28 September 2009

Baby Boomers and The Kindle

A post from May 2009:

bezosNot About The Kindle Controversy
I don’t want to get into a brouhaha over Amazon’s Kindle and whether it’s a swindle or a savior or Beelzebub.  (Although the talking version seems to need elocution lessons.)

Multimedia Journalist Lauren E. Bohn did some research (including calling yours truly) and put together a trenchant piece:

image Kindling a reading revolution among baby boomers?  Baby boomers leading the perceived revolution
Berdell, a baby boomer, said he feels “hip” for owning a digital counterpart to the better portion of his library. He doesn’t bemoan the diminishing smell of paper and glue in his office.  He’s not alone.

I don’t see books disappearing. They’re easier to read (and skim) than an electronic device.   

And as one of Lauren’s interviewees says:

People can ingest content in more than one way …

23 September 2009

The Google Phone

Here’s a campaign that (I guess) is age-neutral, maybe skewed a bit to Baby Boomers (two out of three celebrities, and a moldy tune for the TV spot)*:


I’m not a fan of using celebrities for ads, although there are exceptions.  I generally smile when I see Whoopi. 

Fast Company’s Chris Dannen says, “The Google Phone's Ad Campaign Bites, Here's How to Give It Teeth.”

The TV spot is aspirational, direct, fun – but it doesn’t do what it should do:

For the umpteenth time
The Most Effective Marketing/Advertising Model For Reaching Baby Boomers: What is now called traditional advertising pushing you to an age-friendly, informative product/services web site.

imageIt’s not a bad site.

And that hand-me-down soundtrack does everything a soundtrack shouldn’t.  I’ll admit that I’d hoped to never hear that recording again – but even if you liked it way back when, it still doesn’t work:

Purely anecdotal: I’m watching TV. I hear a tune I haven’t heard in thirty-five, forty years. My mind goes off into the ether. “Wow. What a great song. I’d forgotten all about it. I had the album. The cover was blue . . . And there were a bunch of other great songs on that album. What the hell were they? I can’t remember . . . I wonder if I can get it on Amazon. There’s probably only a compilation of his hits, or a boxed set. But I just want the CD of the album. I’ll have to remember to check the next time I’m online ..”

By then, the commercial is over. In fact, probably three other commercials are over. I have no idea what the product is, or what any of the other products are.

imageBut the real questions are these: Do advertisers benefit from invoking the past willy-nilly? When those tunes come on, am I really paying attention? Or do they send me off into the ether, conjuring up all sorts of bizarre and moldy feelings, images, remembrances?

If someone at Google or T-Mobile or their ad agency liked this tune so much, spend some money and redo the ditty, so it sounds relevant for today. When I hear that recording while watching the commercial, I think I should be picking up this:


More: Invoking The Sixties

* Thanks to Fast Company for the graphic.

21 September 2009

Advertisers: Be Prepared For Big Boomer Brains

I was looking forward to less pain in the future, hoping the gradual wearing away of gray matter would take a load off my nagging neck. Now I hear otherwise:

Older Brains May Not Be So Small After All Decrease in gray matter isn't a given, researchers find
image Scientists have assumed that people's brains shrink as they age, but researchers now suspect that's not the case … Scientists in the past had failed to screen out people whose brains had shrunk because of brain disease, they said.

In other words, simply growing older may not make the brain become smaller.

image That’s great. That’s all I need. A fully-functioning, fat, juicy noggin and an arthritic neck that can barely hold it up.

Other bad news (especially for advertisers who continue to patronize and dismiss anybody over fifty):

Older Brain May Really Be a Wiser Brain

Baby Boomers are smarter than you think.

And generally better.

17 September 2009

Late Bloomer Boomers

In the NYT yesterday:

The Summer of the Celebrity Deaths?
image This summer could come to be known as the summer when baby boomers began to turn to the obituary pages first, to face not merely their own mortality or ponder their legacies, but to witness the passing of legends who defined them as a tribe, bequeathing through music, culture, news and politics a kind of generational badge that has begun to fray.

image “This is a historical development in cultural history,” said Todd Gitlin, 66, the sociologist and author of “The Sixties,” who teaches at the Columbia University School of Journalism. “It’s the ebbing of figures who have a wide enough span of appreciation and admiration so they appeal to significant numbers of people, like incarnations of virtue. So people take a new measure of themselves when they ask, ‘Will there ever be anybody else like X’ ”?

