The Baby Boomers are a demographic bulge that is hard to ignore – at least you would think so. Until you become a 50+ Baby Boomer. That’s when advertisers and marketers get stupid about the huge impact of our spending power as they continue to focus on the 18-45-age group. If we’re not ignored completely, as in fashion and clothing, we are represented as incontinent codgers blissfully swing-dancing at the seniors’ club or as love-struck empty nesters dropping everything to run and take advantage of our partner’s 4-hour erection.
I read recently that the average age for creative types at ad agencies is 28. Even with the more mature supervision of an ad executive perhaps in their 30s or 40s, they’re still not “getting us”. Print ads and TV commercials continue to portray Boomers as a throw-back to earlier generations in need of a variety of pharmaceuticals to get us through the day or night. Some Boomers may have embraced the early drug culture but that doesn’t mean we aim to become geriatric junkies. That’s not what Kris Kristofferson had in mind when he sang “Help Me Make It Through The Night”.
What is it going to take for marketers to wake up to what we’re really about? It’s really not that complicated. We’re a generation who have been interested and involved in politics since we were old enough to vote, which cannot be said of most generations who followed. We marched and in some cases were killed (Kent State) to make our concerns heard. Our anti-war beliefs were backed up by our welcoming and support of Vietnam draft-dodgers who came to Canada. We wore peace symbols, lived The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” anthem and changed how society treated women, gays and lesbians and minorities. In fact, last night as I watched The Night That Changed America, a live tribute to 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan, I teared up as I watched Paul lead everyone in singing All You Need Is Love in a déjà vu moment with Ringo drumming in the background. Fifty years have flown by but Paul and Ringo, looking fit and hip get it.
While we no longer wear love beads, peace symbols and flowered shirts with our bell bottoms, we still have a huge interest in how we look, how we dress and how this world performs. The current portrayal of our retiring generation as one who needs nothing more than an assortment of prescription meds, incontinence products, stair chairs and denture adhesives is insulting, myopic and certainly not authentic. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see attractive 60-somethings strolling down the fashion runways in avante-guard flattering designs that do not involve embroidered teddy bears and strawberries around the neckline. To be able to buy sexy, comfortable nightgowns or PJs that don’t look like dorm-wear or at the other end of the spectrum, brothel-wear would be a joy. Would someone please design casual clothing that could confidently turn heads on the streets of Paris or New York for Boomers who are not size O? We are still cool. We still have our own teeth, albeit perhaps enhanced with expensive veneers, we’re physically fit and we’re smart, informed and involved.
Boomers are not all interested in altering our faces with plastic surgery, Botox or fillers until we resemble freaks. We respect Boomers like Diane Keaton, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep who aren’t afraid to show their earned age. We don’t wanted sugared cereals – in fact we’d love to eliminate sugar from most of our foods. We want to eat healthy non-GMO’d food. We want stylish clothes that fit and are flattering. We want bungalows with two car-garages, large closets and open-plan living space close to urban centres so we can go to the theatre (both live and movie) and have plenty of shopping options. We want to be able to remain in the tech loop without jumping on every new gadget that hits the market. We’re educated, curious and still growing intellectually. The cup is only half full and we intend to keep filling it until it overflows, then we’ll order another cup on Amazon. And we do have a sense of humour about our place in the scheme of things.
The world of consumer marketing is the ultimate loser here. We have the need, the want and the financial wherewithall to get this country back on track but it seems no one is listening. Even our new-found advocate groups like CARP and AARP struggle to be heard. Perhaps it’s time we once again strapped on the old love beads, boarded buses and banged on the doors of government, retailers, advertisers and businesses to get their attention. In the meantime, make your voice heard however you can – by e-mail, phone calls to appropriate parties or boycott institutions that will not listen to what we have to say. If I see another ad on TV for meds I don’t need or that represent a lifestyle that does not respect who we really are, I might have to let out my bell bottoms and start marching. In the meantime, I’m trying my best with blogging, e-mails and personal advocacy. There’s plenty of room left in my cup. How about yours?