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Boomer Marketing Tips from the Man of Steel

What could the new Superman movie possibly have to do with marketing to boomers?

Superhero summer movie fare is usually what my brother calls “popcorn flicks”–good for an excuse to sit inside a cool theater on a hot summer day and nosh on some butter-flavored popcorn (or a Supersize Junior Mints in my case). Or maybe to slurp a soda far too large for any human bladder, while experiencing an assault of sound and 3D fury that gets your blood pumping…but maybe leaves you a little let down at the end.

This summer marks the release of the latest Superman movie, Man of Steel. And in my opinion, it will break all box office records. Yep, I’m calling that one right now.

And it will be all because of boomers.

How Boomers affect the mood in our country

In designing online campaigns for our clients, we are always evaluating something called “zeitgeist,” or “the spirit of the age.” Boomers, the demographic group that is the famous “pig in the python,” are huge influencers of the current zeitgeist in our country. And with the median age being over 40 in many states (and growing older each year), that influence is stronger than ever, leaning towards a perspective that is set by an older generation–not a younger one.

And Boomers have been feeling a little beat up lately.

They’ve suffered from hits to their retirement savings. Social Security cuts are on the table, making that a source of anxiety for many hoping to enter retirement. And we have a Congress that can’t seem to stop partisan bickering long enough to work together to get anything done for the good of this country.

Couple that with the tragedies we’ve experienced of late: the Sandy Hook shooting, Hurricane Sandy, wildfires in Colorado, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the latest devastation from tornadoes in Oklahoma.

It’s no wonder that Boomers cited unemployment/economic uncertainty, increased violence, and squeezed incomes/poverty/bankruptcy as their top three fears in 2013 (according to ongoing research from Onesixtyfourth). Problems outside of our country: the tensions in Korea, unrest in the Middle East, etc., make our world seem a harder place to be live in.

Add to that with the health problems that come naturally with aging, and a higher number of concurrent life events than any other generation, and things can feel pretty stressful. There is even a rise in suicides among Baby Boomers.

Boomers have seen a lot in their lives so far–and they have lived through it. But it is understandable that they’re emotionally worn down from it all.

So what do Boomers need right now most of all?

That’s where Superman (and you) come in.

It’s not an ‘S’…on my world it means “hope”

You will give them an ideal to strive towards. In will help them accomplish wonders.The timing of the Superman movie could not be better. Boomers grew up with Superman comics; they shared the idealistic Christopher Reeves era of Superman with their children. They probably feel like they could use a real Superman right now, but what they really need, more than ever, are real heroes.

But Boomers have been around long enough, have seen enough in their lives, to know that heroism does not have to be the grand gesture of a Superman, come to save us from all of our troubles.

They know that heroism is being a bystander at the Boston Marathon, and helping injured people after the bombings.

They know that heroism is a teacher or staff member at Sandy Hook elementary putting themselves at risk to save others.

But they also know that heroism is sitting with a lonely senior neighbor and sharing a conversation…or tutoring a child in an after school program…or giving up a morning latté to make a donation to a worthy organization.

So…what should you be doing differently in your marketing to older adults?

Look for the hero within.

  1. Start by thinking about how your brand changes people’s lives. At Immersion Active, we believe marketing should help consumers process their lives. How does your product or service meet the core needs which all human beings share? In particular, consider Purpose, Identity, and Adaptation core needs. Connect those needs to Relationship and Energy needs. Are you highlighting how your product/service meets these core human needs in your marketing communications? If not, take a step back and evaluate how you might better accomplish this. Chapter 4 of our book, Dot Boom, is a great guide to get you started.
  2. Highlight outreach efforts. Does your brand work to change lives in other ways? Whether they be tightly aligned with the company mission or not, reflecting this to an older consumer could mean the difference between them supporting your brand or someone else’s. If you’re not doing outreach efforts yet, consider how you might. Try to align these efforts with your greater company purpose, or they run the risk of seeming insincere and falling flat. A small gesture is better than nothing, and can go a long way, when done with sincerity and humanity. Boomers want to feel good, now more than ever, about the companies they’re supporting with their wallets.
  3. Be human……because heroes are human–companies are not. Celebrate the individual employees and stories that play out around your company’s efforts. Show that you understand the mindset of people in our country–after all, your company is made up of those people, is it not? Then acknowledge that mindset by showing your consumers what you are doing to help make this world a better place.

Heroism is not the exclusive realm of grand gestures…but rather of human ones.

Finding the hero within

Acknowledging and acting upon the zeitgeist doesn’t mean diverting from what your brand is at its core, but rather finding the hero within that core, highlighting it, and acting on it in an authentic, human way.

As good as the Superman movie will make us all feel this summer, we don’t need a cape and a letter ‘S’ on our chests to be heroes…it’s within all of us.

It’s even within the grasp of marketers.

How will you highlight your company’s heroism to your consumers? How will you “inspire influence”?

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.