The shinier side:

Going by actuarial tables, the boomers, now age 45 to 63, can expect to live to age 83, thanks to modern health care …

image “I think this is the first time so many have simultaneously had an awareness of death and the prospect of a whole new act,” Mr. (Marc) Freedman said. “Never before have there been so many people who have so much experience and the time left to do something with it.”

I talked about this in my book (©2005, 2007).  A chunk of it:

The Late Bloomer Boomers

I don’t think that you should become a copywriter until you’ve done something else first . . . I wrote my first ad when I was 39 . . . I couldn’t have done it unless I had done a lot of other things first . . . I had experience that was enormously important when I sat down to write my first ad. 
                                                      —David Ogilvy1

imageOne of the ways Baby Boomers are redefining middle age is by beginning new lives.This is nothing that hasn’t been done before, but for a large chunk of a generation to do it practically en masse took many prognosticators by surprise.

When Baby Boomers were in their late teens through their early thirties there was an explosion of creative productivity in all fields.

Now Boomers in their late forties and fifties, the ones who didn’t quite “make it” or took safer paths, are finding out that their creative juices never dried up. Many of these folks are writing fiction and non-fiction, becoming graphic artists and photographers, and playing and composing music. And just as many are doing astonishingly creative things in the business world, often as entrepreneurs.

This isn’t like retired people taking on hobbies. The Late Bloomer Boomer Movement is going full blast, and there’s no stopping it. The magic equation: Thirty-odd years of experience plus not feeling old and being relatively healthy plus knowing you have another quarter-century of productivity in you equals . . .

Well, we’ll see. Some pundits are predicting that Late Bloomer Boomers may leave a bigger imprint on society than the “early bloomer” Boomers who were at the top of their games twenty-five to thirty-five years ago.

1 Denis Higgins, The Art of Writing Advertising (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003).

16 September 2009

Boomer Backlash II

Note: I’ve plagiarized myself with this post – but thought the ideas behind the original needed updating.  The backlash predicted is happening now.

imageA pivotal (you’d never forgive me if I used the word watershed) campaign by Kimberly-Clark for their Depend line is getting a lot of press. Culled from a piece by Bob Moos of The Dallas Morning News:

Adult underwear no longer being given the silent treatment
image … The new TV commercials have ordinary boomer men and women engaged in some unscripted banter about the differences between the two sexes, such as whether men or women make better drivers and which sex actually rules the world … The TV spots are carefully crafted to appeal to boomers who, if they don't use Depends themselves, may be caregivers for parents who do …

image The creative is lots of fun. No surprise, since the spots were directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris (born 1948). A Boomer directing Boomers.  Click one of the images below to watch the spots:

image image

image image



I guess what upsets me about this campaign is not the campaign itself.  I love it.  I see people around my age – they’re entertaining, loose, funny. I’m wondering what the payoff will be. What a letdown.  

Why couldn’t it have been a car?  Laundry soap?  Baked Beans? Gender-specific razors? Aluminum foil? A smart phone? Anything but some age-related malady.

And there’s this:

Use only as directed
By Joseph P. Kahn
image Take one night last week, chosen at random, when NBC Nightly News aired 17 commercials during its 30-minute broadcast.

Of those 17 spots, 12 were for (in order): Zyrtec, an over-the-counter allergy medication; Citrucel Fiber Supplement With Calcium; Advil PM, a combination pain reliever and sleep aid; Transitions prescription eyeglass lenses ("healthy sight in every light"); Spiriva HandiHaler, for use by COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) sufferers; the cholesterol-lowering properties of Cheerios; Bayer aspirin and its heart-attack prevention benefits; Omnaris nasal spray, a prescription allergy medication; Just For Men hair coloring (let's help graying old Dad get a date!); Boniva, which helps reverse bone loss in postmenopausal women, most notably actress Sally Field; ThermaCare heat wraps, for relief of muscle and joint pain; and Pepcid Complete, a heartburn and acid reflux remedy.

