Striking similarities: millennials and baby boomers

This article is in response to the Huffington Post’s Who Will Win Out Between the Millennials and Boomers

What if marketers sought strategies that leveraged what millennials and baby boomers had in common rather than pitting one against the other?

marketing to millennialsSocial media, news sites, TV and many other media outlets are rife with conversation about marketing to millennials: how they differ from the generations before them, what and why they buy, and how they buy differently.

The New York Times highlights that the millennial population is now slightly larger than the baby boomer population – consisting of 26 percent of the total U.S. population as opposed to 24 percent.

Given the wide circulation of articles like NPR’s Why You Should Start Taking Millennials Seriously and all of the hype surrounding the younger generation it could falsely appear that the millennials are all that matter to advertisers.

Something to keep in mind is that the baby boomers are going to be here for a while – and still dominate America’s purse strings.

According to Bloomberg the baby boomers still outpace millennials in consumption – spending $3 trillion in the U.S. alone compared to the millennial’s $600 million, dominating 70 percent of disposable income. With the federal government predicting people to live well into their 80’s and Americans retiring later than ever, the marketing community as a whole can’t afford forget this audience.

Sure, some products and services are most definitely geared towards younger audiences, but we have noted that the dividing line between the “millennial mindset” and the baby boomer is not as thick as it seems.

Boomers are echoing their younger cohorts and millennials are influenced by older boomers. Advertisers should take note of their similarities rather than just their differences.

Older populations are heavy consumers of online media, too.

According to the Pew Research Center, at least 65 percent of baby boomers aged 50-64 use Facebook. Google’s Reaching Today’s Boomers & Seniors Online suggests that the majority check their profiles daily.

Google’s study shows that the population is an active participant on social media – with more than half engaging their community at large through video, following/joining groups or supporting causes.

Additionally, boomers are device agnostic like millennials – utilizing multiple screens at once, i.e. texting, posting and/or watching TV at the same time. Thus, opening the door to compelling mobile programmatic opportunities.

Conversely, millennials are more like the older generations than marketers may think.

Every younger generation is described as being radically different from its predecessors as one witnesses ‘shocking’ expressions of youth – like Elvis’s notorious hip-gyrating on national TV in 56’ (gasp).

However, some of these generational differences may be more perception than actuality.

For example a study referenced by Millennial CEO reveals that, like baby boomers, millennials are also heavily swayed by the input of their family and friends when choosing a product.

MediaPost reveals that 72 percent of surveyed younger millennials (18-25) stated that they are loyal to all or many of the brands that their parents use. 56 percent of older millennials reflected this same loyalty to their parent’s selections.

Furthermore, according to Accenture, both millennials and baby boomers are notoriously frugal – bargain hunting and showrooming to locate the best deals they can possibly find.

Could it be that the so-called “millennial” mindset isn’t strictly defined to millennials at all, but more a product of life in today’s recession-wary, increasingly digital society?

Marketers may have a lot to gain in recognizing these similarities and marketing to millennials and baby boomers in tandem.

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