Marketers believe boomers are unlikely to switch up brand choices, with only 5% of U.S. advertising targeting them, according to Havas Group. And yet, boomers have the greatest wealth, drive the most actual spending, and aren’t as hidebound as marketers think.
Boomers are starting life anew, post-empty nest or retirement. Mintel notes one in four boomers post-pandemic are prioritizing new purchases, 17% are prioritizing learning new skills, and 15% prioritize keeping up with technology. Boomer divorce rates are skyrocketing (more than one in three Americans divorcing in 2020 were 55+, according to the Census Bureau), and those boomers who previously deferred to a spouse when making product choices are seeing brands anew.
Marketers often cite the lower lifetime value of boomers, but on average, the youngest boomer women can expect to have 26 years of shopping ahead. Their generation’s estimated spending power of $70 trillion far exceeds the $33 trillion that the Federal Reserve projects in Gen Z disposable income by 2030.
And in terms of key behaviors, such as their likelihood to purchase purpose-driven brands, boomers are aligned closer to Gen Z and millennials than Gen Xers are. Perhaps that’s why Gen Z’s affinity for their grandparents is seeing a new trend, termed “skip generation” households and featured in the New York Times, in which Gen Z rooms with Grandma. It’s also why Gen Z has embraced the “coastal grandma” aesthetic in fashion and home décor. Also, check out the growing trend in boomer TikTokers, such as @grandma_droniak with her 5 million TikTok followers, and @brunchwithbabs with 2.5 million followers.
In an age of programmatic media and micro-targeting, there’s no reason marketers can’t discretely target an older generation too.
So, if you’re considering boomers as a target audience, where can you find them today?
Mintel notes 43% say they are more comfortable with tech than culture gives them credit for: a 2021 study found 90% of boomers shopped online (vs. 89% in store), ahead of Gen Z by nearly 20%. Boomers’ digital spend skyrocketed by 49% in 2020 alone, according to business insider.com, and close to eight in 10 said their confidence in trying new tech increased since the pandemic (mobiquity). In fact, a Google/Known study found 86% of boomers who are online reported spending at least six hours a day there -- and own, on average, five devices.
Get in the game!
Targeted advertising on ad-supported mobile games should be top-of-mind for marketers aiming to reach boomers, as the percentage of gamers aged 55-64 grew by 32% in the past two years, reports GWI. As of 2022, Data.ai found Gen X/boomers account for 25% of the top grossing games in the U.S. -- making them gaming’s fastest growing cohort. Boomers especially like mobile gaming: 39% play mobile games, and as of 2022, they comprise 23% of all mobile gamers, according to ironSource -- a larger percentage than either Gen Z or Millennials.
Video is all.
The largest increase of online video consumption in the last five years has been among boomers. They rely heavily on YouTube and social media videos in their research phase, with higher than average ad views and click-through rates (and less interest in ad blockers, with 38% using them versus 55% of adults under age 35, according to Edelman's 2020 Trust Barometer).
If you are looking for untapped growth opportunities, don’t overlook the misunderstood boomer generation.
- Shelly Schroedl is VP Strategy at VMLY&R Commerce US
Originally published in MediaPost