Why marketers shouldn’t leave out the ‘alpha boomer’

November 21, 2012  |  Alicia Androich  |  Comments

When you think of someone between the ages of 55 and 64, do you picture them taking it easy, saying sayonara to their job, tightening their purse strings and shunning new technologies? If so, NBC Universal research about this “alpha boomer” demo shows you’ve got it all wrong.

During a symposium on advertising and aging held at ZoomerMedia’s headquarters in Toronto’s Liberty Village Monday night, Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development at NBC Universal, dispelled myths about this lucrative – yet often overlooked – market.

The research, which Wurtzel (pictured) shared in Canada for the first time, was conducted in the U.S., but “absolutely applies to the situation here in Canada,” he said. If media and mass marketers don’t acknowledge the strength of this market, he warned that they’ll miss huge opportunities.

In the U.S., boomers – a group that includes both alpha boomers aged 55 to 64 and beta boomers aged 45 to 54 – account for 33% of the population; the country’s 35 million alpha boomers alone match the population of California. And they have considerable monetary muscle.

As ZoomerMedia president Moses Znaimer pointed out during the event, “According to advertisers, I’m at home, sitting in my rocking chair, chewing my gums, waiting for my pension cheque so I can go out and buy the dog food. How screwed up is that?”

It’s a common stereotype, but is another misconception about this group. Wurtzel said this demo is financially secure and spends more than $1 trillion dollars per year.

The problem, though, is often they’re not targeted properly, said Wurtzel. NBC Universal’s study shows that of the 1,200 alpha boomers polled, 70% feel too many advertisers take them for granted.

He showed a video in which alpha boomers complain that it’s “stupid” and “a big mistake” when ads don’t speak to them since, as some of the interviewees pointed out, they are still buying cars, remodeling kitchens and buying tech devices. As one woman said, the advertising for tech devices “is aimed at 30-year olds.”

According to Wurtzel, this group has more discretionary income than any other generation, with alpha boomers’ median family income increasing 12% during the past 10 years.

David Cravit, vice-president of ZoomerMedia and author of The New Old, shared figures that showed Canadian alpha boomers are also doing exceptionally well for themselves. In fact, he said 955,000 of them have household incomes of $100,000 or more. Also, 1.8 million Canadian alpha boomers own their own home and don’t have a mortgage.

Cravit shared several other statistics that proved the willingness of this group to spend their discretionary income.

• 443,000 spent $4,000 or more on their most recent vacation outside of Canada
• 365,000 have been on a cruise in the past three years
• 444,000 own a vacation home
• 582,000 have spent $10,000 or more on home renovations or improvements in the past two years
• 278,000 spent $40,000 or more on their most recent car purchase
• 1,440,000 bought computers in the past 12 months
• 950,000 made online purchases in the past 12 months

Cravit suggested that Canadian marketers expand their target demos to include alpha boomers. It’s important to consider that this group is not brand loyal and is on the hunt for new information on products and services they may purchase.

He added that “reaching them is not the same as speaking to them.” He suggested creating dedicated marketing campaigns catered to this demo so that alphas are added to the mix along with targeted younger groups.

As Wurtzel summarized, “it’s not about ignoring younger consumers, it’s about including older ones.”

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