Best PracticesJul 11th, 2016

4 Steps to Gear Up Your Marketing Strategy for Baby Boomers


The automotive industry requires a particularly diverse strategy in cross-generational digital marketing, needing to appeal from baby boomers to millennials, and every generation in between.

Real-time data collection and tools like engagement scoring make it simple to categorize and target the appropriate audiences with cross-device and cross-platform campaigns, but crafting a campaign strategy should take generational trends into account as well.

Baby boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, are a strong customer base often underserved in the digital realm. They represent an impressively large portion of the U.S. population — 76 million — surpassed only recently by millennials. And although it may be tempting to dismiss them as lacking tech savvy, three out of four boomers use the Internet, according to a Pew survey. More importantly, boomers are also the age group most likely to purchase a new vehicle, outpacing Gen X’ers and millennials by a large margin.

Traditional advertising thinking would have automotive marketers targeting a younger audience, but that leaves a large number of potential customers off the grid. And surprisingly, the number of baby boomers who are licensed to drive is actually increasing over time, reports the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. So, how can automotive marketers increase digital relevance with the generation that, according to the AARP, accounts for almost half of all consumer spending? Here are four steps.

1. Be social

Social media is not a passing trend for marketers; it offers increasingly effective and profitable advertising options. Marketers and advertisers are aware of this, but often fall prey to the idea that social media is effective for younger generations only. Contrary to stereotypes, about one-third of all online and social users are baby boomers.

They’re just as active on Facebook and Twitter as the average consumer, and even more so on professional sites like LinkedIn. They are nipping at the social media heels of their younger cohorts, and Facebook and Twitter are leading the pack in boomer engagement. To reach boomers where they are — on digital platforms — utilize engagement scoring to inform your cross-platform advertising strategy.

2. Prioritize quality, luxury, and safety

Although millennials are all about personalization of vehicles, boomers have different priorities. A study from TrueCar found that many boomers are finally purchasing their dream cars. With an empty nest and greater financial freedom, boomers are trading in their budget-friendly family vehicles for high-quality luxury choices that still offer the best safety features. While boomers’ lifestyles have shifted, so too have their preferences.

It’s important to understand these priorities, and test your creative messaging accordingly. Because boomers are a vastly diverse generation, segmentation is imperative in order to convey the right message to the right audience. Establishing your messaging based on customer desires will greatly improve your reach and effectiveness. For example, an A/B test of advertising that touts safety vs. luxury could offer valuable insights into the boomer market.

3. Go mobile

The mobile-first revolution is not going anywhere. Time spent on mobile digital media is growing, currently at 51% compared to 42% for desktop, according to a Mary Meeker Report. Providing a satisfactory mobile experience to your audience through mobile digital media is paramount. Approximately 89% of boomers own a smartphone, so it’s important not to discount them when considering a mobile strategy. Additionally, DMN3 reports they spend an average minimum of 4.4 hours per week on their smartphones. In an increasingly mobile market, ease of use and an intuitive user experience are the keys to success.

4. Meet baby boomers where they are

Only 10% of marketing dollars are currently being spent on boomers. Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports this demographic controls 70% of the disposable income in the U.S., it’s a largely underserved population in terms of digital marketing. It’s important to meet boomers where they are online, rather than hoping they come to you. For example, baby boomers are more likely to consume content from magazine and newspaper websites than younger generations, and less likely to consume video online. By tailoring content and digital marketing campaigns to the online habits of boomers, automotive marketers can increase the relevance and, ultimately, success of campaigns. As one of the largest populations in the U.S., baby boomers are a powerful purchasing source for the automotive industry. Understanding and catering to their digital habits can produce strong results and loyal customers. Boomers are more ready than ever to enter the automotive market as confident buyers, and their spending habits and purchasing power make them a key component of the auto industry’s success.

As president of IgnitionOne, Roger Barnette oversees the company’s aggressive growth and technology strategy. He has extensive experience managing and growing emerging technology businesses, and is a veteran of the online marketing industry.

Authored by

Roger Barnette

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