Marketing to Boomers: Not So Cut-and-Dry

In a recent post, we discussed the advertising industry’s newfound interest  in the 55-plus demographic. But as it turns out, appealing to this strong consumer group might not be as straightforward as it seems.

Typically, when targeting a specific demographic, it’s fairly simple to identify the defining characteristics of a consumer group. According to Jim Gilmartin in an article for, “It is said that people who experientially share the same experiences during their formative years take on behavioral characteristics in common that distinguishes them from people in other age cohorts.” Boomers reject traditional advertising

The problem, says Gilmartin, is that when dealing with an older generation we tend to forget how attitudes and perceptions change around mid-life. The idealized images so often portrayed to younger generations don’t appeal to the realists who have already opened their eyes to the realities of society. Instead of the typical idealistic portrayal advertisers are comfortable with, Boomers want “substance.”

Today’s buyers want proof

Gone are the days of selling a product based on popular appeal. The 55-plus demographic–widely regarded as the group with the most buying power in today’s economy–wants proof.  Advertisers won’t sell makeup to this group by plastering images of beautiful women next to a brand name. Dove’s 2004 “Real Beauty” campaign, for example, was the first to portray everyday images of women of all shapes, sizes and appearances in a campaign designed to widen perceptions of beauty. The campaign was based on research finding that only 9 percent of women worldwide feel comfortable describing themselves as “attractive,” and more than 80 percent of women feel that the advertising industry sets an unrealistic–and unattainable by most–standard of beauty.

Dove’s award-winning campaign is probably best known for its viral video, “Evolution,” which depicts the transformation process of an everyday woman to a glamorous, idealized image of beauty using professional makeup and hair techniques. The video demonstrates the entire transformation process from every-day woman to advertising perfection in one minute, complete with final Photoshop adjustments that change everything from the shape of the woman’s face, to the arch of her eyebrows, to the length of her neck.

While advertising to the 55-plus demographic will require a shift in thinking, Dove’s campaign demonstrates that it’s not impossible to reach the audience with a real-life approach. The challenge lies in demonstrating that one product is superior to another using factual examples, rather than idealized images. “What’s in it for me?” is no longer a simple matter of a beautiful, happy person with product in hand, but an evidence-based depiction that it works. Not an impossible task, but one that requires a far more insightful approach than traditional marketing methods.

Image Copyright mzacha on Stock.xchng

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