Within this industry, most of us share the desire to communicate effectively with the large and affluent Boomer population. It is my belief that one of the best ways to capture the imagination of Boomers is to understand them and speak to their primary emotional drivers through your marketing. Of the advertising that we have tested with Boomers, the creative that has resonated most powerfully has embodied this principle. The UNC Heart Center campaign is one of my favorite examples of advertising that speaks to the emotions and values of this audience. The advertising for the UNC Heart Center grew directly out of feedback we received from Boomers in focus groups and one-to-one interviews. Above is an example of one of the collages a group of Boomers built in one of our focus groups. The images they selected were in response to the question: What does health mean to you at this stage of your life? Themes represented in their choice of images include spending time with family and grand children, travel, exercise and good nutrition.
What we have learned is that although Boomers are not a homogeneous group, they do share some important emotional drivers – the desire for questing, connecting and self-care. (See Silverstein and Fiske, Trading Up.) ‘Questing’ is related to the drive for self-actualization and enrichment through travel, adventure and play. ‘Connecting’ involves the desire to establish connections and an individual identity by aligning with specific products and services – often to replace missing connections with family. And finally, ‘self-care’ is all about activities that lead to renewal, rewards and rejuvenation. Time at the Spa, a nice dinner out, or indulging in fine wines are all forms of self-care. If this doesn’t look or sound like the Boomer you’ve been portraying in your advertising, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
A great place to learn more about Boomers’ quest for self-actualization is Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske’s book, Trading up: The New American Luxury. Overall, it is a terrific resource for understanding American consumers and their relationship with brands. I highly recommend it.