Will the Real Baby Boomer Please Stand Up?


As a class assignment for a communications course I am teaching at a local university, the students recently interviewed people in their early 60s to create a social history presentation on a topic of their choice. Not surprisingly, the Viet Nam War and “life in the 60’s” were two main areas of focus. Two students interviewed Viet Nam veterans and two interviewed former student activists. While all presentations captured a historical perspective as seen through the eyes of the person living that history, after listening the students no doubt concluded that life in the 60’s varied dramatically from person to person.

Like most Americans under the age of 50, the students viewed the 60’s as a time of war protests, Woodstock, sex, drugs and rock and roll. What they discovered was that the 60’s was different for each person. Much of what we accept as fact is more factoid and stereotype than reality. When people talk and write about Baby Boomers, it is the stereotypical images of the 60’s that dominate the conversation. Today, growing numbers of business consultants are advising businesses on how to best communicate with the “typical” baby boomers.   

Perhaps U.S. agencies will follow a Japanese example of connecting with later life values such as purpose and autonomy.  (See video)

You can read things like, “Baby Boomers are Reinventing Retirement” to “Boomers Dedicated to Holding on to Youth.” Sadly, too many consultants and trainers serving the marketplace refuse to accept the reality that the U.S. is simply getting older due largely to the aging of 76 million baby boomers turning age 65 at a rate of approximately 8,500 a day. Unfortunately for their clients, many of these consultants are obsessed with holding on to yesterday’s youth market paradigms and communications strategies. Hint: if ads contain the words senior, boomer, retired, etc. you are re-enforcing outdated stereotypes and jeopardizing your brand.

The sheer size of the Boomer age cohort dwarfed the generation that both preceded and followed it, which is why Boomers are credited with changing everything as they matured — the sheer force of numbers dictated the economy in each lifestage. While Boomers share common experiences, which must be considered in future marketing strategies, they have not “aged” much differently than the Silent, Eisenhower or other generations for a values perspective.

Adults 50 and older are now the majority, and will rule the marketplace for the next decade – in numbers, in spending, and in determining the rules for successful marketplace engagement. As Baby Boomers swell the ranks of over age 50 consumers, changing your paradigm and learning the new rules will be critical to business growth and perhaps survival. In reality, the only thing all Boomers have in common is a birthday between 1946 and 1964.

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Ambrosius is a respected national expert on marketing to older adults. His services include workshops, strategic consultations, and research on how better to communicate with, sell to and serve middle-aged and older adults. He was among the first consultants in the United States to realize the potential of the “new consumer majority” and specialize in ageless marketing. Since 1982, Ambrosius has served clients in 49 states. www.positiveaging.com