To win with boomers, you’ll need individualized marketing.
Let’s be honest, few generations were more aptly named than the baby boomers. While the moniker may have risen from a historically specific fertility trend, in many ways it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As writer P.J. O’Rourke once described it: “We’re stuck with being forever described as exploding infants.”
For better or worse, the nickname fits (and I can say this, as I am a boomer myself). Baby boomers have spent their reign in power exploding pieces of themselves everywhere, recreating the universe as they see fit.
For the business world in particular, this has given rise to the idea of a customized economy and an expectation of tailored messaging. As boomers age (and demand new ways to prove they are in fact not “old”), industries across the board will need to reinvent their products and marketing strategies in order to attract this generation’s (massive) spending dollars.
To do this, understanding how to communicate with boomers is key. Expert tip: Treat boomers as the special snowflakes they so obviously are.
Who are the Baby Boomers?
Baby boomers are the 76.4 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. In the 2012 U.S. Census, they accounted for a quarter of the population and 68 percent of the labor force. They’re also expected to be the longest-living generation to date, with the healthiest among them likely to reach 95.
Arriving on the heels of the civics (also known as the greatest generation, who grew up in the Great Depression, saved the world, took on race relations and defeated communism), the boomers took over a world arguably more comfortable than any of their ancestors had known. With opportunity and prosperity as their literal birthright, they redefined the idea of self and adopted selfish living.
Politics, the economy, religion and society all became ideas of the micro instead of macro, mini universes customized to each person’s own interests and needs. These little bubbles helped propel civil rights, environmentalism and women’s liberation; pushed American pop culture to the front of the world’s stage; and saw sacrifice as boomers paid their own ways through school, becoming the first generation to enter adulthood burdened by large debt.
Boomers also took ownership of the idea of youth. They see themselves as forever young and have held a tight grip on that perception since. This year, the youngest of the boomers turn 50, while the oldest have been hitting retirement age since 2011. But unlike the generations before them, this massive generation simply refuses to grow old.
Quickly becoming the largest aging population in history, they are once again demanding change by rewriting the ideas of health care, entertainment and recreation, real estate and every industry in between.
What’s in it for Business?
First, the reality: Thanks to larger instances of debt, a willingness to splurge instead of save and severe hits to their portfolios during the Great Recession, boomers are entering their retirement years less prepared than they perhaps hoped to be.
That’s not to say, however, that they have no money. Because they do, to the tune of $3 trillion worth of buying power in the U.S. Combined with their love of self and a tendency to spend to feed their whims, boomers represent a large, strong and wealthy faction of the economy — one with a lot of time with which to spend their disposable incomes.
In addition, boomers are also reinventing themselves and and exploring new interests. These “new passionates” are dedicating their time, money and personal networks to the civic issues, business pursuits and social trends savvy enough to garner boomer notice.
How do Businesses Communicate with Boomers?
Avoid mentioning their age. Boomers are aging very differently than the generations before, who seemed happy to throw in the youth towel once the big 5-0 came around. For the most part, boomers are simply refusing to grow old.
They don’t want to be treated as “seniors,” inundated with messaging focused on health conditions and retirement planning. Though this age bracket may indeed need a few prescriptions and some information regarding investment opportunities, they won’t be found playing bridge at the senior center. They believe their best days still lay ahead.
Messaging focused on how to create those days is key, and boomers are as trend-focused and status-conscious as their younger counterparts. They want to see their faces in the mix with the 20-and-30-somethings, so create marketing messages accordingly.
Just give them the facts. Unlike younger consumers who tend to be more susceptible to marketing claims, boomers are turned off by hyperbole. When considering a purchase, the 50+ crowd wants only the facts. With years of buying (and financing those purchases) behind them, boomers have a depth of consumer intelligence, which allows them to sniff out hype.
Focus on inspiration and aspiration. In other words, be positive and don’t focus on fear. As I’ve mentioned, baby boomers are aspirational for their futures and respond to messaging that offers solutions to how they can feed their ambitions. Older Americans process incoming information in such a way that they’re more likely to ignore negative images, concepts and ideas. When communicating with boomers, remember to share your product or service’s information optimistically, outlining the benefits and value of what you are selling.
