Baby boomers vs. the digital age – why going digital doesn’t mean leaving them behind

by Jenny McParland /

Why should brands and marketers care about a boring, aging population made up of traditional technophobes, particularly in their digital communications? Following a recent discussion at Food Matters Live, I explain why we shouldn’t be leaving the over 65s behind.

Who are the baby boomers?

The baby boomer demographic is often described as the original ‘generation’, encompassing those born immediately after World War II and up to the early 1960s. With a total of 16 million baby boomers in the UK alone, this demographic makes up 30% of the population. Baby boomers are also the largest segment of consumers, comprising about 40% of the market share. So, why do 66% of baby boomers feel ignored by marketing communications? And, why are 1 in 5 brands not including them in their advertising strategies?

Overcoming perceptions

The bottom line is, we have a perception that the baby boomer population is boring. They’re old. Set in their ways. And, avoiders of technology. Wrong!

Baby boomers are an affluent, active population who are living longer and are more tech savvy than we think. As well as this, 90% of baby boomers are open to new ideas and changes, they have tremendous purchasing power, spending on average 3x the rate of under 50s. It would be a missed opportunity to leave this large audience out of marketing strategies, especially digital communications, yet too many companies only see millennials (and other ‘younger’ generations) as the future.

“50 is the new 30”

Baby boomers & technology

One of the biggest misconceptions about the baby boomer demographic is that they’re old and traditional, so stay clear of digital technology and social media. We may associate the technology evolution with millennials, however baby boomers are more tech-savvy and have a larger online presence than most would think.

It is important for brands to remember that this generation has grown up with technology over recent decades, have more time to use it and have become more accustomed to it as a result. Baby boomers want to learn how to use new technology and they’re excited by it.

  • 96% of baby boomers use search engines
  • 95% use email
  • 92% shop for products and services online

It is also significant to know that baby boomers use technology in a different way to millennials. For example, if you’re looking to market via social media platforms, you’ll find an active audience of baby boomers on Facebook. As well as this, technological drivers are different for both demographics. Millennials are more likely to use digital to ‘pass the time’ whereas baby boomers have a more functional relationship with technology (although they do also use it for fun, education and connecting with people). You will find that baby boomers actually spend the most money online, while millennials spend the least.

“Millennials are sharing stuff, boomers are buying stuff”

How can we do better?

Boomers don’t want to be left out. However, there is a clear disconnect between baby boomers and marketing initiatives. So how can we do better? Firstly, don’t be afraid to include over 50s in digital communications – they’re not scared of it! We shouldn’t underestimate the baby boomer demographic or fall into the trap of appealing only to millennials with every message. Secondly, it’s important to engage with baby boomers in the right way with the right messages, on the right channels, and this means getting a deep understanding of who they are and where you can find them. Look into what interests them, and what motivates them. How can you attract new audiences? Is it by using discounts or loyalty systems? Finally, empower, not patronise this generation. They certainly aren’t ready to spend their retirement sedentary and want to enjoy life as much as ‘young’ people do!

“Empower, not patronise”

For more information on the digital services BDB provides, call us on +44 (0)161 925 4700 or email ideasthatconnect@bdb.co.uk

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