Advertising to Boomers: early adopters will be too late

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Boomers, a Godzilla-size market – big, powerful and grumpy

In the Golden Age of cheesy sci-fi movies, scaly mutants in low budget rubber costumes, claymation monsters and rear projection creepy-crawlies ruled the day.

One of our favorites is the 1954 Toho Film Company classic, Godzilla.

Godzilla Big Idea

Millennials made Godzilla’s fiery acquaintance in theaters in 2014, but most Boomers met the original rambunctious, radioactive reptile on late night television.

And it made a lasting impression: in Boomer-speak, a Godzilla-anything came to mean the biggest and – when riled – the baddest.

So, today, when we say Godzilla-size opportunities among Americans aged 50+ are being ignored by many mainstream brands, pretty much everyone gets the idea.

Just how Godzilla-sized are we? In 2014 AARP estimates there are almost 110 million Americans over 50, and, according to the Federal Reserve, we own 85% of U.S. household net worth. Hey, watch out for that great big scaly foot!

Most of this colossal spending power belongs to the Boomer-Plus Generation™ born 1940-1964, a definition that takes into account the conventional Baby Boom birth year range (1946-1964) plus those born 1940-1945, all of whom shared the socio-cultural fallout of the post WW2 economic good times.

With 89 million members, as a country the Boomer-Plus Generation would be the world’s #3 economy after the U.S. itself and China. No EU nation even comes close to its size and affluence.

However, dozing like Tokyo on a languid 1954 summer afternoon, most mainstream brand advertisers believe the 50-plus space can safely be ignored. The handy excuse is that older consumers are unwilling to switch brands or adopt new products.

Such lethargy is dangerous.

After decades of embracing constant change, Boomers are actually America’s most adaptable generation. Like Godzilla, we’re big and we’re powerful. We’re also a tad grumpy: being dissed by brands that depend on us for market share gets us fired up, big time.

The Big Idea of advertising to Boomers won’t play by the rules

Adoption Cycle ConventionalRecently, a few young Innovators have begun to explore that immense 50+ space.

In theory, the traditional adoption cycle should now play out, with adworld’s Early Adopters arriving next and its Majority players belatedly jumping on the bandwagon.

But the Big Idea of advertising to the gigantic Boomer market won’t play out along traditional adoption cycle rules.

Rules? C’mon, we’re talking Godzilla.

A better model is Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers (1991) the breakthrough book that explains Baby Boomer Geoffrey Moore’s iconic chasm theory

Moore revealed a break – a chasm – in the traditional adoption curve that separates Visionaries and Early Adopters from the cautious Majority. Without experienced guides, new technology cannot easily migrate across the chasm – sadly, many great new ideas simply die there.

Why early Adopters will be too late

The Big Idea of advertising mainstream brands to Americans 50+ is so radical that Moore’s chasm will emerge even earlier in the process. Only the most disruptive of Millennial Visionaries will dare cross the chasm of conventional wisdom.

This time their usual companions the Early Adopters will hang back with the Majority, fearful of bucking authority or losing face in Madison Avenue’s hyper-competitive ecosystem.  

Jumping the chasm_H H Bennet Studios_BCG

Once proven, new ideas in ad-world are imitated at the speed of thought. So when the idea of targeting Boomers goes viral, so-called Early Adopters will be no further ahead than the me-too crowd nipping at their heels.

Meanwhile, those intrepid brands on the other side of the chasm will already be reaping profits in the 3rd largest economy on Planet Earth.

Guiding Visionaries through the Conventional Wisdom chasm

Grand CanyonHigh among the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park the mighty Colorado River begins as a tiny trickle in a remote alpine meadow. It is one of Mother Nature’s own Big Ideas that started small but eventually carved out the monumental Grand Canyon.

A mile deep, ten miles wide and 270 miles long it’s the Godzilla of chasms!

It’s an apt metaphor for the idea of advertising to Americans over 50; today’s trickle will soon become a landscape shifting torrent.

But if you want to ride the river to the 89 million Boomer-Plus market, be sure you have experienced guides – it’s no place for amateurs. Fortunately, just down the road a piece from the source of that mighty Colorado, our expert Boulder-based consulting team brings bold visionaries through the conventional wisdom chasm in confidence and style.

Glittering on the other side is the vast majority of U.S. household net worth: spending power galore for those courageous enough to make the journey.

Opportunity Godzilla big idea

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MM

Originally 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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