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GenSights - Making Boomer Magic

Sharing generational insights to help businesses make magic with Baby Boomers

Boomers are Hip. Again!

jumpers_climbersWho says there are no second acts in American lives? Okay, F. Scott Fitzgerald did, but he didn’t know bupkiss about Boomers. In case you haven’t heard the news that’s been all over Twitter and the blogosphere in recent days, the venerable Nielsen Company has spoken: in their obsession with youth, i.e. consumers ages 18 to 34, “advertisers and consumer goods manufacturers have been overlooking a group that has tremendous buying power: the 78 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. today.” The prescient few who found their pronouncements on this very topic ridiculed or ignored—where have you gone, JWT Boom?—are justifiably saying, “we told you so.”

Why the sea change in opinion? Sure, Baby Boomers are a huge generation – always have been; still will be for quite a while. But I think a major reason is that at the same time that Boomers reached the age where a generation would previously have been considered old, the goal line was moved considerably. What I mean is that people who are 60-65 today just don’t behave the way people of that age did in the past, (nor do the current crop of 70- and 80-year olds, for that matter.)

The conventional wisdom? People over 60 spend little; are stuck in their ways, technologically challenged, and winding down. The facts? Boomers are open to new things and new brands. They are active; typically participating in ten or more activities on a regular basis. They are comfortable with technology because they’ve grown up with it. Heck, many of them are not even thinking about retirement – and those who are, are in the process of completely redefining it. Hence the term, encore careers.
If you’re still skeptical about the value of advertisers targeting the Boomer market, consider these Nielsen facts about Boomers
• Dominate 1,023 out of 1,083 consumer packaged goods categories
• Watch the most video: 9:34 hours per day
• Comprise 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users and Twitter users
• Time shift TV more than 18-24s (2:32 vs. 1:32)
• Are significantly more likely to own a DVD player
• More likely to have broadband Internet access at home

Not only are Boomers an excellent target for marketers’ existing products, they also provide an opportunity for new product designers who are able to respond to both the needs and desires of a population that’s still hip, after all these years. In a recent article on the blog Disruptive Demographics, Joseph Coughlin, Director of MIT’s Age Lab suggested that Boomer consumers are as captivated by fashion and fun as their younger cohorts, it’s just that Boomers demand function and value as well.

This has huge implications for businesses across a wide range of industries, from technology to housing, to healthcare. Personally, I think that any product that combines fun, fashion, function, and value would be of interest to all consumers. But then, I’m a Boomer.

– posted by Lynn Schweikart

-posted by Gen-Sights

Labels: A.C. Nielsen, Baby Boomers Are Aging, blogosphere, Boomer Generation, Boomer Market, Boomers and Technology, Boomers are Hip, fun fashion and function, healthcare, housing, new products for Boomers


bowl of cherries“Boomers are drifting into old age with poor eating habits and too little exercise…we do not have a healthy population moving into old age.”

That was the disconcerting message I got the other day while searching online for information on the relationship between aging Baby Boomers and health and nutrition. The source? Shannon Proudfoot, Can West News Service in the Montreal Gazette. I was anything but reassured that Boomers are going to have an easy ride into old age.

Life expectancy for Americans has been growing with each generation. However, there are fears that this could be reversed during the Boomer generation. Obesity, with its associated chronic diseases, is beginning to rear its ugly head. According to S. Jay Olshansky, professor of public health at the University of Illinois, Chicago, “obesity in general is on the verge of causing an unprecedented decline in life expectancy in developed countries”. He predicts that Americans in particular will experience unprecedented health risks and that life expectancy will be reduced in the next 10 to 15 years. Yikes!

Being a glass half full kind of guy, I immediately began to think of all the business opportunities that food manufacturers, restaurants, and supermarkets could generate from this negative forecast regarding the health of Boomers. To get a professional viewpoint on what was happening out there, I contacted Denise Kelly, RD, Director of Market Development-Healthcare, Lyons Magnus. If anyone would have a handle on this situation, it would be Denise.

According to Denise, “the biggest concerns for an aging population are obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and bone health. Simply by increasing activity and making some simple dietary changes, Boomers can get back on track, live healthier lives, and reduce the need for some medications.”

One of the biggest “Hot Buttons” for the food industry right now? According to Denise, it’s helping consumers battle hypertension by reducing the amount of sodium in prepared foods, while still providing a flavorful product. “Even though the recommended daily allowance for sodium is less than 2300mg/day, most people consume nearly 1½ to 2 times that amount, primarily by eating prepared foods or dining out,” Denise stated.

While manufacturers are beginning to respond, it’s not by marketing their products as “low in sodium”. Instead, they’re simply gradually reducing over time the amount of sodium in their products. According to the Wall Street Journal, (“Food Makers Quietly Cut Back on Salt,” 1/11/10) “ConAgra said that by 2015, it would lower the sodium level in about 80% of its products by an average of 20%. Sara Lee Corp. made a similar commitment. Campbell Soup, which has focused broadly on reducing sodium for at least a decade, says it has already reduced sodium in the top-selling products in all its categories by nearly 24% since 2001.” It’s a small start – there’s a real opportunity for the food industry to discover how to keep flavor up while bringing sodium content down.
Besides watching their sodium intake, Boomers at risk for obesity and diabetes need to monitor their serving size (portion control) to reduce caloric intake as well as choose their foods wisely. “A healthy diet would include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry with limiting red meats and replacing butter with healthy fats like olive oil or canola oil,” Denise said.
"The food industry has worked hard to remove or reduce refined grains in cereal and breads and add whole grain and fiber. Vegetables are disguised in delicious beverages to make consumption easier. Salad dressings are now made with olive oil."

After speaking to Denise, it’s heartening to know that manufacturers are beginning to take action and respond to these chronic health problems that are directly associated with poor eating habits and/or obesity. The opportunities appear to be limitless for food manufacturers, but they have the challenge of producing food products that meet all the necessary nutritional and caloric requirements while satisfying the Boomer palate. The key to success is educating the Boomer about good eating habits. Perhaps food manufacturers can incorporate an educational component into their marketing plans. If not, it will be the pharmaceutical companies that benefit. But I’ll leave that discussion for another time.

Posted by Tom Gorski

-posted by Gen-Sights

Labels: Baby Boomers, Baby Boomers and health and nutrition, Baby Boomers Are Aging, Life expectancy for Americans