I’ve worked in the advertising communications industry for  (mumble mumble) years, and this up-close-and-personal view has made it even more interesting to watch how irrelevant I’ve become to most marketers. I know from experience that once you mark  the  “49-54” age box,  you disappear from the “desirable consumer” radar. (And don’t even waste your time checking the “55+” box, because nobody cares.)

And honestly, I don’t get it. Baby Boomers are a large, dynamic, thriving community of folks who have money to spend. Targeting consumers by age is so 2000-and-late (to quote the Black Eyed Peas); really, we marketers should be paying attention to attitudes, behaviors, lifestyles…what we so unsexily call psychographics. How old the buyer is should be secondary (tertiary?) to what s/he is interested in (and spending money on).

A study on Boomer spending habits that I stumbled across in BoomerCafe.com (not sure how I feel about that name) found that Boomers generally spend about 5 percent more than the rest of the population. In fact, experts say Baby Boomers tend to make more money, and were less likely to feel the pinch of the weak economy, compared to younger consumers with more moderate incomes, and so should have been prime targets for helping stimulate the economy.

So I was wondering if I’m making it up when I say that marketers ignore me.  Turns out I’m not. A study on Boomer marketing found that most Boomers agree with me: nobody’s making it clear that they’re talking to us. No, strike that—nobody interesting is making it clear they’re talking to us.  Makers of adult diapers, dentures, cancer treatments (disease in general), laxatives, and other products that address bodily functions are happy to target Boomers. But others act as if we automatically stop buying stuff…or worse, they don’t really want us buying their stuff.  Or probably more true, they don’t mind if we buy it, but they don’t dare depict us in their marketing and outreach because they don’t want others to know. Might lower their “badge value” among younger market segments.

Baby Boomers are  a demographic cohort that spends over $2 trillion—yes, trillion—annually on consumer goods and services.  That’s a lot of money. Yet 8 out of 10 Boomers feel the advertising they see—presumably on TV shows they watch and websites they visit—is intended for younger consumers.

From the Google/Nielsen Study, conducted Summer 2010
Q.: Advertisers communicate with consumers in a variety of ways. In general, who would you say most advertising is intended for?


On the

Someone YOUNGER than I 79% 84% Someone MY AGE 19% 15% Someone OLDER than I 3% 2%

It’s not like I don’t need to buy fiber every now and then. But I also buy cars, cute clothes, vodka, hot shoes, iPods and all kinds of stuff that people 25 years younger than I am also buy.  It’s true, as someone who came of age pre-technology, I can’t quite figure out Twitter (Jackson: help!), but I do blog (thanks to Anastasia and Jordana), and I have money to spend. So do my friends. I’ll be 55 in a couple of weeks but do I look like somebody who ought to be ignored?  I’m grateful to PureWow, who gets it (it’s a Daily Candy-type thing for old-ish ladies). But not enough others do. Marketers in all categories really ought to be talking  to me and my buds.  Seriously.

My life, as I see it

My life, as marketers see it

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  • bill stout March 16, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I agree with these points (i’m a 53 yr. old male). You’ve named the problem well but not told us how to show our boomer constituents that they matter. Where do we go for specific ideas on how to target boomers for nonprofit donations.

  • Tara Dillard March 14, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I’m in your demographic & laughing all the way to the bank, working (home/garden construction) for this demographic.

    98% of my clients are women over 50. They’ve spent money on children & watched husbands spend money for decades. Now, they are spending money to make their world, THEIR WORLD.

    Ironically, my suppliers pay zero attention to me, all to my contractor, who’s male of course.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • Quora March 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Are there any baby boomer specific daily deals sites out there?…

    Blogger Eleanore Wells recommends PureWow.com in this post (https://womensvoicesforchange.org/the-boomer-consumer-stop-ignoring-me-dait.htm) describing it as a Daily-Candy-ish thing for older ladies. It’s more a daily newsletter than a daily deal kind …

  • roz warren March 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    love the photo-comparison! (great idea!) love this essay. at 56, i feel ignored by everybody whose stuff i actually buy. except for Eileen Fisher. and i buy WAY too much of her stuff for the health of my bank account. but at least some of the models in her ads look like me and that’s worth a lot.