The never-ending challenge of trying to reach 75-million baby boomers

It’s once again become not only popular but vogue for corporations and organizations to try to market to baby boomers. I emphasize the word, “Try …,” because their marketing people have tried several times in the last 15 or so years, ultimately to throw in the towel.

When one big company starts marketing to the boomer demographic, others follow, like the fabled Alaskan lemmings that swarm helter skelter. I don’t have any idea what triggers the behavior but once again, baby boomers are the darlings of marketers with the perfect new car, retirement package and best motion picture.

About 75-million baby boomers … just in America.

In theory, it’s smart to target baby boomers. Many of us were affluent … at least, we were a couple of stock market busts ago. Many of us are fairly well-educated. Many baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 – are or have been at the helms of leading organizations:

Barack Obama – President
Richard Branson – Virgin
The late Steve Jobs – Apple
Bill Gates – Microsoft
Gary Shapiro – Consumer Electronics Association
Lloyd Blankfein – Goldman Sachs

Anyway, you get the idea.

Perhaps the most common trait among baby boomers is independent thought. It’s darn hard to convince us to buy something.

I have observed these periodic and unpredictable baby boomer marketing cycles ever since 1999. That’s when I watched a bunch of 30-something people from AARP (and all too young to be boomers) try to launch a heavily funded attempt by AARP to connect with baby boomers. AARP spent millions on enormous banners and a slick website. It floundered and eventually sank. It was a huge flop.

Watching AARP struggle, my old friend Greg Dobbs and I got the idea for BoomerCafé as a way to authentically connect with baby boomers … because we both are members of the mob.

Today, BoomerCafé is one of the Internet’s most popular online magazines. We have hundreds of baby boomers sharing stories and opinions. And, the site ranks 43,000th most popular in the U.S., according to Alexa.com. For reference, any ranking within the top 100,000 is outstanding. Along the way, Greg and I have become experts on the boomer generation, sort of by default.

Judy Dench

Judy Dench

I suppose what got me on this rambling essay (another boomer trait is rambling, helped by age) is the new film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It’s terrific … funny, poignant, and connects with our generation. I bet we can all see ourselves in such a predicament. Heck, some of us may be looking for such an affordable place in a few years.

Only baby boomers can make a motion picture about baby boomers, in my opinion, because they get it. I also believe only marketing people who are boomers have any clue about how to reach our demographic just as I don’t know what might resonate with a 23 year old. But, there’s where most of the marketing initiatives crash and burn, regardless of funding.

You gotta be 55 to know what a 55 year old is going through. You gotta be in your 60s to know what it’s like. Believe me … the typical PR or ad agency’s 24 or 34 year old VP doesn’t have any idea how to reach baby boomers … just as a baby boomer PR person probably does not know what appeals to Gen Xers.

There’s never before been such a complicated and diverse generation as baby boomers. But, then, they are all complex.

Column originally posted by David Henderson at BoomerCafe.com.