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Baby Boomers Eating Up Cosmetic Dentistry

In a column published in Dental Economics, Dr. Craig Cooper analyzes the affect of baby boomer consumers on implant dentistry. He attributes the growth of the implant dentistry industry to baby boomers discretionary spending: “Folks who prefer driving BMWs to Fords want the best when it comes to dental care … and many are willing to dig deep in their pockets to pay for it.”

Sadly, some of Cooper’s general assertions are incorrect.

  • “By 2017, many of the baby boomers will have died.” In 2017, the oldest baby boomer will be 71-years-old and the youngest will be a mere 53. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, average U.S. life expectancy is at an all-time high of 77.6 years. Something in Cooper’s math isn’t adding up. Even if there was “only” 10 years of heavy demand for implants, what practice would want to ignore that?
  • “It will be impossible to replace their business due to the size of this population group and its high per-capita wealth….Also, this group and subsequent generations might not be able to spend as lavishly as the baby boomers did.” Marketing to baby boomers is not about questioning the future wealth of the younger generations. (According to a study on Echo Boomers, born between 1979 and 1989, there will be little difference in how they spend discretionary income.) Properly crafted messages can appeal to both the old (primary) and young (secondary), packing quite the one-two punch. It’s also important to remember that many boomers are still paying for the dental care of their now adult or almost adult children.

Over the years Immersion Active has helped several prestigious dental practices market themselves, from general/family to restorative/cosmetic to endodontic. While our focus is Internet marketing to online boomers and not dental marketing per se, some of Cooper’s arguments offer lucrative advice.

  • “Vanity and convenience are the prime motivators.” This is especially true for the baby boomer generation, who are by far the biggest indulgers in anti-aging assistance, spending 1.5 times more annually on personal care products and services than younger adults.
  • “Implants belong in the general dentist’s practice.” Cooper advocates proper implant training for all dentists, which could create one-stop shops for all patients’ needs — definitely appealing to those busy boomers who are sandwiched between the needs of their children, grandchildren and parents.

What we found most interesting (no surprise) was Cooper’s take on the Internet: “[It] educates patients about the pros and cons of various dental procedures. The more they learn about the advantages of implants, the more they want them.” A recent study by Jupiter Research found that 37 percent of boomers who use the Internet consult online health resources. And these users are just as likely as younger users to leverage online tools, email doctors, and engage in health-related social media.

Dentists need to be prepared to accommodate more educated patients and embrace the prominent online marketing opportunities to engage these users, who will be viable consumers far beyond the year 2017.

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