Over the hill but not in a rut

Shoppers carry their bags through the Fashion Center at Pentagon City mall in Arlington, Virgina.

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Kai Ryssdal: You know what else is attractive, ad-wise? Young people. That 18-to-34-year-old demographic that every marketer in the country wants to sink its claws into. But here's a news flash: There's some data out from Nielsen research that shows baby boomers, those late 40-to-early-60-somethings earn more than the younger folks, are likely to continue doing so and are buying more consumer goods, wireless services -- even Apple computers. So, riddle me this: Why aren't we seeing more boomers in the ads for all those products?

Here's Marketplace's Eve Troeh.


Eve Troeh: There's a cherished idea in advertising that people develop brand loyalty by their 40s and stick to it.

Jim Gilmartin of the marketing firm Coming of Age, says that's out of date. Today's over-50 crowd is open to new products and ideas -- but no one has invested in selling to them.

Jim Gilmartin: The companies that are selling products and services typically are not taking the time to really understand the rapidly changing and aging marketplace, and what it means to their business and how you connect with these folks.

He says ad agencies also tend to fill their ranks with younger people. Boomers and older people represent $2 trillion in spending power. But Gilmartin says, the argument against going after them often comes down to this:

Gilmartin: It's just not cool.

Joan Troeh: Well, probably isn't.

That's the baby boomer I know best -- my mother, Joan Troeh. She's in her 60s. She says she's not so interested in being cool. That doesn't mean she isn't interested in new products. Like, her toothpaste.

Joan Troeh: If it is a new thing, which in fact, the toothpaste I'm currently using is a new whitening brightening, do everything all in one package, I can be swayed to buy it.

But that decision is likely to be based on price, not style.

Joan Troeh: Whatever is on sale. Or whatever someone has been kind enough to send me a coupon for.

Because, like so many boomers she's watching costs as she gets ready to retire.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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