They were America's first mass market and an advertisers' dream: 77 million baby boomers who came of age with television. As kids, they were consumers of baby foods and breakfast cereals. As adults, they were trend setters. But as they outgrow the desired 18- to 49-year-old demographic, they are creating a new frontier for marketers.
“If you're a marketer and you want to grow your business, the pie that's going to get bigger is the over-50 pie,” says Matt Thornhill, with The Boomer Project, a research group that helps ad agencies better understand the mindset of people over the age of 50.
That demographic is filled with consumers like Steve and Joan Delott of Chicago, who are aging in years but not attitude.
“When I look at myself in the mirror, I don't see a 50-year-old. I see a 35-year-old,” says Joan.
“I probably feel like I'm in my 30s,” agrees Steve. “I feel good, fortunately. Behaving, well, Joan says a lot of times I'm immature.”
That youthful outlook is starting to be reflected in magazines for aging boomers and products for a changing life. It’s highlighted in campaigns like Pillsbury's “Cooking for Two,” which is targeted at empty nesters.
“They are not old,” says Mark Toth, marketing manager at Pillsbury.“They are not done with life, and they are excited to move on to this transition phase.”
And most of all, they are still spending money. One estimate is a whopping $2.3 trillion by consumers 45 years and older. But, as they were in their younger days, these older consumers are non-conformist.
“They're not one homogenous group. It's a very diverse group,” says Thornhill. “They could be starting a new family. Or they could be retired.”
At 55, Steve Delott is still working, but 51-year-old Joan is retired and recalculating what it means to be old.
“If the 50 is the new 30, then in my mind, the 80 is going to be the new 60,” she says. “You know, I would say well into my 80s. I mean, I hope to have another strong 30 years, at least.”
Call it the new math — that savvy marketers hope will mean money in the bank.