Sherree Worrell wrote a powerful post entitled, “Are We Boomers Still Relevant?” We followed that post with a discussion that delves deeper into the subject matter. We invited Boomers to discuss their views on media’s communication of typical stereotypes, their overlooked contributions, their influential buying power and the recessional impacts in their lives.
Here are some current stats about Boomers:
The last of the baby boomers turned 50 in 2014 – in the US there were 77 million people born between 1946 and 1964, which defined as the baby boomer era (U.S. Census).
The 50+ population has $2.4 trillion in annual income, which accounts for 42% of all after-tax income in the U.S. (Consumer Expenditure Survey).
Boomers and seniors have seen a decrease in their median family net worth, however they still have a net worth 3x that of younger generations (Economic Policy Institute).
Americans 50+ account for half of all consumer spending but are targeted by just 10% of marketing (AARP).
eMarketer projects that the percentage of US boomers on the mobile web will have surpass 50% in this year hitting 28.8 million boomers
The Internet is the most important source of information for Boomers when they make major purchasing decisions (Zoomerang).
Our esteemed panel this week included:
- David Svet, a middle Boomer, in marketing communications in non profit sector
- Sherree Worrell, a middle Boomer, entrepreneur in business and project management
- Joseph Gier a late Boomer, communications entrepreneur
- Allen Mireles a younger Boomer, entrepreneur in public relations and marketing
- Jewel Fry a middle Boomer, entrepreneur in social media strategy
Here are the insights from our discussion:
The recession changed everything for Boomers:
From Sherree’s post:
The recession was the final nail that made us irrelevant. Every conversation since 2008 that revolves around jobs, marketing, education, advertising, etc., has focused more on Millennials. Boomers have been pushed aside and are now required to shoulder the blame for every little thing that has gone wrong (before, and) since.
This event became a pinnacle event for Boomers. We discussed the shifts and misperceptions that occurred since the SubPrime Mortgage Crisis:
- People were being laid off right left and centre. At the same time the requirements for jobs were shifting. Boomers were competing with considerably younger people for the same jobs. It made it increasingly difficult for Boomers to secure opportunities because of the job demand for younger blood.
- Social media took flight at this time and there was an assumption that younger people, who adopted the medium in droves, were the ones who “got it”. While Boomers, who had adopted the medium earlier, knew how to apply it to business, the surge of social media within industry favored Millennials.
- David noted he was involved in technology and computing since the late 70’s and was highly skilled in programming and had email before anyone else. While these mediums radically evolved to their present state, others have been ignorant of their beginnings. As Joseph so apty said,
You know what they say about pioneers: They’re the ones with the arrows in the back.
- It’s clear this group are outliers. They are early adopters of technology. They do not conform to the stereotypical “norm” of slowing down and becoming complacent as they age. However, as Jewel interjected, this has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with what interests and drives individuals.
- As for Millennials and the overwhelming attention paid to this generation, Joseph was quick to point out that marketers will appeal to the “fresh minds”. Millennials are seen as malleable: they don’t have ingrained habits yet. They make quick decisions based on what information is available to them at the time. So perhaps it becomes less a question about buying power and more about the opportunity to influence the buying decision for this next generation.
Complacency exists across generations, as does early adoption
There are plenty of proud luddites out there…
- There are people across Boomers, Millennials and GenXers who have not rolled with the times.
- The majority of the panel relayed the disparity that exists in their own relationships, where their significant other has refused to adopt new technology or social media. The internet may serve simply as an entertainment or reference resource for them.
- Jewel argued there are pockets of job opportunities that may not require the need for social networking or online profiles to secure jobs.
We live in this bubble where we assume you have to network online, have a brand and be socially active to get a job. That isn’t aways true. The internet [for those that don’t do] this has nothing to do with their social or financial life.
- Allen pointed out that situation exists today but will change quickly as companies require new technology to grow and compete effectively. This will have massive spillover to employees at work and at home.
People who refuse to learn, companies who refuse to grow – will be left behind.
- Professions like teachers, who, at first blush, may not require an online presence, are now finding ways to leverage tools and technology to raise money more effectively, increase communication efficiency.
Why do Boomers shoulder the blame for the economy, jobs, environment etc?
Our Millennial Think Tanks surfaced some harsh opinion that squarely lay blame on the Boomer Generation for decisions that were made decades ago that contributed to today’s environment and economic instability.
- David noted that the economy has not experienced stability since 1980 and the decision-makers who directly impacted this have surfaced time and time again:
It’s absurd to put all the blame on an entire generation when those key decision makers, who have held lengthy tenures in office [the 1%] created the policies that laid the groundwork.
- Boomers have experienced, in their own lives, the impact of those policies on the now-non-existent pension funds and vulnerable 401Ks.
I was a kid. Most of us were kids then, not policy makers. We can’t be responsible for what a few Boomers did. Yes we are older now and we are voting so we are old enough to know better. People don’t realize is that we haven’t been this age all our lives.
- Jewel added that the articles about Boomers in mainstream media are consumed and perpetuated by people who haven’t had the time to think deeper than the headlines. It’s not necessarily relevant. Unfortunately, these days what’s written and published (irrespective of fact-checking) tends to be perceived as valid.
Does retirement exist for you?
References from The Province (Canadian stats) were presented to the panel. Similar trends exist within the U.S. :
- The number of seniors in Canada’s workforce doubled from 300,000 to about 600,000 between 2006 and 2013 – Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP)
- That number will continue to grow as more Canadians enter retirement years without a company pension.
- Polling of CARP members shows that about half of seniors want to work and half need to work.
The panel agreed that the concept of retirement, as their parents and grandparents knew it, is no longer relevant. The economy, the decisions made by government that killed pension funds and have made senior income sources more vulnerable has made this generation rethink their “supposed” retirement years.
There are no disillusions about the current economy and what that means for Boomers. For most of these Boomers, pensions have not existed in their careers.
Survival is the common theme and today’s changing landscape, all agree that learning is absolutely essential to survive.
Do you still aspire to be like the Jones Generation?
Sheree responded that they all want to be comfortable and safe. The reality is that isn’t going to happen. Joseph agreed and reminded everyone,
We are still an aspirational generation. We want to be better. We want to do better [ Remember the protest and environmental movements]
Boomers are fully aware of where they are today. They understand their capabilities and their limits. As Sherree pointed out: Nothing is a sure thing… not anymore.
If you had one advice to tell the next generation what would it be?
- Joseph: “Observe, keep learning and don’t make generalizations.“
- Allen: “Keep learning, retain the curiosity, lose the fear, hold on to your compassion and [for God’s sake] listen”
- Jewel: “We were your age once too. We also made mistakes and you will too. If you’re wise you will learn from them.”
- Sherree: “Keep an open mind. Don’t take a narrow point of view. Empathize and have compassion.
Understand from a distance there is great perspective but up close you need to paint with a very tiny fine brush
You can listen or watch the full episode below:
Founder at ArCompany, and Director, International Council on Global Privacy and Security by Design Hessie is a seasoned digital strategist, and intelligence analyst having held senior positions for top ad agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience in AI technologies, social tech, online publishing and artificial intelligence like Yahoo! Answers, Overlay.TV, Jugnoo and Cerebri AI. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also an active writer for Forbes, Cognitive World, Towards Data Science and Marketing Insider Group.