America is aging.
In 2014, the first of the Baby Boomers will turn 68, while the youngest will hit 50.
For decades, the Baby Boom generation has dominated our way of life. The 1950s was the decade of babies and young children; the 1960s’ teenagers had a profound influence on all aspects of our lives.
The ’70s and ’80s were the decades of young married couples and young adults. In the ’90s and early 2000s, the country experienced huge economic growth largely fueled by Boomers reaching their peak earning and spending years.
Today in 2013, we are a nation about to be inundated by older adults.
Like it or not, companies that want to remain viable in the coming years are going to have to adjust, even those organizations whose traditional focus has been the teenager.
For example, candy bars are no longer just a snack for kids but provide an “energy break” for adults. Levi Strauss, a company whose blue jeans were embraced by a generation of teenagers in the 1960s, now has an immensely successful “Dockers” line of clothing, which is geared primarily to adults.
Disneyworld is no longer just for kids, but is a playland for all ages. And McDonald’s has quietly “retired” Ronald McDonald because Ronald’s persona doesn’t fit with its McCafe image.
Even those industries which have a long history of catering primarily to youth must strongly consider developing and marketing products and services to attract the aging Baby Boomer market. But to do so requires understanding this elusive market, a market which is behaving quite differently than their parents and grandparents.
In general, today’s “older” market is healthier, better educated and has more material wealth.
Additionally, Baby Boomers are resisting getting older every step of the way.
As a result, this market provides unique opportunities and enormous potential for organizations positioned to take advantage of this demographic “shockwave.”
These steps can help you to develop programs and services for the Baby Boomer market.
(1) Emphasize psychographics not demographics.
Demographics is the study of population statistics. Psychographics deals with attitudes, personality and lifestyle.
View the Boomer market as real live people and, to the best of your ability, paint a picture or create a lifestyle as to who these people actually are.
(2) Study your competition.
What are your competitors doing? Are there segments of the aging marketplace that they have overlooked? What organizational strengths does your company enjoy as compared to your competition?
Identify windows of opportunity available to your organization.
(3) Treat the Boomer market as a diverse group.
Many organizations err by treating this market as a uniform group. Studies have shown that the Baby Boomer market is quite varied and is not as narrowly focused as existing marketing efforts indicate.
According to John Rude, president of Rude Associates, a consulting firm that helps businesses attract the mature market, “Be certain your product fits the needs of the specific niche you’re targeting.”
(4) Emphasize value, not price.
Value means giving the customer an improved product and enhanced service at a better price. It’s what the Boomer market demands.
It doesn’t mean cheap, and it doesn’t mean high prestige. Value is the right combination of product quality, fair price and good service. It can fetch a high price, if the quality and service are there.
In short, Boomers are willing to splurge, but the value has to be there.
(5) Hire mature staff members.
It is important that your organization does not have a cultural bias toward youth. Contemplate hiring mature front-line employees.
As you would expect, clients often feel more comfortable when they are interacting with people who are of a similar age.
For example, a ski area that wishes to target aging Baby Boomers for ski lessons should consider mature instructors.
(6) Be gentle.
Organizations must be careful not to offend this growing market. They don’t want to be reminded they are getting older.
Age should be targeted and marketed in very subtle ways. Don’t portray these people as old folks. Stories abound about companies that have offended this group.
It is imperative that companies carefully examine future opportunities that exist as a result of the changing demographic environment.
Change is difficult. However, in light of the strategies discussed above, opportunities exist for organizations to change the way they are currently doing business and as a result, position themselves to attract the aging Baby Boomer market, a market which has enormous potential.