Marketers Missing the Mark with Empty Nesters

"Brent Bouchez and other specialists in marketing to baby boomers, the more than 75 million Americans born roughly from 1946 through 1964, said companies recognized the economic value of the group but were hesitant to shift marketing budgets away from the 83 million millennials, those born from 1982 to 2000, who remain the holy grail of advertisers."

"A result is what marketers call a transitional phase in which millennials and boomers will be increasingly targeted in messages that try to bridge the groups," Braden Phillips writes for The New York Times.

Companies want to reach boomers, but they want to do it with their general advertising message, usually a message created by and for a millennial target,” Brent Bouchez said. “No mainstream brand has spent money on a targeted creative campaign for boomers.”

With 33.8% of Americans falling into the Empty Nesters audience, marketers are missing out on prime spenders by not tailoring marketing messages to them. AudienceSCAN reports 40% of Empty Nesters are older than 65 and 33% are aged 55 to 64.

"Thus far, if the aging consumer is the primary target, the pharmaceutical and retirement-​related financial sectors are doing the marketing. Consequently, boomers say they feel underserved by marketing."

We did a survey of boomer perceptions of marketing directed at them, and over 80 percent said they feel advertisers are making mistakes, either with the wrong message or the wrong offer,” said Dave Austin, managing director of Influent50, a marketing agency created by AARP last year to help companies with branding for its members.

Advertisers can do a better job of reaching Empty Nesters by focusing on their worlds and lifestyles. AudienceSCAN notes that Empty Nesters are 26% more likely than average consumers to live in small towns or rural areas.

We’re tired of the idea that if you put a Rolling Stones song on a commercial, you’ll reach the over-​50s,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way.”

"Some ads that try to take a more age-​inclusive approach have hit the target, marketers said, particularly the fashion industry’s campaigns that include women older than 50, a big change from its well-​known obsession with youth."

"The superior buying power of the boomers compared with the millennials is clearly one factor forcing marketers to recalibrate their messages."

Newspapers could be the medium of choice for those trying to target Empty Nesters. AudienceSCAN reveals 40% of Empty Nesters took action after reading ads in newspapers in the past year.

"According to a four-​year-​old Nielsen-​BoomAger study, by 2017 nearly 50 percent of the United States adult population will be 50 and older and will control 70 percent of the country’s disposable income. Moreover, that group stands to inherit $15 trillion in the next 20 years."

"In contrast, 75 percent of millennials can afford to buy only what they need, not what they want, according to a 2015 study by BoomAger and the Natural Marketing Institute. In addition, 45 percent of them are not employed and 23 percent have college debt."

Many millennials will not enter their prime earning and spending years until 2020, and most not until 2030,” Mr. Hubbell said. “Sobering news if you put all your eggs in this basket.”

"Media consumption habits are also working toward increased marketing spending to reach boomers. According to Brian Nguyen, communications strategy director at Droga5, a New York-​based advertising agency, use of mobile, tablet, video and social sharing is evening out between the groups."

"In addition, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are developing content targeted to boomers."

As media touch points increase and buying power remains strong, marketers will have more and more compelling reasons to boomerang back to boomers,” Mr. Nguyen said.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.

Courtney Huckabay
Courtney is the Editor for SalesFuel Today. She analyzes secondary customer research and our primary AudienceSCAN research. Courtney is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.