Advertising To Boomers Requires A Rosetta Stone

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Boomer-speak, the thriving underground dialect of adaptability

Egyptomania is an enduring phenomenon that wells up in the American psyche every few decades; we’re overdue for another dose.

If the New York Times fashionistas are right about an imminent 1970s revival of bold, chunky jewelry set with colorful gemstones, that next wave could be just around the corner. Boomers, of course, have already been there, done that.

EgyptomaniaWe grew up on old Mummy movie classics and lurid British Hammer Studios remakes known less for historical accuracy than for gore and heroines’ necklines that plunged more dramatically than Niagara Falls in snow melt.

When the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibit toured the US in the late 1970s, we eagerly drank the tana leaf Kool-Aid. Awash in ankhs and lapis lazuli Horus doodads, and embracing pyramid power, it took disco to redirect us to 20th century sanity.

Boomers were not the first to fall under Egyptomania’s exotic spell. It began when the 2,000 year old Rosetta Stone was discovered near the Egyptian city of Rashid (Rosetta) in 1799. Inscribed in Greek, ancient hieroglyphs and a later script derived from these older symbols, it allowed archaeologists to finally translate the history of Egypt.

Well before the powerful language teaching software, Rosetta Stone had already become a metaphor for iconic breakthroughs that open the door to new understanding. Sadly, mainstream brand advertisers have yet to discover their own version and authentically engage Boomers.

Rosetta Stone_BoomerSpeakHaving ignored the 50+ space for so long, Madison Avenue no longer knows how to speak to us. Or cares to. Outside the 18-49 demo, we are assumed to lose our ability to switch brands, adapt to new buying behaviors or create new loyalties.

Adland doesn’t get that Boomer-speak is the nation’s most adaptable dialect, evolved over decades by America’s most adaptable generation and shaped by Boomer culture in ways only natives understand.

Boomer-speak: a dialect outsiders cannot master 

It’s one thing to recognize some of the slang and catch phrases we Boomers used over the years, but outsiders can never feel the resonance these words evoke in us.

Hearing them again, sometimes we smile, sometimes we cringe, sometimes we just shake our heads.

Sonny & CherIn the 1960s we had a gas, a blast, made the scene and dug it.

It was now, whether stoked or laid back, we’d keep on truckin’

Some felt that war was not healthy for children and other living things. Others knew this tape will self-destruct in five seconds.

Levis_1970sThen we cut out for the 1970s.

Apart from stagflation and the missing 18 minutes, they were right on. Dy-no-mite. Hotlips and Hawkeye. Sure, sometimes we were out to lunch and were told to stifle, but truckers taught us to do the double-nickel, watch for a Kojak with a Kodak and not feed the bears.

Hart To HartAll too soon it was time to say good night John Boy, here come the 1980s.

It was, like, totally bodacious for dudes, dudettes, dweebs, dinks and yuppies. Morning in America; excellent, most definitely awesome. Unless you’d heinously fallen and can’t get up.

Yep, looking back, sometimes we smile, sometimes we cringe, sometimes we just shake our heads. The challenge for advertisers is to know which, and when, and how to master the accent.

The Boomer-Speak Rosetta Stone 

Pew_Internet usage 2015

Although the 93 million members of the Boomer-Plus Generation™, born 1940-1965, adapt constantly, marketers stubbornly cling to the old demo-driven dogma that they don’t.

Hopefully, the Pew Research Center drove the last nail in its coffin, er, sarcophagus, with the recent report that 81% of Americans aged 50-64 use the Internet and a “clear majority” (58%) of those over 65 also do so.

Daring brands hoping to excavate Boomer-world’s treasures will find us shovel-ready.

We even supply our own Boomer-speak Rosetta Stone.

Opportunity_Picard_Make it so

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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