Boomers' shifting priorities must register with marketers

Marketers frequently segment their target audiences by age group, with baby boomers being a common target for outreach efforts.

Marketers frequently segment their target audiences by age group, with baby boomers being a common target for outreach efforts.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, baby boomers, defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, will start turning 65 in 2011. They are expected to spend an additional $50 billion on consumer products in the coming decade, and, by 2030, nearly 20% of the US population, about 71.5 million people, will be 65 or older.

The article also looks at research consumer companies and retailers have been conducting to help determine an aging population's shopping needs. For example, Walgreens plans to install magnifying glasses on store shelves and call buttons near heavy items.

Marketers should take a cue from these organizations. If they haven't begun the task of conducting research to learn more about the needs of this aging demographic and how best to communicate with them, now is the time to start. The baby boomer generation has already transformed marketing. They were the first generation to come of age in a time of television, creating a mass audience for advertising. Now they're poised to do it again.

Baby boomers, as they move into the age of retirement, are unlike the aging population before them. Medicine has advanced, prolonging life span and improving the quality of life. Many are active and still seek to take part in some of their favorite activities, or use their later years to branch out into new ones. A travel video on AARP's Web site offers alternatives to traditional water sports like scuba diving, suggesting that viewers try “snuba,” an amalgam of snorkeling and scuba diving.

And, most vital for marketers, boomers have access to social media. In addition to AARP, Boomer Authority, for example, links visitors to a network of social media sites and communities specifically for this age group.

Already, some firms have taken steps to launch practice groups targeting baby boomers. Still, PR firms and in-house pros across the board who are targeting the boomer generation must continue to learn about the communications preferences, lifestyle attributes, and other needs and desires of this group. All of these things will continue to change.

Marketers recognized the spending power of baby boomers years ago. However, as time passes and the boomers take steps into old age, the way they spend their money and their time will shift. PR pros – some of whom may fall into this category and should be tapped as a valuable resource – should keep up with this changing age group as they would a younger demographic.

Tonya Garcia is a senior reporter at PRWeek. She can be contacted at

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