Recognize that their situation is constantly changing. Boomers represent the full spectrum of life stages: parents with younger children, empty-nesters (and no-longer-empty-nesters), grandparents, full-time workers, part-time workers, reinvented entrepreneurs, retirees and caretakers to their own aging parents. A single message for all boomers does not exist. Customized, targeted messaging is what they expect and respond to.
Finding the right marketing mix to successfully reach the boomer market is not an easy endeavor. Because of their general focus on the self, long-term loyalty and network referrals aren’t as prevalent as with the civic generation. Businesses must create custom, inspirational and believable messaging to convince boomers to give them their money in the first place. Then, to keep boomers as customers, businesses must also find ways to build in feedback and opportunities for one-on-one attention in order to maintain the connections.
Boomers may be a lot of work, but they can also offer big rewards to businesses willing to cater to their demands. Not to mention, while the younger gen-X and millennial generations each require their own communication styles, they’ve all been shaped by the world of the boomers, so knowing how to reach boomers is a solid foundation for messaging to the generations arriving on their heels.
Civics are nine times wealthier than the rest of us, so how can you cash in?
If I wanted my 20-year-old son to join me for a late meal, I’d text him: “Buffet on me.” But I would never ever text my 86-year-old mother with a dinner invitation. For her, there would be a phone call with plenty of formalities and forewarning, a promise of a nice, sit-down establishment and a start time of 4:00 p.m. to take advantage of early bird specials. Why? Because each generation communicates differently.
Tailoring our language and delivery is something we do naturally in our day-to-day lives. Yet, for some reason, in the business world we seem to be on a constant lookout for a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing and communications.
Our workplaces and marketplaces are more multi-generational than ever. The five generations on today’s economic game board are the civics, those born in the early 1920s to the early 1940s; baby boomers, those born in the early 1940s to the early 1960s; generation X, those born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s; millennials, those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s; and generation Z, those born from the early 2000s to the present.
Small tweaks to your communications can make a big difference. Each of these generations has unique characteristics, demands, values and preferences that are often at odds with their clients, bosses or staff. Understanding and adapting tactics to address your customer base by generation can generate more sales, better client relationships and exponential growth for your organization.
Tackling all generations at once would be overwhelming. So for now, let’s look at the generation whose communication style most deviates from today’s go-to marketing trends: the civics.
The civics, known as the silent generation, tend to be quiet, hardworking people. They are the oldest of the active generations, and one of the most powerful and wealthiest. They are some 55 million strong, mostly retired, and claim both the largest voting population and one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the nation — the AARP. They are a force no business can afford to ignore or alienate.
Their formative years — those years leading to adolescence, which are the most essential for learning trust, beliefs and behavior — were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II. Whether children, soldiers or members of families affected by these events, they and their consumer behavior were defined by the circumstances of war.
Civics have struggled with vast cultural and technological shifts in their lifetimes. The end of the second World War saw an explosion of births (the baby boomers) and many scientific and technological breakthroughs that led to one of the largest periods of advancement in human history. The 1950s brought a massive transition from war to the counterculture revolution and the rise of the Cold War, McCarthyism, civil rights and women’s lib. With instincts honed for loyalty and conformity, they faced emerging morals, ideals and desires that often conflicted with the world they understood.
These struggles also drove civics to strive for stability at home, work and in the marketplace. Their generation typically saw men as the primary breadwinners, while women stayed home to raise children. They were “company men,” entering the workforce at a time when American industry dominated the world and unionization was on the rise. Civics worked hard, didn’t complain and were willing to sacrifice for their employers. They still believe in traditional family values, conservative ideals and that an honest day’s work earns an honest day’s dollar.
They are also much less likely to have taken on debt, preferring financial security to living outside their means. Many value simple living, a waste-not-want-not mentality and a belief in the nobility of sacrifice for the common good.
Why should businesses care?
Money: First and foremost, civics have cash. Civics got into the workforce when the United States was at an economic peak, and most got out prior to the financial collapse of 2008. As a whole, they have savings and maintain financial stability. While not completely unscathed by the recession, in general, this generation is still nine times as wealthy as those under the age of 40.
