Baby boomers have little free time, distinctive tastes, and diverse different hobbies and interests -- making them a remarkably hard-to-reach demographic group.
Consequently, mass marketing can only go so far. Companies need to find more creative ways to reach the some 76 million adults born between 1946 and 1964.
While it may be difficult to distinguish between different groups of boomers, marketers that target certain segments will be more effective in their marketing effort, industry experts said.
GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare and McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals are both targeting the older part of the boomer pack. Both are distributing samples and coupons to about 1 million 50+ adults in independent-living retirement communities. McNeil, a Johnson & Johnson company, is promoting St. Joseph aspirin and Tylenol Arthritis Pain, while GlaxoSmithKline is pushing Gaviscon, a heartburn remedy.
For GlaxoSmithKline, the effort is a "unique, targeted promotion vehicle to influence independent-living seniors' purchase decisions," said Traci Plate, manager of customer development.
Retirement communities are an ideal place for McNeil to sample St. Joseph. After all, last year, it repositioned the 110-year-old brand -- originally geared to children -- to boomers. The aspirin is now being marketed as a low-dose (81 mg) aspirin therapy to reduce the risk of a recurrent heart attack or stroke. (Eighty-one milligrams is the dose recommended most by doctors for the prevention of a second heart attack or stroke, according to McNeil).
Through the reintroduction, McNeil is zeroing in on a certain type of boomer.
"The real segment for us is boomers who are on an aspirin therapy or who have some type of cardiovascular-related problem or risk," Chris Johnson, associate marketing manager, St. Joseph, told Brand Marketing.
McNeil's Tylenol and St. Joseph samples being distributed to retirement communities are grouped together in an informational leaflet featuring the picture of two 50ish people on a bike ride. The leaflet recommends, upon doctor approval, using St. Joseph and Tylenol Arthritis Pain together.
"When taking aspirin for its cardiovascular benefit, it is important to consider which medicine you choose for your arthritis pain relief," the pamphlet reads, in part. "Acetaminophen, the medicine in Tylenol Arthritis Pain, does not interfere with the benefits of aspirin therapy. It also won't cause stomach irritation the way higher doses of aspirin, naproxen or even ibuprofen sometimes can."
The brochure also offers boomers a chance to win a "health family vacation" to Florida, Alaska or Europe.
Targeted promotions like this are important because boomers are not a homogenous group. While they do have some characteristics in common, there are many differences. Because of this, marketers can't just lump the group together as one consumer group, said Chuck Hurst, Ph.D., vice president, director of research, Age Wave Impact, Emeryville, Calif., a marketing firm focused on building relationships with mature consumers.
"Marketers need to understand what the key factors are within each group," Hurst noted. Age Wave views boomers across a number of different dimensions, including age cohort (a group of consumers born in the same time period), lifestage (life events that change the way lives are lived), health, level of affluence and gender/ethnicity.
"All of these things interact to determine the kind of choices boomers make in marketplace," Hurst said. He noted, for instance, that a person with a young family would be interested in different types of products and services than someone getting ready to retire.
Age Wave groups boomers into three categories: Leading Edge, those who are between the ages of about 50-56; Middle Edge (44-49) and Trailing Edge (38-43).
Leading Edge boomers tend to be the trendsetters for the entire group. At the same time, they're idealists and nonconformists, while their Trailing Edge counterparts are more pragmatic and conservative.
"The Trailing group came of age during a very different society. As opposed to growing up in the '60s, they came of age during [former President] Reagan," Hurst said.
Leading Edge boomers are in a much different lifestage than Trailing Edge. For instance, most of their children are about to leave home or have already left. Younger boomers are still planning for or paying for their children's college education.
There are also different levels of affluence. That's because people in their 50s are at the peak of their buying power, according to Hurst. Since most no longer have mortgage or college bills, their expenses are lower.
Leading Edge, also known as "aging" boomers, have become increasingly attractive to marketers, as every seven seconds a boomer celebrates a 50th birthday, resulting in a whopping 4.5 million new "seniors" each year.