The Backlash: If every time someone over fifty sees a commercial targeting them and it’s always for an age-related product or service, pretty soon their eyes will glaze over, they’ll get itchy and grumpy.

The Real Issue: Marketing and advertising folks grasping the fact that Boomers will be buying billions (trillions?) of dollars worth of non-age related products for the next twenty-odd years. If you target this group for toothpaste, computers, clothes, food, nail polish, sporting equipment, toenail clippers - anything at all (almost), and you do it with respect and finesse, they will appreciate and consider your product.   

And looking at the big picture:  Let’s hope that ad agencies will see these spots and realize they’re missing out not hiring people over fifty to create campaigns for just about any product or service.

A quote from my book (1st Edition published in 2005):

advbbcover It’s going to be up to companies to be proactive when dealing with advertising agencies. Quality control of your product doesn’t stop at the entrances of Madison Avenue’s finest, or at the doors of small local or regional advertising agencies. If companies put pressure on agencies, and demand 45-plus creatives for products aimed at the 45-plus market, then they will find out that Baby Boomers are still “the single most vibrant and exciting consumer group in the world.”

Boomer Backlash I

14 September 2009

Boomer Backlash I

Pretty soon (and for reasons I’ve been screaming about for years), advertising and the media will alienate its most vibrant demographic.

image Ronni Bennett runs a blog that often reflects what’s going on in the hearts and minds of many folks over fifty:

Time Goes By
The Media's Take on Elders
imageIn the five years I've been doing this blog, the amount of attention paid to elders from all media has exploded. That's because the baby boomers started turning 60 and our consumer society is ever-ready to exploit a market …

Most of this stuff reads like it has been repurposed from Seventeen or Cosmopolitan magazine. It's all about the pretense of youth, remaining a midlife adult forever, denying age and its differences from earlier years. There is more than a whiff of parental supervision in the attitude of these stories – that the writers know what is best for elders (not that they would go near that word), and how we should live, which is mostly just like 35-year-olds …

One of the many reader comments:

I love being in my late 50's! I'm not crazy about some of the physical stuff, but I'm relishing the enjoyment of being me. I can't imagine trading places with my 25 year old daughter; you couldn't pay me to do that again.

imageIt won’t be long before Boomers wise up, figuring out what they’re supposed to figure out because they’re wiser than they think they are:

Older Brain May Really Be a Wiser Brain

And they’re smarter than you think.

And generally better.

There’s a Part II coming up.  I hope there won’t be a Part III.

Update: Boomer Backlash II

09 September 2009

New frugality is the new normal

If you’re alive you probably know this already:

New Frugality Is the New Normal, By Necessity
image A year after "shop 'til you drop" stopped, the nation fixates on this question: Will consumer spending ever return to pre-recession levels? …


Until the Great Recession, the worst recession since World War II was in 1981-82. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent in December 1982, a month after the recession had ended.

The recovery that followed was powered by baby boomers …

The housing bubble mistakenly led boomers and millions of others to believe their home was their retirement nest egg. If they left their home equity alone during the boom, they've taken a hit the last couple years but are still ahead. But many treated their home like a personal bank and spent the gains by tapping a home equity line of credit.

Some now feel disgusted with the great national buying binge and are reacting against it …

So what should companies and advertising/marketing agencies do?  I wrote about this ten months ago:

Baby Boomers & The Economic Collapse
What do you buy? Almost everything.  Clothes, appliances, computers, toothpaste.  The list is endless.  Regular, ol’ stuff.  Stuff almost exclusively marketed to twentysomethings with ad campaigns that don’t resonate with middle-aged consumers …

So sell them clothes, appliances, computers, toothpaste.  This way you’ll beat the competition.

Just make sure you have the right guts around to trust.


