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The post-war generation known as the Baby Boomers has changed society in countless ways, from music to rules of social behavior. Now that their kids are adults and they are nearing or entering retirement, they’ve got enough money and leisure time to support their dream cars.
It’s a fact: Boomers have the purchasing prowess, with 70% of the disposable income in the country under their thumbs. They’ve got the leisure time, as more and more of them move into retirement. They’ve even got the comfort buying luxury items that makes them ideal shoppers, consuming more optional goods than other age groups. And yet, this group of Americans is no longer considered prime marketing territory, since they’ve passed out of the 18-49 age bracket that most campaigns focus on. But why? Not marketing to this market segment is saying “no thanks” to an immense population of buyers just waiting to be tapped.
Traditionally, the 18-49 demographic is the main target of most companies’ marketing efforts. These are the people who are usually buying for families and collecting consumer goods at the fastest pace. Those older than that coveted demographic were relegated to less-favored status when it came to marketing because they didn’t represent as much sheer shopping need and interest overall. Smaller households meant a smaller buying market, before the advent of the customization that that digital marketing allows. But the Baby Boomers are different. There are more of them – a lot more. They were raised in an age of plenty, and have continuously defined themselves by their tastes and desires. They don’t even begin to consider themselves as old yet, and see no reason to stop accumulating the goods that please them. Ignoring the Boomers as buyers doesn’t make mathematical sense.
Besides their tantalizing purchasing power, these consumers possess another characteristic that should excite automobile dealerships: they enjoy life fully and are looking for ways to show it. They grew up in a time when car ownership was something to be desired and respected, never taken for granted or dismissed as optional. They looked forward to the day they would get their driver’s license, and excitedly saved for a first car of their own. They love driving and intend to make it as enjoyable an experience as possible. Boomers equate driving and car ownership with pleasure, independence and status in a way that younger generations increasingly do not. For the most part they’ve completed their child-rearing duties and are free to get in whatever kind of vehicle makes them happy. Like so many other Americans these days, they may be on a budget, but automobiles remain high on their list of priorities. In short, they’re the ideal car buyers.
They’ve earned the right to have exactly the car they want – they did the time in minivans and station wagons that parenthood demanded and now it’s their turn to indulge a bit. Always wanted a luxury sedan? Go for it! There’s virtually no risk of finding juice boxes under the seats. Still have a desire for a powerful convertible like the one your dad let you drive occasionally? It can be yours now that you don’t need the extra space that an infant safety seat requires. The best message to give boomers is that they’ve worked hard and now it’s time to reward themselves with the cars they’ve always wanted.
Pleasure, freedom and social status are where Boomers’ heads are, as they’ve always more or less been. As automobile dealers, you’ve got what they want sitting on the showroom floor. Use music, iconic images and generational mottos to make the connection. Do everything in your power to deliver a truly customer-friendly buying experience. Remember that they are savvy shoppers who are likely to have done their research, gotten their financial ducks in a row and come for a look when nearing readiness to buy. As a group, far more of these shoppers than most others can be converted to buyers if they’re met with a positive sales process and courted suitably.
Older drivers haven’t always been treated by automobile marketers in logical manner. More hybrid vehicles are sold to this age group than any other, but there is little or no marketing to reflect that and encourage the substantial interest already present. Chevy Cruze Eco even produced a commercial that ran during the Super Bowl, openly mocking older viewers. It’s not smart to alienate any market segment, much less one that can do your industry as much good as the 50-and-over crowd can. There are glimmers of hope though. The Toyota Venza is designed to offer older drivers the features they want, and the marketing has done a good job communicating to this audience.
Turn Boomers into buyers with marketing messages that respect the group and its youthful self-image. Today’s grandparents may love golf and antique shows just like yours, but they want to arrive in a vehicle that says they’ve come to win and they mean to have a blast getting there.