Are marketers ignoring female Baby Boomers?

Photo: RetailWire
Jan 29, 2018

At least in the U.K., graying Baby Boomer women feel largely ignored by advertisers with brands only wanting to talk to them about “the end of life and physical decline: stair lifts, funeral plans and hearing aids,” according to a study from JWT London Innovation Group.

A comprehensive survey of 248 women aged 53-72 in the U.K as part of the study found 72 percent pay no heed to advertising. Ninety-one percent said they wish advertisers would treat their generation as a person, not a stereotype.

The “Elastic Generation: The Female Edit” is a follow-up of JWT’s 2015 “Elastic Generation” report that focused on a changing marketing opportunity reaching those in their fifties and sixties who were living longer, more financially secure and more adventurous and ambitious than past older generations.

The new survey of women Boomers found:

  • Two-thirds are enjoying life more than ever;
  • Sixty-eight percent say they are more outspoken than they used to be;
  • Eight out of ten care less now what others think of them than they did in their younger years;
  • Fifty-seven percent are making more effort to do the things they always dreamed of doing.

The research showed that over fifties outspent their younger counterparts for the first time in 2015, yet 67 percent the women respondents said they believe advertisers only care about young people. Exploring some categories, 69 percent thought the fashion industry ignores people their age and 64 percent hate the way their generation is patronized when it comes to technology.

“Our collective understanding of what later life looks like remains woefully outdated,” wrote Marie Stafford, European director, The Innovation Group J. Walter Thompson, in the report. “Age no longer dictates the way we live. Physical capacity, financial circumstances and mindset arguably have far greater influence. And there’s no fixed pattern for how any of us grows older.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:  Are stereotypes about aging negatively affecting the ability of marketers to connect with older female consumers? Is there a way for marketers to better balance their efforts to reach people across generational distinctions?

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"To be fair, I think every generation believes that they ignore advertising and it is largely not relevant to them."
"For all the hype about Millennials and Centennials — Boomers still drive the economy."

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17 Comments on "Are marketers ignoring female Baby Boomers?"

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Neil Saunders

Marketers may well be ignoring this demographic, but I can think of a number of U.K. retailers that cater squarely to their needs. John Lewis is probably the best example — across all of the things it sells, including fashion, it has carefully thought about the Boomer demographic in terms of what they want and how they shop

John Lewis has generated good business from female Boomers. Other retailers and marketers should take note!

Kiri Masters

To be fair, I think every generation believes that they ignore advertising and it is largely not relevant to them.

I find it hard to believe that advertisers are not interested in this demographic or have not made an effort to understand their interests. A few bad advertising apples (irrelevant, not compelling) spoil the bunch.

Jennifer McDermott

I agree Kiri! I also think a lot of advertisers cater to this generation’s aspirations — though perhaps not accurate reflections, which would probably be more successful.

Max Goldberg

Marketers seem to fall into error by either excluding Boomers from their advertising efforts or by portraying Boomers as been a bunch of old gray-hairs. As the article points out, Boomers have more disposable income, pursue more experiences and frequently have the time to indulge their passions. Marketers and retailers neglect Boomers at their own peril.

Paula Rosenblum

I don’t think stereotypes are leaning towards women particularly. I mean, it’s vaguely irritating to hear ’60s and early-’70s music as the background to diabetes medicine commercials, but, you know — it is what it is. If marketers can make you feel old and useless then you have bigger problems than them.

You know the old sayings: follow your bliss, find your peace and enjoy every damned moment you are alive. For every lousy marketer, there’s a role model that is basically screaming “Go for it.” Ellen DeGeneres is 60, Jane Fonda is 80, Lily Tomlin in her 70s and the unimaginable Carmen Dell’Orefice modeling into her mid-80s.

Marketers will follow the money. So be it. Follow your hearts.

Stuart Jackson

I totally agree. This is a perennial problem and it’s getting worse. It’s the same for us men too. It seems that once a customer gets over 50, they cease to be a target for High Street brands of all kinds. I always find this rather odd because not only are Western populations aging but people in their late-50s and even older could still have children or teenagers living at home, and are therefore hardly one foot in the grave, mentally or physically. Older customers generally have larger disposable incomes and a much more youthful outlook than they’re given credit for. It’s a huge growing market and stores need to wake up, drop their preconceived ideas, update their marketing and start tapping into it. While some retailers are aware, I still think they’re not trying hard enough to understand what older customers really want from them. They need to start asking what they want rather than relying on outdated stereotypes.

Byron Kerr
Byron Kerr
Head of eCommerce, Tuft & Needle
4 years 3 months ago

“How can we tap into the Millennial population!?” That’s every marketer’s first task, ignoring the very robust and *nudge* *nudge* wealthy/prosperous demographic of the female Baby Boomer. I recently discussed this topic at length with a coworker, specifically in the beauty space, and we landed on the fact that many brands aren’t even creating products in this space.

I think BOOM! by Cindy offers a perfect example of ways brands can create new products while successfully marketing to this demographic yearning for some love. The key for marketers to better balance their efforts lies in analytics and risk-taking. Segmenting your audience and marketing specifically to those demographics is critical to building a holistic marketing strategy that is both efficient and effective.

Anne Howe

As a U.S.-based female Boomer, I can attest to the fact that the deluge of ads that are way off target. If I look at new recipes or nutritional information, I get bombarded with wacky diet ads. If I look at home-based items, Amazon re-delivers ads on everything I already bought online when I built my home four years ago. Really? I’m totally turned off by the algorithm ad society.