Along with their size, aging boomers have tremendous economic clout. These boomers have a collective $1.6 trillion in spending power -- more than the entire gross domestic product of Germany or Canada, according to Age Wave Impact. And they hold 77% of all personal assets, represent 66% of all U.S. stockholders and own 50% of all discretionary income.
They also account for 58% of all health care spending, making GlaxoSmithKline and McNeil's retirement-community sampling effort to be right on target. Both companies are reaching these communities by participating in GoldenAdvantage from 50Plus, a St. Louis-based marketing company.
GoldenAdvantage envelopes contain samples and coupons, and are distributed to about 11,000 independent-living retirement communities, according to Bob Richardson, director, program development, 50Plus.
The first GoldenAdvantage envelope was distributed on Feb. 25. Two other drops will hit on July 25 and Oct. 25.
Heath-oriented products are a good fit with the program because retirement-community residents are strong candidates for internal analgesics, stomach remedies, denture cleaners, hemorrhoid remedies and travel packages, according to 50Plus. GoldenAdvantage envelopes are handed out to boomers via community administrators at socials and other events, said Richardson.
"Because community administrators hand out the envelopes, it's like an endorsement," Richardson said.
GoldenAdvantage caters to a key concern within the entire boomer demographic: health. Faced with an increased risk for heart disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure, and diabetes, boomers are actively in search of the latest products and services that will help them look and feel better.
"Once you hit your mid-40s, things start to change and catch up with you," noted Courtney Day, senior vice president, marketing, The Senior Network, Stamford, Conn., a marketing services company that targets mature consumers.
But that doesn't mean they feel old. On the contrary, they generally feel young and energetic.
"They may be seeking all sorts of solutions and ideas as it relates to personal care and health, but they're still in a youthful mode," Day explained.
While marketers may genuinely have a boomer-appropriate product, they have to position it in a way that appeals to boomers. And most often, showcasing it an event specifically geared to older adults won't be the way to do it.
"Yes, from a physiological standpoint, boomers are aging and changing. But they don't want to believe they are," said Day.
This means the more creative the marketing effort, the better it will be received. Take the Florida Department of Citrus. It wants to attract boomers' attention by connecting grapefruit with a healthy lifestyle. Working with the Senior Network, it's showcasing Florida grapefruits and grapefruit juice at various lifestyle events and shows for women of all ages.
National brands, including Florida's Natural and Tropicana, have been invited to participate by offering coupons and samples both at the events, and also at local retailers, according to Day.
"This campaign is designed to benefit all brands that include Florida grapefruit juice," Day said.
Other marketers are also positioning their products as healthy in an attempt to reach boomers. As reported in Brand Marketing, Quaker Oats Co., Chicago, now part of PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., offers the Take Heart line, which includes ready-to-eat cereals, snack bars and fruit juice beverages. The H.J. Heinz Co. is touting the lycopene content in its ketchup. Lycopene -- the ingredient in tomatoes that makes them red -- is a proven antioxidant. General Mills and DuPont created 8th Continent, a stand-alone company that markets soymilk. In doing so, they have an arsenal of opportunities to market the attributes of soy.
Along with introducing new products, marketers are also repositioning existing ones to the boomer market. St. Joseph, which has always been a low-dose aspirin, was originally geared to kids. But due to the link to Reyes Syndrome, aspirin is no longer recommended for kids. McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson company, purchased the brand from Schering-Plough in December 2000.
"We purchased it because we saw an opportunity to promote it as aspirin therapy and compete with some of the other brands out there on a dosage message," Johnson said.
This message is conveyed in all advertising. Last year, McNeil reintroduced the brand through a new tag line ("Trust it with all your heart"), advertising, packaging and Web site. Whereas from 1946 to 1983, St. Joseph was advertised as the medicine "recommended most by moms and children's doctors," ads today feature active baby boomers. A Web site, www.stjosephaspirin.com, is designed to educate consumers on heart-healthy lifestyles.
Mature consumers have disproportionate economic clout when compared with other age segments. This 50+ market represents only 27% of the population, but its financial power is tremendous. Here are the facts about this phenomenal group:
They have a collective $1.6 trillion in spending power -- more than the entire gross domestic product of Germany or Canada