Winners & Losers: Marketing to Baby Boomers

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Baby Boomers have a reputation for being a little sensitive when it comes to discussing their age.  For marketers looking to capitalize on the spending power of this influential demographic, that means having to ride a fine line between appeasing egos and providing products that older adults need, whether they want to admit it or not.

Baby Boomers don’t want to be associated with the lady in the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials.  They represent a group of health conscious, active, and vibrant adults.  So how can companies market valuable products that specifically cater to the needs of Baby Boomers without reminding them of their age or the fact that they do, indeed, need these products?  In some cases, simple design alterations or language adjustments can make all the difference.

American brands are already quietly and subtly making changes:  “Surreptitiously, companies are making typefaces larger, lowering store shelves to make them more accessible and avoiding yellow and blues in packaging-two colors that don’t appear as sharply distinct to older eyes.”[i]

Here are some other examples of big name brands that are changing their approach:

KohlerKohler, the popular bathroom fixture company, has reinvented the grab bar.  Well, not really since it is a pretty simple device that doesn’t offer a whole lot of room for improvement, but what they have done is changed the way people think about grab bars or shower rails by renaming it the “Belay Hand Rail.”  By borrowing from rock climbing terminology, you get the impression that increasing safety doesn’t mean becoming completely inactive.

kleenexKleenex has replaced floral designs on its boxes with more modern, geometric patterns in response to studies that show there is little difference in style preference among the current generations.  Companies that are creating traditional looking products and packaging are missing the mark and simply making their work appear dated.

If you watch any amount of TV, you have probably noticed new commercials from Depends that feature, younger, more glamorous celebrity spokespeople.  In addition, they have created gender specific options that look more like underwear and some of their products are even displayed in stores on hangers so that customers don’t feel like they are buying an incontinence tool.

dependsCVS drugstores are working to make their locations more age friendly by lowering shelves, including more natural lighting, installing carpet to prevent falls, and eliminating curbs when possible,  Eventually, stores will get rid of the “old person” section by placing Depends next to common toiletries that are used by people of all ages.

Most people probably haven’t even noticed these changes, but they represent a concentrated effort to identify and meet the needs and wants of Baby Boomers:  “Companies don’t have to go to the highest mountain to shout out that something is made for a baby boomer.  They can go to the top of a hill and maybe whisper it,” says 63-year-old Lynn Donadio.[ii]

How do you think companies are doing when it comes to creating and marketing products that address the Baby Boomer market?  Are there any companies that stand out to you as doing an especially bad job?


[i] Byron, Ellen.  “From Diapers to ‘Depends’: Marketers Discreetly Retool Aging for Boomers.”  The Wall Street Journal, 5 Feb 2011.  Web.  22 April 2014.

[ii] Byron, Ellen.


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