Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Marketing to Boomers in 2011

from Mediapost:

It Takes A Village

In true Boomer fashion, I enjoy pushing myself to the limits. My schedule is a whirlwind of going to the gym, Facebooking, shopping, spending time with family and friends, studying nutrition, playing ice hockey and keeping up with the latest thinking on Boomer marketing.

But when late December rolls around, I traditionally find the time to reflect on the year that was, take a moment to smell the roses, and then form a plan of attack for the coming year.

In 2010, one of the roses has been reading and contributing to the Engage:Boomers blog. It is truly a privilege to be part of this community, where our combined efforts document and shape the world of Boomer marketing. In recognition of the incredible efforts of this year's contributors, I have put together my personal list of Top Ten Engage:Boomers Takeaways for 2010.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Money (still) matters. Boomers' already impressive numbers are even more impactful when heavyweight Nielsen gets behind them. The largest consumer segment with 2.5 times the discretionary spending power of any other group is hard to ignore.

2. We're getting through. From media companies (PBS, NBCU's iVillage) to brands (Apple, Hyundai, P&G), more and more of those in the mainstream are realizing the benefits of targeting Boomers.

3. Boomers exist somewhere between young and old. It's hard to answer that critical Boomer question, "What's in it for me?" when your marketing is aimed at someone younger, or worse, lumps Boomers in with seniors. Marketing that specifically targets Boomers where they are will resonate most.

4. Universal creative works, too. That is, it can work, as long as Boomers see authentic messaging that is relevant to their lives. (One word: Apple.)

5. For Boomers, by Boomers is best. The only way to create authentic messaging is to have it created by people with first-hand knowledge of the Boomer experience. The vast majority of agency personnel are under Boomer age. That needs to change.

6. Boomer brains are different. Boomers may be increasingly prone to distraction and may not have memories that are as sharp as younger consumers', but they are more agile when it comes to problem solving, reasoning, and understanding the big picture. They are also more empathic and more capable of seeing shades of gray. Speak to them accordingly.

7. Emotion sells. As Boomers age, emotion plays a greater role in their decision-making process. It doesn't necessarily replace rational thought, however, so messaging will be most effective when it connects on both emotional and intellectual levels.

8. Let the Boomer audience control your message's impact. Boomers vary widely based on age, life stage and lifestyle. Messaging that lumps them all together is too restrictive. Let Boomers decide for themselves how your brand fits into their lives by utilizing messaging that is suggestive and open to interpretation.

9. Storytelling works. Storytelling allows people to see themselves in the storyline, thus giving you the ability to move them emotionally. As Maya Angelou said, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

10. Experience matters. Due to their life stage and a struggling economy, Boomers are more focused on gathering experiences than on owning things. Communicating how your brand creates or contributes to Boomers' life experience increases brand relevance.

In keeping with another year-end tradition, I have also identified several Boomer marketing issues that will require more of my focus in 2011.

  • Convince smart, talented agency and brand personnel that, despite their seemingly impenetrable beliefs, Boomers are not "old," and help them develop more effective efforts that directly target this generation.
  • Provide more proof, in the form of quantitative research and case studies, of the effectiveness of marketing guidelines recommended by Boomer experts.
  • Help brand and agency colleagues gain a better understanding of how Boomers have changed -- and will continue shaping -- the online world (particularly in regard to social media), as well as what this means for developing online and integrated marketing campaigns.

In the same way that no two Boomers are alike, no two Boomer marketers are alike. As we gear up for pushing the next year of Engage:Boomersblogging to its own limits, it would be helpful to hear what's on your mind: What's on your 2010 takeaway list, and what major challenges do anticipate facing in the year to come?

Mark Bradbury is research director for AARP Media Sales.

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