Art Suriano

Throughout the decades, too often marketers have concentrated on the young and ignored the older people. However, in most cases, the older people have a lot more money to spend. When advertising relied mostly on broadcast and newspaper, it wasn’t as bad because everyone would still see the ads. Today with social media and technology, businesses lose out when they do not address the older male and female. Not everyone over 60 is comfortable with a computer, downloading apps and even shopping online. Ads do not target them so unless the Baby Boomer finds what they’re looking for on their own, the opportunity for the sale gets lost.

Businesses should realize that there is a huge Baby Boomer market out there for both men and women and find ways to reach these customers. It could add a nice bottom line to their businesses.

Lee Kent

This is an interesting topic however, I would like to see what other women my age would like to be engaging with retailers about. Yes, I am an aging female Boomer and most of my friends, if they shop, are shopping for grandchildren. Rarely are they thinking about taking on new projects such as re-doing rooms in the house. They don’t host very many parties anymore, let the kids host Thanksgiving — I’ve been there, done that. Yes, we are out-spoken, we love to travel if we can. We pretty much wear clothes that are comfortable and may be 10 years old. We still love how that one looks on us. We do seem to enjoy our lives with less stress and more freedom so help us find better experiences, fun things to do with ourselves and our grandchildren. Can retailers do a better job of communicating with us? You betcha. For my 2 cents.

Ian Percy
Marie Stafford is absolutely right that marketing’s perception of what later life looks like remains woefully outdated. Even those in the senior living industry are, for the most part, woefully outdated in their thinking. And it’s not just females being ignored. I’m connected to this sector in age and business … and I know. Aging is not something to be “cured.” Most seniors do not feel their age and are eager to reach higher and do something more. More evidence to add to this excellent article: At 80 Ernestine Shepherd became the world’s oldest body builder. At 103 Robert Marchand broke a record by cycling 16 miles in one hour. George Weiss became the oldest app developer at 84. Jeanne Dowell founded the Green Buddha Clothing Company at 80. Smoky Dawson released his first album of original songs at 92. And at 94 Dr. John Goodenough invented a new safer lithium-ion battery. One study found that the peak of creativity of Nobel Laureates is getting higher with most major discoveries coming from those 60 and… Read more »
Bob Phibbs

As I wrote in this post, Millennials, He Wrote: How Retailers Are Paying The Price For Ignoring Baby Boomer Customers, it goes deeper than just marketing, to the fit of clothes to the attention given in stores. For all the hype about Millennials and Centennials — Boomers still drive the economy.

Ralph Jacobson

This is just one more example of marketers treating individuals within a major demographic the same. All Baby Boomers are not alike. All Millennials are not alike. Real-time personalization is in the marketplace today. Leverage it!

Jeff Miller
I think it is less an issue about true “stereotyping” as every generation unfortunately is stereotyped by mass marketing because we still have not fully realized the power of true personalization. The issue to me in terms of traditional marketing is a false sense that what worked in the past will work in the future. In the old ways of marketing (mad men through the last decade) it made sense to target young consumers so that they would be brand loyal and even when they age still purchase the products and brands that connected with them in their youth, therefore having a solid ROI on marketing dollars spent to acquire a young new customer. The issue now is that the idea of the long tail ROI on brand connection is no longer as viable as it used to be. All generations are now less brand loyal than before, including boomers although not to the degree of millennials. There is a huge untapped market for all brands to target boomers and especially women, who hold some… Read more »
Scott Norris

This Gen X’er is putting another bag of popcorn in the microwave to sit back and watch yet another episode of the Boomer-Millennial battle. It’s actually kind of nice to truly be able to ignore all TV and space advertising. And we’ll never have to vomit when we hear one of our favorite songs be used to promote products for incontinence or estate planning.

(Tears for Fears: “Shout, Shout, gets it all out / these are the stains we can do without / come on, I’m talking grape juice / come on)

That’s right, marketers, just keep leaving us alone — it isn’t like we’re having to simultaneously do the planning homework (and literal gruntwork) for our parents’ real estate moves and post-retirement insurance while also raising Gen Z & figuring out their high-school and college needs & expenses.

We’ll just keep getting the work done behind the scenes, ignored, like we’ve always done.

Georganne Bender
Tom, you opened a can of worms with this topic, beginning with the first line: “graying Baby Boomer women.” Graying? Please. The youngest Baby Boomers are 53 and in the prime of their lives; Dr. Ken Dychtwald, author of Age Wave, says middle age doesn’t even start until we hit 55. If you really break it down, you’ll find that Baby Boomers are really two unique generations: Classic Boomers who were teenagers in the 60s and Generation Jones, who were teenagers in the 70s. I am part of Gen Jones and, unlike Lee, I am still redecorating my home, buying things for myself – and my kids and grand baby – I still host parties and holidays, and unless I really love it, I don’t wear clothing that is 10 years old. I don’t feel or think any differently than I did in my 30s, and I hate being told by marketers that I am near death and ready for all of the things that are horribly marketed to Baby Boomers. I agree that when… Read more »
Allison McGuire

As a marketer, we create personalized advertising through messaging and product recommendations to increase engagement. Wouldn’t it be great to start personalizing our lifestyle images? We need to think beyond the Millennials and take advantage of this lucrative audience.

"Can retailers do a better job of communicating with us? You betcha."
"To be fair, I think every generation believes that they ignore advertising and it is largely not relevant to them."
"For all the hype about Millennials and Centennials — Boomers still drive the economy."

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