Loyalty: Civics grew up respecting authority, dedicating their working lives to one company and sacrificing for the greater good. Because of this, they draw on their strong interpersonal relationships with family, friends and businesses to validate their own identities. If you earn their trust, it tends to be unbreakable.
References: Because of their tendency to base their identity heavily on social status and reputation, civics rely on peers and other adults to validate both. This is why, if you can recruit one civic to your business, you can often gain a connection with their social circles as well. Every civic represents a crowd of potential customers.
You too can win over a civic!
Talk the Talk: Build a face-to-face relationship. Civics are often skeptical of electronic and mass communications. They do, however, trust their peers and others in positions of authority. Making your business interactions personal and engaging goes a long way, especially if you can make them feel like part of the family.
Tell a story: Growing up, civics often related to their environments through storytelling. They shaped their own personal narratives by sharing their lives orally. Relying on statistics in your marketing will not resonate as much as applying a situation to a personal experience. If Anne down the street had a great encounter with you, her story will go much further than reporting that 40 percent of “users” were satisfied.
Stress history and credibility: Since civics’ personal identities rely on social status and reputation, it makes sense that how they perceive businesses does so as well. How long a business or professional has been around matters, as do the awards you have won. Additionally, when introducing yourself or others, including titles and positions of responsibility holds great meaning for this generation, as it helps them define status and prioritize their trust.
Offer a no-hassle experience: Civics understand rules and have been following them for a long time. They’ve spent their lives working hard and sacrificing, so when interacting with businesses, they typically just want to be taken care of without complications. Don’t over-share the process or explain all the work you’re doing on their behalf. Instead, give them what they want with as little aggravation as possible.
Deliver on your promises: This is the single most important factor for businesses working with civics. They are loyal to those they trust and are willing to put their reputation behind their trust through referrals, but first you must earn it. If you say you will deliver at 5 p.m., don’t deliver at 6 p.m. Do what you say you will do, because late is a broken promise, and early raises questions as to where you cut corners.
Marketing budgets are finite. To maximize your investment, think strategically about the customer you’re targeting and the language you’re using. Wooing civics takes time and effort, but the payoff can be great.
Early one morning while embarking on my daily commute from Roseville to 3fold’s Midtown Sacramento office I noticed a peculiar billboard on Business-80 that brought a smile to my face. With nothing but white text on a blue background, it read: “In the next 12 seconds, you will continue to be awesome.” That was it. No logo, no call-to-action, no strings attached. What a positive and inspiring message that hundreds of commuters are seeing every day, I thought. I’ve always secretly wondered why more businesses and wealthy individuals never made billboards like this that were so encouraging – just for the sake of being so – which made me appreciate this mystery campaign’s efforts that much more.
When I got in to work that day I had to ask my co-workers if anyone had seen it. I was intrigued by the billboard’s simple message of encouragement and wanted to find out what I could about it. After a few minutes of Google-ing, I found nothing conclusive indicating where this billboard came from or to whom it belonged. Immediately after mentioning it to my co-workers, our intern Chris walked over as excitedly saying how he’d seen the board too – and another that read “May rad-ness illuminate your path” – and has been conducting similar research. Both of us were baffled by the lack of information on the billboard. I mean, really? No one on the internet has said or taken pictures of anything pertaining to this billboard? In the end, we all agreed that it was simply a really smart campaign (because it had obviously piqued all of our interests) and concluded that the business behind the campaign would eventually come out and claim it.
Sure enough, this morning as I was driving into work, I looked for my favorite billboard on the freeway. Only this time, there was finally a logo and artwork attached to the encouraging phrase: Cartoon Network. I smiled again, this time amused at the genius marketing of the network.
This campaign demonstrated a few key points to consider moving forward:
Being bold has clear benefits
It’s worthwhile to think outside of the box
There’s value to simplicity.
All of these points are also backed by a strong marketing strategy. As a personal fan of viral marketing campaigns, I’ve noticed that it’s the simple and mysterious things that tend to rouse the most curiosity. Cartoon Network’s billboard campaigns have certainly been a strong example of that.
Good 3fold friend, William Hodges, posted this great article on his blog, Sports-Glutton. Check it out!
