Who are the Baby Boomers?
Baby boomers refer to a generation of people born during the years soon after World War II, i.e., between 1946 and 1964. It is the widely accepted range, as other researchers use a slightly different range of years – give or take a year from the start and end years.
Various institutes use the 1946 to 1964 range, including the United States Census Bureau, Federal Reserve Board, Pew Research Center, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Baby boomer generation applies largely to the United States but can also refer to other countries, although the demographic context and cultural identifiers may differ.
The parents of baby boomers come from the Silent Generation and the later Greatest Generation. Baby boomers are parents of late Gen Xers and Millennials. Late baby boomers are often referred to as “Generation Jones” because of different life experiences between the mid-50s to mid-60s.
In 2021, the youngest baby boomer will be 57 years old, and the oldest will be turning 75 years old. American presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump are all baby boomers.
The Baby Boom
The “baby boom” period defined and gave people born in this generation the name “baby boomers.” The baby boom phenomenon in the United States was a sharp rise in birth rates soon after World War II, beginning in 1946 where a record was broken for the highest ever number of births in a calendar year in U.S. history. Around 3.4 million births were recorded during the year.
The trend was only beginning, as higher births continued to be recorded until 1964. Between three million to four million births were recorded annually during the period. The U.S. baby-boom population was about 72.5 million in 1964 and peaked at 78.5 million in 1999 by including immigrants to the U.S. born in the same period. It was the largest generational cohort before being overtaken by millennials.
The causes of the baby boom are attributable to several factors, such as:
- Soldiers returning from the war came back home with a zeal to start families and raise children after holding off on marriage until after the war.
- The improved economic position of the United States soon after the war encouraged raising more children.
- The U.S. government encouraged the growth of families after the war.
- The effects of the war and the Great Depression had started to subside such that people were more hopeful and optimistic of a better future for their families.
- Popular culture, which was gaining significance after the war, glorified marriage, pregnancy, and parenthood.
- The passing of the G.I. Bill of Rights by the U.S. Congress gave American veterans economic and educational opportunities, which supported them in pursuing higher education and homeownership at very low interest rates on loans.
- Soon after the war, the increased safety with childbirths was also a credible cause, as the average marriage age of women decreased from 22 to 20.
- The high urbanization rate and the low cost of living in the city and suburbs encouraged starting families after moving to these areas.
- The availability of credit spurred borrowing and enabled support for large families.
Characteristics of Baby Boomers
It is not possible to accurately describe an entire generation, but there are widely regarded characteristics observed in baby boomers:
Hard-working and focused: The baby boomer generation worked hard for their livelihood. They were born to realize the American dream, and they strived to reach it. It is the generation that witnessed the civil rights movement, women’s empowerment, and the moon landing – tasks that required hard work and goal getters.
Competitive: By virtue of being born in a period of high birth rates, baby boomers grew up competing for things in school, society, and the economy. In the early years of the generation, schools were overcrowded, colleges saw limited capacity, and jobs were limited. Therefore, baby boomers grew up fighting to compete for resources and win. They would not settle for second if the first was attainable and are defined by this need to succeed.
Value relationships: Baby boomers grew up together, some as large families and some as friends. Together with family values, such relationships strengthened over time, helped in part by increasing labor laws, which created more free time.
Independent: Baby boomers developed an independent mindset and self-confidence through hard work and abilities. In addition, they are resourceful and confident to handle matters themselves.
Pursue excellence and quality: Baby boomers lived through a period of change after the war period, causing them to accept quality and excellence for all goods and services. They are also prepared to pay top dollar for a commodity they perceive as high value.
Major Generation Events for Baby Boomers
Early baby boomers participated in the Vietnam War (1955 to 1975), and late baby boomers experienced the atrocities of the period. Some baby boomers were also involved in the movement against the Vietnam War.
Civil Rights Movement
Baby boomers experienced the height of the civil rights movement from 1954 to 1968, where African Americans and other allies fought to end institutionalized racial discrimination, segregation, and disenfranchisement.
The generation received a lot of inspiration from civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Ella Baker, and Muhammad Ali, among others. The movement encouraged and promoted racial equality and legal equality, which led to a higher tolerance for Americans during adulthood.
