Group-think panic: Boomer tablet ownership growing faster than among Millennials

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Will soaring Boomer tablet use trigger Mad Men meltdowns?

Indulge us. It could have happened anywhere … one sunny summer afternoon, a visiting big city adman narrowly escaped arrest in Boulder, Colorado.

Peter Chicken Fight FinalHe was on the losing end of a dustup that made Peter Griffin’s epic Family Guy Chicken Fight seem tame.

BTW, Family Guy’s hilarious stream of 1970s-80s cutaways makes the show a must-watch for Madison Avenue Millennials; unapologetic Boomer Peter delivers cultural history lessons that put pedantic academics in the shade.

But we digress.

The Mad Man was trying to grab an iPad Mini from a 60-something clad in a sports shirt, shorts and Teva sandals as he sat on a bench browsing the latest Silicon Valley news at TechCrunch.

NO iPad MiniThis display of Boomer adaptability was unbearably offensive to the dogma that drove the ad guy’s world-view.

In his obsolete orthodoxy, when Americans turn 50 they become increasingly unlikely to adopt new buying behaviors or switch brands. Outside the 18-49 demo they do not even merit targeting.

Clearly, using an iPad Mini did not fit the template. Even worse, the exec feared the buff Boulder Boomer might actually respond to a mobile ad. Such a heresy would shake the very foundation of the faith which served his career so well during the last century.

Hence the desperate attempt at confiscation.

Eye-opening Pew Research tablet use survey to the rescue

The ruckus erupted just a few feet from your humble scribe who was reading a fascinating Pew Research Center report that found 42% of American adults now own a tablet, up from 34% in May 2013 and 18% in April 2012.

As might be expected, the highest levels of ownership were among those under 50:

  • 18-29 @ 48%
  • 30-49 @ 52%
  • 50-64 @ 37%

Tablet sales growth by age 2012_2014

But the real wow factor was the stunning revelation that 2012-2014 growth in tablet ownership was far greater among Boomers (164%) than among Millennials (140%) – even more astonishing, the jump among those over 65 was 212%.

That’s right: Boomer adaptability is, well, booming – we buy millions of tablets. Brands that fail to compete our business sacrifice market share on the altar of conventional wisdom. But, hey, it’s only lost profit, ROI, bonuses and salary increases – we’re sure the stockholders  and employees are cool with that.

Happy endings

Fortunately, the fit and gnarly Boomer decided not to press charges – after all, Boulder is a mellow mountain town. So we took the chastened exec to lunch and explained how the enormous potential of the 50+ audience validated by the mind-opening Pew data.

Limo V2

Wow, it all began to make sense. The ad guy suddenly remembered a disruptive Millennial back at the agency who recently suggested targeting the huge Boomer market. He was already figuring ways to grab the credit for her Big Idea as his limo sped off to the airport.

Millennials “looking for a hipper vibe” are discovering Boomers

Something up in here Colorado seems to stretch the mind; new ideas pour in. And new thinking attracts even more new thinkers.

Denver nightSo, no surprise, the Denver-Boulder metro area was the top “Cool City” destination for Millennial in-migration according to a 2011 Brookings study.

As Millennial advertising beacon Adweek put it, they were “looking for a hipper vibe.” 

Actually, hip Millennials coast to coast are on the move in other ways. A few are beginning to sense vast opportunities for mainstream brands in the 50+ space.

They are also learning that if the 89 million members of the Boomer-Plus Generation™ – the Boomers themselves and their slightly older siblings (born 1940-1945) – were a country, it would be the world’s 3rd largest economy … a bigger market than Japan, Germany or France or the UK, and way bigger than Canada and Australia combined. 

After decades of  muddled thinking, the incredible reality of Boomer adaptability still eludes many of Madison Avenue’s traditionalists. But for Millennials who seek new and profitable ideas, advertising to Americans over 50 is about to become the hipper vibe.

Opportunity Denver Millennials

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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