Courtesy of Matt Thornhill and Media Post Publications
In a national study called “The New Generation Gap Study” done for TV Land in 2007, consumers of all ages were asked if they agreed with the statement: “If it is done right, advertising definitely influences my purchases.”Some 55% of younger adults, those under age 45, said they agreed. But so, too, did 55% of Boomers. (Wow, only 55% agreed to that? Well, that must mean John Wanamaker really was speaking the truth when he allegedly said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”)
Nonetheless, we’ll take this as good news: Advertising can influence purchases.
The bad news is that, in study after study, Boomers tell us most advertising is not even intended for them. Last summer, Google and Nielsen fielded a national study among adults of all ages to learn more about online activity and media usage. They asked if we wanted to include any questions in the survey to update information we had published in our book, Boomer Consumer, in 2007.
Two questions we added to the study were about the intended target of advertising. Sure enough, Boomers told us the vast majority of advertising they see on TV or on the Internet is intended for “someone younger than I.”
Our question: Advertisers communicate with consumers in a variety of ways. In general, who would you say most advertising is intended for?
|Google/Nielsen Consumer Study,
|Someone YOUNGER than I
|Someone MY AGE
|Someone OLDER than I
As you have read here, this is a demographic cohort that spends over $2 trillion annually on consumer goods and services. Yet, 8 out of 10 Boomers tell us they think the advertising they see — presumably on shows they watch and Web sites they visit — is intended for younger consumers.
It’s no wonder the average tenure for a chief marketing officer is less than two years. Heads certainly need to roll if advertising dollars are so poorly deployed.
Make it Relevant
The fix for this problem is easy to spot, but perhaps difficult to pull off. First, you don’t have to double your advertising budget and develop a completely separate marketing program to reach Boomers. All you have to do is make your current programs relevant to consumers across all age groups and generations.
That means look for ways to make your product, packaging, pricing, messaging and distribution relevant for more than simply your traditional advertising or marketing sweet spot — adults 25-54, or moms with young kids. Take a look at your advertising over the last several years. Do you always show the “ideal” target consumer enjoying your product or service? Do that year in and year out, and you will effectively communicate that is the only person who should use your product.
Instead, use messaging techniques that cut across age groups or generations. We work with clients to find the attributes and benefits that are universal — appealing to a broad range of consumers and relevant to all.
Two examples: There is universal appeal in the Dove brand’s Campaign for Real Beauty approach, and it is relevant for women of all ages. The new Old Spice campaign may appear to be for young, virile men, but the underlying message that this brand is for a “man’s man” is universal.
The goal is advertising that isn’t targeting young adults or Boomers, but more consumers.
||Boomer Project founder/president Matt Thornhill is an authority on marketing to today’s Boomer Consumer. He has appeared on NBC, CBS and CNBC, in “BusinessWeek,” “Time,” “Newsweek” and “The New York Times” and countless others. Matt is also the co-author of the business book “Boomer Consumer.” Boomer Project is a marketing research and consulting firm and has done work for Johnson & Johnson, Lincoln Financial, Samsung, Hershey’s Foods and Home Instead Senior Care. Reach him here.