2008: A Review
(20 min)


For a UK perspective, Dick Stroud’s recent presentation (click the graphic):


07 September 2009

WhatsNext.com: You Need More Than A Resume

imageThere have been plenty of posts about Baby Boomers and HR on this blog. The subject gets more press than I can keep up with.

A few hi-profile Boomers are nailing it. Most who are looking for jobs haven’t been so fortunate.  There are reasons.  And those same reasons, along with ignoring their implications, will choke the growth of the economy.

A new website is doing its best to nudge recovery by focusing on pragmatic employment and entrepreneurial issues:

imageThe mission of WhatsNext.com is to provide information, inspiration and resources for men and women who want to change careers, find more fulfilling work or improve their work-life balance. All are welcome, but there will be an emphasis on those who are in mid-career or approaching retirement.

Examiner.com’s Andy Bragg does a good job exploring the development of WhatsNext.com:

What's Next is what was next for publishing executive Jeremy Koch
image It was 2003 and since joining Time Inc. as a newly minted MBA in 1980 Koch had risen through Consumer Marketing for the largest magazine publisher: analyst on Life and Time, Circulation Director of Fortune, Deputy Time Consumer Marketing Director, VP Consumer Marketing and Brand Development of People and finally President of Time Consumer Marketing.

Also with impressive credentials: Mark Gleason and Mark Miller.

So if it’s Labor Day and you’re not celebrating quite like you used to – check out WhatsNext.com.

More from Dick Stroud.

04 September 2009

Savvy sleep that knits the ravelled sleeve of care.

Pat Frank[3] I chatted with freelance writer Patricia Frank awhile back about sleep products and Baby Boomers.  A revamped article for Bed Times Magazine is now in Sleep Savvy Magazine.

image Sleep Savvy, the magazine for sleep products professionals, is distributed eight times a year to more than 24,500 retailers at furniture stores, sleep shops, and department stores across the U.S. and Canada.

Flip through the digital edition:

The article with way too many quotes from yours truly begins on page 36.

Also tucking in the corners:

Dr. Carol Orsborn of Vibrant Nation

mtMatt Thornhill of
The Boomer Project



David Weigelt of Immersion Active


David Baxter of Age Wave

02 September 2009

Don’t blink or you’ll miss them.

image Okay, I admit it.  I watched Mad Men last night.  On On Demand.  A guilty pleasure, although this particular episode was a bit slow and soapy

And like a good Mad Man, I didn’t fast-forward through the commercials.  Two gave me the heebie-jeebies. 

Backstory on the first one: There have been scores of news articles and studies recently about entrepreneurs, small business, and Baby Boomers: 

imageBoomers go venturing
By Hanah Cho
• Over the past decade, Americans between 55- and 64-years-old had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity.

The lowest rate belongs to the 20-34 age group.

• From 1996 to 2007, the 55-64 group averaged an entrepreneurial activity rate roughly one-third larger than their youngest counterparts.

Entrepreneurship: The New Mid-Life Crisis
image So what does this mean for the U.S. economy? Should we expect a decline in productivity if those at the helm of the workforce aren’t as spry as they once were? Not at all, says Dane Stangler, the researcher who put together the study. He says the popular myth of boomers being a burden on the U.S. economy is completely unfounded.

And I’ve been talking about these subjects for years.  Peek at the introduction to my book:

Venture capitalists take heed: the largest demographic of entrepreneurs is over forty, the largest consumer demographic the same.

I’m not sure American Express knows any of this.  Here’s the first spot I saw – and other than a late fortyish Boomer in the beginning and end, small business looks like a young person’s game:

Even a promotional video for their Open Forum site barely gives a nod to Boomers (except for Richard Branson, whose image zips by without comment):

The second spot was for Expedia.com.  I can’t find it on the web.  There were two Baby Boomers in it.  I think.  Like Richard Branson, they flew by so fast it seemed as if Expedia was embarrassed about showing them at all.   

If you have access to On Demand or something like it, and Mad Men is listed, you can probably catch the Expedia.com spot - and the two Baby Boomers sitting at a table.

Don’t blink or you’ll miss them.