Boomers: The Invisible Generation?

From the desk of Jo-Ann Ryan

One of my favorite clients, noted for a great sense of humor, once said to me that as women enter middle age they become invisible, especially to men. Consequently, she quipped that middle-aged women would make great bank robbers because no one would be able to identify them.

Likewise, it seems that Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are invisible to many marketers!

According to Nielsen, the 100 million people aged 50 and older in the U.S. are “the most valuable generation in the history of marketing” and yet only 10 – 15% of advertising is directed at them.

AARP reports that this segment represents the third largest economy in the world,  behind the gross national products of the United States and China, and soon will control more than 70% of the disposable income in this country.


  • Buy two-thirds of all cars, half of all computers, a third of all movie tickets and spend $7 billion a year shopping online. (AARP)
  • Outspend other generations by an estimated $400 billion each year on consumer goods and services. (United States Consumer Expenditure Survey)
  • Represent one-third of the 195.3 million Internet users in the U.S. (Jupiter Research)

Moreover, Boomers are more advanced technologically than many marketers assume:

  • 36% of Boomers own a smartphone, and 44% of those owners access the Internet daily through their device. (Pew)
  • 4 million Boomers engage in social networking, 19 million of which are on Facebook (comScore)
  • 82% of Boomers use the Internet to research health and wellness information (Pew Internet and American Life Project).

So why is this valuable segment virtually ignored? Perhaps because for many years the 18 – 49 segment has been the focus of marketers, and for many years the sizable Boomer population was a part of this age segment. Another issue may be that marketers tend to be younger and have misperceptions about their older counterparts.

Researchers, too, often overlook this important segment. How often does the screening age range stop at 65 (or even younger)?   How often are Boomers researched as a distinct target segment? Clearly, many researchers assume that older respondents are not viable participants. However, we have found that respondents 65+ are willing and able research participants. In our experience, they tend to be incredibly reliable respondents; thoughtful and diligent if given pre-work assignments; and eager to have their voices heard. Many are computer savvy, allowing for online research methods to be used. And with a few accommodations for seniors with mobility issues, in-person research is equally viable.

Some examples of research projects that we’ve successfully conducted with Boomers (and Seniors) include:

  • Online video diaries conducted over time for a major CPG firm to gain an in-depth understanding of Boomers—their lifestyles, habits, attitudes, product purchase decisions, usage, and other behaviors.
  • In-home ethnographies and shopalongs for a major bath safety product manufacturer to uncover barriers to purchase, unmet needs, and opportunities for refining and expanding its product line.
  • In-depth interviews with aging women to explore need states and drivers that lead to consideration of cosmetic dermatology treatment options.

So don’t overlook Boomers in your marketing and new product efforts – you can’t afford to ignore these big spenders!