“I know what you’re thinking. Why should I spend time reading an article about the United Soccer Leagues’ (USL) and its new soccer club the Sacramento Republic FC? I mean, we are talking about a minor league soccer team, so who really cares right? Well, if you believe that (and that’s fine), you’d be missing out on an electrifying story of a soccer club that has caught the national attention of the soccer world, and more importantly, Major League Soccer (MLS) literally overnight.
How so? In its inaugural match versus the Harrisburg City Islanders on April 26, Sacramento Republic filled Hughes Stadium on the campus of Sacramento City College with 20,231 fans, which was a USL regular season record. Keep in mind this was a MINOR league soccer match and in the history of the league only the 2013 USL Championship between Orlando City SC and Charlotte Eagles at the Citrus Bowl that drew 20,886 a larger crowd.”
Sometimes it’s the little things in life that matter. Like really little. Think 2 ½ by 3 inches little. Yep, I’m talking about business cards. As an agency that specializes in “exchanging creative currency,” we know the importance of distinctive design, and feel that the business card is often an underutilized opportunity for creative branding. This month we’ve created an other incredible infographic for the June issue of Comstock’s Magazine where we’re giving you the do’s and don’ts for creating a killer business card.
1. The Essential Info: The information your card should share, from most important to least:
Company name and/or logo
Social media icons
License number (e.g. contractors only)
Fax (seriously though, let’s hope not)
QR code (please don’t)
2. Work with a professional designer: Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Simply put, creative design may not be one of your core competencies. If that’s the case, recognize it, and consider asking a professional to design your card for you. A professional touch can go a long way towards conveying the intended message.
3. Be brand consistent: Otherwise, what’s the point?
A card is a representation of yourself, and an extension of your brand. Business cards serve to attract business and spark conversation by being an accurate reflection of your brand positioning.
At 3fold we pride ourselves on our modesty. Sure we’re an agency filled with brilliant, creative, hard working, dedicated, attractive individuals…. What was I saying again? Oh right modesty.
While modesty is important, this month we’re proudly pounding our chest for the third installment of “Strategy of 3” in the May issue of Comstock’s Magazine. This month we explore the importance of distinctive design; using the story of renowned vineyard Orin Swift Cellars, we reveal a powerful three-pronged approach to branding. Enjoy!
1. Be Authentic: To thy own customers be true
The first key to distinguished branding is authenticity. Known for delicious wines and distinctive marketing, Orin Swift Cellars focuses on conveying a personal touch with every bottle. By finding a way to authentically connect with your customers, your brand will find a resonance within the market that is both genuine and valuable.
2. Be Unique: Market to the beat of your own drummer
Entering a highly competitive and over-saturated market, Orin Swift Cellars used two secret weapons to set themselves apart from the rest: creativity, and originality. Using provocative designs, names, and imagery, they conveyed the essence of their wines in an utterly novel fashion. It goes to show that product knowledge and creativity can often tell a brand’s story better than traditional means.
3. Be Bold: Go big or go home
Taking risks may not always pay off, but the biggest success stories in history belong to the bold. In 2010, Orin Swift Cellars sold their two most popular brands in order to reinvest in their company, a move that seemed to call their business savvy into question. Proving critics wrong, however, Orin Swift expanded their menu, and subsequently their bottom line. If you want your brand to go the distance, then trepidation simply won’t do. Taking chances was, is, and always will be part of business. We suggest you take advantage of it.
3fold Communications is not a bike advocacy group, but rather a marketing agency that happens to care a great deal about the livability of the local community, which is why 3fold got involved with May is Bike Month. And not just in the traditional employer fashion of encouraging staff to bike to work (although they did that too), but in the innovative, creative, public relations way they know best. After Davis-local Emilie Cameron, joined the ranks of 3fold Communications and pushed on staff to participate in Bike Month, the creative team held a brainstorming session with Midtown Business Association to determine the best way to reach friends, neighbors and clients.
Wanting to both highlight the bike friendliness of Sacramento midtown and support and encourage community members to bike to work, they decided to brand the month Bike-o De Mayo, host a bike event (Glory, Glory, Bike-o De Mayo), transform their Bike Rack into a map of their favorite midtown places for the community to “ride, park & explore”, and create a series of funny “3-Second Bike Tip” videos starring their fearless leader, Gordon Fowler, as the “Elite Urban Cyclist”.
