trust anyone over 30.” And although they are well past 30, the principle still holds. Baby boomers maintain a subconscious distrust of institutions, probably because of historical events like the assassination of JFK, Bay of Pigs, Viet Nam, and Richard Nixon. This inherent distrust explains why boomers do research on luxury goods, services and travel packages before they spend their money. Which means that marketing that targets boomers must be honest and avoid offering pie-in-the-sky inducements. Luxury goods and services must perform as advertised. This means baby boomers rely on word of mouth referrals.
Just as any other group of individuals, baby boomers identify with others who reflect their core values, their lifestyle and their stage of life. This means marketing of luxury products to boomers should appeal to their value system. For example, luxury goods and services that “celebrate the energy and individuality” of the buyer are more appealing than those that do not. Marketing should highlight the special experience the product provides.
When marketing to baby boomers it is vital to remember there is no stereotypical boomer. Affluent boomers are not a narrowly defined group of customers with constitutive characteristics. Some boomers are planning their retirement party. Others are planning a second or third career move. Many others have grandchildren. There exists a vast difference between the mindset of a 45-year old boomer and a 65-year old boomer. The younger boomer is concerned with random economic forces and political issues, while the older boomer becomes nostalgic. Awareness of these differences will aid the seller of luxury goods and services in marketing to this category of affluent customer.
One area where marketing to baby boomers requires careful targeting is online. Websites need to take specific aim at the affluent customer they want to hit. A recent Burst Media survey discovered the following statistics. Of those affluent customers in the 18 to 34 age group, 80% believe websites were designed specifically for them. Whereas only 35% of the baby boomers in the 45 to 54 age group believe the same websites were designed for them. A shockingly low number of boomers in the 55 and over age group believe the websites were designed for them – only 20%. What is even more alarming is that only 17% of all those surveyed in the 45 and over age groups believe that online advertising is intended for them. Which means that the affluent baby boomers – those that control 70% of all the wealthy – are being neglected by online marketing and advertising.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project (PIALP) survey, 70% of all baby boomers surf online. In other words, baby boomers use the internet daily. The internet is an important part of their lifestyle. Baby boomers are technologically proficient. And statistics bear witness to this fact. Zoomerang reports that the internet is the single most important research tool for Baby boomers who are planning to purchase luxury appliances and automobiles. SeniorNet states affluent boomers 50-years of age and older spend $7 billion every year in online purchases. Baby boomers account for 80% of luxury travel, and 42% of baby boomers make their luxury travel purchases online.
PIALP forecasts that by 2015, affluent baby boomers will outspend every other affluent category by more than $1 trillion per year. This forecast is buttressed by the Bureau of Labor, which reported that in 2010 baby boomers spent an average of 48% of their income on “nonessentials.” And a recent Del Webb Survey reported that fully 50% of baby boomers plan to purchase investment real estate.
Perhaps the most telling statistic is this one. Baby boomer spending is expected to exceed $4.6 trillion per year by the year 2015. That’s only two years away.