Baby boomers grew up during the Cold War, which lasted over decades from 1947 when World War II ended. It was a period of geopolitical tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies.
Baby boomers lived in a time when technological advancement was rising rapidly. They were born to black and white televisions and witnessed the development of some of the first modern tech tools we use today. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – famous for developing personal computers and software – are baby boomers.
The launch of Sputnik into orbit in 1957 by the Soviet Union instilled fear in the United States. It led the latter to a radical change in their education system in which they emphasized science and mathematics. A decade later, they launched Apollo II into orbit and were the first crew to land on the moon on July 20, 1969. The government invested in the research and development of new technology, which helped baby boomers excel in this field for generations to come.
Other Influential Events
Other events that influenced baby boomers include the John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy assassinations, the Cuban missile crisis, environmentalism, the Watergate scandal, and President Nixon’s resignation.
Marketing to Baby Boomers in 2021
Marketing products to baby boomers entails adjusting to new developments in the market and reviewing methods to reach the demographic cohort given their age in 2021. Marketing methods that worked a decade ago may not work in the present environment. Understanding the needs of baby boomers in 2021 will help to craft an appropriate marketing strategy. Below are some additional character traits for baby boomers that assist in crafting a marketing strategy:
- Baby boomers are financially stable with higher savings and disposable incomes compared to other generations. About 70% of disposable income in the U.S. is for baby boomers.
- Baby boomers are less prone to succumb to peer pressure.
- Baby boomers enjoy social media, particularly Facebook.
- They buy products online more than other generations.
- More than half of baby boomers enjoy watching videos online.
Provide enough information
It is essential to provide baby boomers with the required information and leave out other marketing gimmicks. Baby boomers are a mature demographic who have seen it all and have no time for other nonsense. Hence, it is crucial to provide direct and factual information that is enough for a mature person to make an informed purchase.
Health, nutrition, fitness, and retirement products
When targeting baby boomers’ marketers need to appeal to them in terms of products they are more likely to buy. Because most of them have reached retirement age and the oldest have reached 75 years in 2021, retirement products and medical products that assist them with elderly diseases and the desire to live longer will be more appealing.
Baby boomers are also interested in products that improve their lifestyle. Because they have enough disposable income to spend, they do not mind spending on products that give them luxury and comfort. An example of what baby boomers care about, according to greynewworld.com, will shed some light on products that can be marketed to them:
Use social media platforms
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns in 2020-2021, the use of social media by baby boomers (who are at higher risk of contracting the virus) has been increasing. Baby boomers were using social media more frequently even before the pandemic. About 90% of them indicated that they prefer Facebook over other social media platforms. They also use platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
Moreover, baby boomers generally prefer established social media platforms rather than new and growing platforms. Therefore, it is essential for marketers to find out where on Facebook they visit and craft ads to those sites. The same goes for Instagram and other identified social media platforms.
Internet and social media sites should be mobile receptive
Over half of people aged between 60 to 69 years old and about 73% aged between 50 to 59 years old own a smartphone. Hence, it is crucial for marketers to use websites that are mobile receptive.
Avoid using the word “old” or “elderly”
It is paramount that marketing campaigns should avoid using the words ‘old’ or ‘elderly’ because baby boomers do not consider themselves old, nor do they feel old. As most of them are in their 60s, they are still experiencing life, traveling, and going on adventures. Hence, using the world old in marketing campaigns is considered patronizing and may drive them away.
Use clear, direct language, and increase accessibility
Using unclear language like technical jargon, modern slang, and abbreviations is a turn off for baby boomers. If they cannot understand certain information, they will not consider buying. They may be technically hip, but some of the language of millennials is confusing to them. Hence, the information should be clear with no spelling mistakes and no confusing language.
It is also essential to avoid clickbait articles, which are a turnoff for most baby boomers, as they are generally a smart generation. In addition, it is essential to use suitable font sizes and contrast, as most baby boomers wear glasses. Proper button sizes, particularly for mobile devices, are also recommended.
Provide excellent customer service
Baby boomers grew up before online shopping and practiced brick and mortar shopping where they interacted face to face with sellers. Hence, they will appreciate marketers who give very good customer service and even those who go out of their way to improve customer service, including after-sales service and the lot. The presence of one-on-one interaction and human touch in delivering a service is a winning strategy with baby boomers.
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