To learn more about the Elite Urban Cyclist we sat down with him and asked a few questions. (Editorial Note: you should really watch the “3-Second Bike Tip” videos to get the full experience of this interview). Thank you, Gordon Fowler and 3fold Communications, for using humor and creativity to encourage more people to get on their bikes.
May is Bike Month: When did you start riding a bike?
Elite Urban Cyclist: I started riding a bike approximately 10 minutes before starting to shoot our web-based instructional series titled: “Elite Urban Cyclist” on May 1, 2014.
MIBM: What does your bike mean to you?
EUC: Mostly my bike means a lot of sweat.
MIBM: Where do you go on your bike? When do you use the car? What function does a bike serve in your life?
EUC: Mostly I just ride my bike in the 3fold parking lot because the whole turning motion is quite a challenge. I’ve also made it all the way up one block to Low Brau. As an elite urban cyclist it’s important I serve as a constant role model for my employees so I mostly choose to circle our building.
MIBM: What’s the funniest reason you’ve heard about why not to ride a bike?
EUC: That new riders are intimidated by those of us that are consummate cycling professionals. If you can be comfortable in a banana seat, know how to ring a bell, and not get distracted by all the streamers on the handlebars then there’s no room for feeling inferior.
MIBM: If you had the opportunity, in one sentence, what would you say to convince someone to get on a bicycle?
EUC: Happy Bike-o De Mayo!
MIBM: Why is Sacramento a great place to ride a bike?
EUC: I limit myself to a 2-block radius when it comes to walking to places to eat and drink, so I find that Sacramento (especially Midtown) is a great place to ride a bike so that I can get to the many great eateries and drinkaries that are between 3-6 blocks away.
MIBM: Do you call yourself a cyclist?
EUC: I’d say I’m more of an elite urban cyclist.
MIBM: What have you learned from your bike?
EUC: I’ve learned the handlebars are unforgiving when I’m forced to come to a sudden halt.
MIBM: What are some groups you are involved with related to your bike riding?
EUC: 3folders make up most of my bike gang but I’m looking forward changing that by getting on the road with the new Sac Brew Bike.
MIBM: Mr. Elite Urban Cyclist, thank you for your time. And for everyone’s sake, we hope to not see you on the road.
At 3fold we often tackle some of the most difficult objectives in marketing, but we’re 3fold so we welcome the challenge! In part two of our ongoing Comstock’s Magazine infographic series, we take a look at the thrill ride that is branding. Like a rollercoaster, the development of a successful brand can be both exciting and terrifying. But, fear not, 3fold is here to help take you from white-knuckled nausea to exalted triumph. Learn how your brand can be a “triple-threat.” Sit back, relax, and try to enjoy the ride.
1. The Story: Who you are and why they should care
Much like the first climb of the coaster, your brand story should build excitement and anticipation. With each click of the track, try and answer these core questions: Who are you? What’s your purpose? Where do you come from and where are you going? Finally, why should your customers care? By answering these questions you’ll create a solid platform for brilliant branding.
2. The Experience: What your brand shares with the audience
With steely resolve and a solid story, you take the first plummet into true brand development. This is the time when you actively create and implement your brand as you navigate the twists and turns. Anticipate the high and lows, and take special care to share the overall brand experience with your audience. The more interaction between your brand and your audience the better.
The Myth: Growing your brand into something greater
By far the most crucial aspect, a good retelling can turn the story of your branding experience into the stuff of legend. An engaging brand mythology will attract new and repeat customers, anxious to experience the ride that your brand provides. Allow your brand’s reputation to find it’s place in the market naturally, and it will soon become self-perpetuating.
In a study undertaken with the University College London Business Psychology School, participants were asked to read a reduced edition of Metro on a tablet, with one group asked to navigate using a traditional mouse and a second group asked to use the touch screen to navigate. The results revealed that spontaneous recall of six adverts was on average 28 percent higher among those who’d used the touch screen as opposed to those who had used the mouse. The study found that the advertising was also received more positively when consumed using a touch-screen device.