Spreading the word about brands and places to shop

Hardly a day goes by without the press banging on about Baby Boomers. Usually it’s a piece about how they hold more assets than any other group in society, how they enjoyed full employment and big (early) pensions, and now they are spending their kids inheritance and growing old disgracefully. These pieces are usually accompanied by examples of celebrities that are in the Boomer generation: favourites are George Clooney and Madonna. We are told they are big business and if firms carefully target them they can tap into great opportunities.

Most firms don’t bother, however. In fact, the overwhelming majority of advertising spend till goes on targeting younger consumers. Marketing and advertising have long been accused of ageism! So, word-of-mouth communications – so important among any target group of consumers – is probably even more important among Boomers because they are so often ignored in advertising.

My JMM paper ‘The baby boomer market maven in the United Kingdom: an experienced diffuser of marketplace information’ takes Feik and Price’s concept of the ‘Market Maven’ and identifies and profiles these important consumers among the Baby Boomer cohort.

Market Mavens are people who are interested in shopping and and gather lots of information about different kinds of products and places to shop. They store lots of market information, and importantly they share that information with others. Their friends, family and acquaintances come to them for shopping advice, too, as they are perceived as experts who have great marketing-related information.

Who are Baby Boomer Market Mavens?

My study finds that Baby Boomer Market Mavens are found in all socio-economic groups except for the highest (the ABs). Their kids have already flown the nest and they are already grandparents. They are not older than the average Boomer, though – so it looks as though this is a group who had kids when they were relatively young. In terms of their values, they hold ‘respect’ values of ‘being well-respected’ and ‘self-respect’ as most important. Perhaps by sharing consumer knowledge of brands, products and places to shop they attain that sense of respect within their social networks.

I also looked at the psychological profile and found them to be confident, self-assured individuals who don’t look to others for cues on how to behave. They do, however, pay attention to what others are wearing and they keep up with clothing style changes. They are very venturesome when it comes to new brands and innovations and novelty, and they are likely to try new products before their friends and neighbours. This of course makes them not very loyal as a consumer – which is offset by the fact that they spread the word about new products and their word is perceived as credible by others.

These important consumers watch more TV than other Boomers, and they have positive attitudes towards advertising. They don’t use the Internet any more than the average Boomer, though, perhaps because they seem to prefer the real world over online shopping. These Boomer Mavens are price-conscious bargain hunters, irrespective of their disposable income. They enjoy seeking and finding the bargains for the pleasure it gives them, not because they have to save money.

How can Boomer Mavens be targeted by marketers?

From a managerial perspective, then, Boomer Mavens can be targeted with television advertising that positions brands as new and exciting with reasonable prices. Advertising should portray a middle-aged consumer as having respect in a social setting. They are willing to try new brands and absorb marketing information, so they are an ideal target for new products and for information about price reductions and sales. They are really concerned with fashion. This is a group of consumers who will spread a firm’s marketing message for them and be seen as credible by other consumers. This is a group that marketers really cannot afford to ignore.

Read the original research article (Open Access): Sudbury-Riley, L. (2016) The baby boomer market maven in the United Kingdom: an experienced diffuser of marketplace information. Journal of Marketing Management. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0267257X.2015.1129985

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Lynn Sudbury-Riley

Lynn Sudbury-Riley

Dr Lynn Sudbury-Riley is a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Liverpool Management School. She teaches a range of marketing courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Lynn has won several international awards for her research and has successfully completed a number of consultancy projects with SMEs and mainstream brands in the both the public and private sector. Lynn has gained increasing recognition for her core research which focuses on the consumer behaviour of older adults and her publications appear in many international journals.

Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this posting are the views of the Author(s), and are not necessarily the views of the JMM Editors, Westburn Publishers Ltd. or Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.