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Businesses urged to adopt subtle baby boomer approach

Friday, 1 April 2011 | By Michelle Hammond

Start-ups looking to market their offerings at the increasingly wealthy over-55 demographic have been warned to steer clear of stereotypes and refrain from being too literal or patronising in their approach.


Erminio Putignano, managing director of FutureBrand Australia, says as baby boomers start to move into retirement, there is an opportunity for innovation with regard to new products and services.


“The time has come for small businesses to define what those niche products are that have never been explored,” Putignano says.


However, Putignano says businesses run the risk of overdoing their marketing campaigns by being too obvious about the demographic they are targeting.


“More often than not, these efforts fail. Some campaigns can be quite condescending or patronising,” he says.


“Consumers also hate feeling pigeonholed into a certain stereotype, and this is particularly true of older people.”


Putignano’s comments come in light of new Roy Morgan research highlighting the spending power of the over-55 demographic in Australia.


“The 55-plus segment is making a major and growing contribution to economic growth through increased participation in the workforce,” Roy Morgan chief executive Michelle Levine says.


“They have increased income potential as well as substantial assets and asset growth. This rapid growth is a sign of the segment heading in the right direction to provide for their retirement.”


“However, it also signals potential for spending in a number of areas such as new cars and caravans, home renovations, financial planning and services like club membership, house cleaning and hairdressing, and theatre-going.”


Levine believes Australia’s ageing population represents an opportunity rather than a burden, and says there is more potential yet to be realised.


Putignano says as businesses start to tap into these opportunities, their success will come down to how effective their marketing is.


“Often the brand becomes too literal, like with images of other people their age, which is too much ‘in your face’. Baby boomers want to feel young – they don’t want to be reminded that they’re getting old,” he says.


“There’s a fine line between acknowledging a certain life stage while also having something that makes consumers feel the way they want to,” he says.


Putignano says one way of targeting this demographic is by focusing on their disposable income, highlighting that they can now enjoy “the good things in life”.


Another tactic is to take a more nostalgic approach, encouraging baby boomers to remember “the good old days” when they were young, also known as retro advertising.


One example of this is the latest marketing campaign by insect repellant brand Aerogard, which features the song “Summer Nights” from the musical Grease and is reminiscent of the 1960s in Australia.


Putignano says baby boomers have lived through a particularly prosperous time in history, so marketing campaigns that are “young and upbeat” resonate well with them.


“The important point to remember is that people of that generation still see themselves as the golden generation – there is a sense of self-confidence,” he says.


“They have lived a life of freedom and this includes being free from stereotypes.”