29 March 2008

FH Boom and Natural Marketing Institute Survey

FH Boom and The Natural Marketing Institute have come out with a survey:
NEW STUDY PROVIDES FIRST GLIMPSE OF BOOMERS AT 70: From Revolutionaries to "Retrolutionaries" by 2016

A new study of 1,100 Baby Boomers released yesterday by FH Boom and NMI gives marketers new insight into the Boomer consumer at age 70.

In brief, today's Baby Boomers predict that when they turn 70:

* 74% still won't be describing themselves as old
* 86% will be more practical and pragmatic in their purchases, and much less concerned about trendiness and indulgences
* 76% will be using technology to stay connected with family and friends
* 93% will have more time to do things like travel, dine out and pursue hobbies
* 63% will be making some kind of move, but only nine percent of Boomers now in their 50's or older imagine themselves at 70 still in search of "the dream home"
Deeper into the survey/press release there's some old stuff, some new stuff, some obvious stuff, some common sense stuff. For example, I've been talking about practical, comfortable, easy-to-use cars for years. (I'd make you listen to a radio interview from 2005 where I go on and on about this - but it's an eighty-minute MP3 and my worst enemy shouldn't be subjected to such torture.)

Now for the sort-of controversy: Matt Thornhill of the Boomer Project wasn't too thrilled with the survey.

For transparency, let me reveal that I have no actual business relationship with FH BOOM or The Boomer Project - but I know Matt and his work and admire it - and Carol Orsborn and Yours Truly (along with Brent Green) travelled to Europe recently for a two-week speaking/consulting tour. We've stayed good friends and I consider Carol one of my top business contacts.

So what do I think of this survey? I do agree a bit with Matt. Meaning - the way the survey has been positioned for uptake is silly. Except for NostraChuckus - nobody can predict the future.

And for various reasons Baby Boomers are not following many conventional wisdom rules for aging. Predicting what they'll be doing (or thinking) in ten or twenty years would be, at best, a guess. At worst, complete fantasy.

But the survey has some revealing and valuable information. It's what Baby Boomers think they'll be doing in the future - not necessarily what they will be doing. A few of the survey points might end up being spot on. With a few, the participants might be deluding themselves.

The Good News: This survey is not 'new insight' into Baby Boomers at 70 - but juicy insight into Baby Boomers today. What they think they'll be doing in ten or twenty years could be helpful in marketing and advertising to them now.

But as some guide for laying the groundwork for targeting this unwieldy, diverse group in ten or fifteen years? That's wishful thinking.

Even the most famous futurists are usually wrong. They make ten predictions, one or two come true eventually - and the rest are forgotten. Down the line, their PR only mentions when they were correct.

As far as I can tell, there's nothing wrong or amiss with the questions, answers, or crunching in this survey. However, FH BOOM/NMI should have positioned it as helpful data for today - not as a crystal ball.

Read Carol Orsborn's blog posting.

Download the press release PDF.


  1. Hi Chuck,
    You and Matt both make a good point. (Although I like how you said it a whole lot better!) That's why we sent this release with a Q&A addressing the futurist aspect to our media list. (Sensitive to our blog subscribers' in-boxes, subscribers only received the release.)

    What we wrote: "Marketers understand that when consumers are asked to envision ten years or more from now, they are really revealing what they're thinking now. Marketers should take into consideration that boomers are starting to feel the pinch between the discrepancy between their aspirations and their realities. This will be a tricky time for marketers who engage in aspirational messaging--and once again, they will need to take extra care testing messaging with the boomer as moving target."

    You said it well:

    "It's what Baby Boomers think they'll be doing in the future--not necessarily what they will be doing...What they think they'll be doing ten or twenty years could be helpful in marketing and advertising to them now."

    In any case, I'm happy to be part of the discussion re the futurist agenda. In fact, our blog this coming week addresses some highlights (and lowlights) from a MetLife/AARP research study that projects out twenty years. (And truth in packaging, promotes your co-presentation with them at an IMMN webinar in Apri.) (And simultaneously, a shameless pitch for www.TheBoomerBlog.com!)

    Finally, in deference to one of our favorite blogger/blur/journalists, we're switching you to our more formal media list.


  2. OK, so I wield a sharp stick some times, and aim for the eyes, but that's one way to get a response.

    I'm glad Carol clarified how they explained the research to the media. But the public blog posting isn't so careful, and FH Boom, owned by a PR firm, must know the media out there will be even less careful in deploying caveats.

    That's what got my dander up.

    No doubt, we all want to accurately predict how Boomers will behave in the future. For now, it's at best a guess -- and we're the professionals.

  3. The point about 74 percent will not view themselves as old is really eye opening. I went to a class recently where the teacher said that everyone knows that they will die but no one thinks they "could" die today. It is just abstract.

  4. Baby Boomers are fighting to maintain their vigor in their expertise, excellence and excitement with life. At least that is my current view. I dare say that it will be exciting to see, hopefully I will, what the mental mindset will be for Baby Boomers at that time. We probably will not be called Baby Boomers and have a great new pill that will rejuvenate our minds like we hope the greening of our planet.
    Thanks for this insightful post.


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