29 April 2010

25 Defining Images in Baby Boomer History

imageHi Chuck ,
We would love to share with you an article that we just posted on our own blog! “25 Defining Images in Baby Boomer History” would be an interesting story for your readers to check out … so we hope you will consider sharing it!
G. T.

I get a lot of not-quite-spam emails like the above. Underneath it all is a company/website that promotes online learning – not such a bad thing.

image Nice to see a Boomer timeline that doesn’t stop with the Vietnam War – as if we all disappeared in the early 1970s – and magically reappeared thirty-five years later in a Volkswagen Bus.

27 April 2010

Interactive Guide: Advertising & Marketing to Baby Boomers 2nd Edition (2010)

The first one has been fiddled with thousands of times:

Interactive Guide to Baby Boomer Marketing/Advertising Goes Copper

So I put together a 2nd edition covering the last six months or so.  It’s a loose-knit compendium of popular posts and news stories.  Download it here.


26 April 2010

Don't call them old

A long time ago (it seems) I was interviewed for a newspaper piece:

Don't call them old
JEAN STARR Times Correspondent
December 14, 2003
image"Not wanting to get/be/look older isn't anything new. However, baby boomers will do it a bit differently," he said. "Looking and being healthy will be more important than toupees and botox.”

I’ve been talking about this stuff for that long?  I was so young back then.  It was before the book, this blog – although I was writing about baby boomers on something that was a blog before there were blogs.

And I’d been interviewed plenty of times – but this was the first time I’d been asked about Baby Boomers and advertising.

While reading the article again after so many years, I realized that some but not much has changed. 

And it reminded me of a recent chat with an entrepreneur.  He has an interesting sports-related product, something many Boomers and other demos would enjoy and benefit from – but it’s being positioned and marketed as a medical device.  It’s not at all cool-looking and oozes old.

From that 2003 article:

image Nyren dreams about, what for him, would be the perfect bicycle. "It would be cool-looking, not flashy. It would have wide tires and a huge comfy seat. It would have handlebars like on the old Schwinns," he said. "You want to sit there and be comfortable. You want some gears but you don't need 150. And you don't want to look old."

I’ve given up on the not looking old part – but the rest still rolls.

21 April 2010

Your Brain On Games Redux

As NostraChuckus predicted, it’s the Year of The Baby Boomer Brain.

More research about brain games:

Brain-training companies are challenging the findings:

image Posit Science Disputes Results
"There is a fatal flaw in the BBC study; it assumes that since their methods did not work, all methods would not work," said Steven Aldrich, CEO Posit Science.

Obviously I’m not qualified to comment on whether these digital gizmos revivify your rotting noggin.  However, for years I’ve questioned why the hype was so thick.  Did it have to be? 

image Study: Brain Exercises Don't Improve Cognition By Eben Harrel
The study … undermines the sometimes outlandish claims of brain-boosting websites and digital games.

My advice has always been to take the high road with the 50+ Market.  They’ve been around long enough to recognize most B.S. – and when they feel they’ve been fooled, say goodbye to them.

A post from a year ago:

The Brain Games Game
I scratched my not-too-bright head and wondered what the difference was between a brain game and any mind-bending game: Rubik's Cube, Scrabble, Sudoku, etc.  Obviously, this new crop of revolutionary IQ busters improved your brain power while all the others were, I guess, just for laughs. 

chess And that’s what bothered me about the marketing – and still does.  Are these new-fangled blinking lights on a screen the best way, the only way to keep your noggin nimble?  This seems to be the claim.  Or are they a new breed in a long line of cognitive games that go back to counting pebbles on cave floors?

You certainly get the ‘hard-sell’ impression that if you don’t buy and play these games, eventually your brain will leak out of your nose and ears.  Why not just tell the truth?  These are high-tech, stimulating computer-generated exercises that will help keep your mind sharp - are structured, measurable to some degree (so they’re useful for medical research), and quite entertaining. 

And there are a lot of them – so you won’t get bored just playing one over and over. 

Not much has changed since that post.  The brain game industry recklessly jumped into hype mode and now they’re paying the price.  It doesn’t matter what the truth is – the doubts are out there for all to see. 

image With a bit of sensible PR, marketing, and advertising – the industry could have avoided all the negative publicity by positioning their products not as miracles, but as what they are –  brain-twisting workouts that are fun to play, keep your mind active – and in research/medical settings are measurable instruments. They don’t make you smarter, they aid in making you as smart as you are. 

Oh, well.  Perhaps the brain games powers-that-be didn’t play enough brain games …

Dick Stroud: Dumbed down Science

Laurie Orlov: The BBC Brain Training study -- let's flip it around

19 April 2010

Baby Boomers - A South African Perspective

To: nyrenagency (at) gmail.com
Subject: Baby Boomers - A South African Perspective

Hi Chuck

image A Baby Boomer myself, I have for many years contemplated to further my post graduate studies. I live and work in Johannesburg, South Africa. Reading on the internet about you and the work you have done on advertising to the Baby Boomers have really motivated me to follow my dream and to submit a research proposal on this subject to my local university. I first graduated in 1976 with my very first job at an ad agency in Johannesburg. In and out of advertising over the years of rearing a family, I now have the time to pursue my studies again. I have mainly had a career in media strategy and implementation.

image My first step is going to be to order your book, Advertising to Baby Boomers on-line and start with a comprehensive literature overview. Hopefully this topic will bring me the meaningful field of study I have been in search of for many years. I will have to find out what has been done in South Africa that is relevant.

Any thoughts on attempting a study on Baby Boomers from a South African perspective will be much appreciated.

Kind regards,

Tertia Strydom
South Africa

I emailed Tertia this link (from a 2006 blog post):

Managing age diversity in the advertising industry
Do people working in ad agencies lack emotional intelligence, because their average age is lower than in traditional organisations? Paula Sartini explores the issue of age in the advertising industry in this paper.

16 April 2010

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain

In January NostraChuckus predicted that this would be:

imageThe Year of The Baby Boomer Brain
Not that the last few years haven’t had plenty of neurons bouncing about and flashing all sorts of surprising info about middle-aged noggins …

And he mentioned an upcoming book:

The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain
The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind
Barbara Strauch – Author
image For many years, scientists thought that the human brain simply decayed over time and its dying cells led to memory slips, fuzzy logic, negative thinking, and even depression. But new research from neuroscien­tists and psychologists suggests that, in fact, the brain reorganizes, improves in important functions, and even helps us adopt a more optimistic outlook in middle age.

image I haven’t read it yet (it’s on its way) – but I did sit transfixed by Barbara Strauch on Fresh Air

For advertisers, everything she says is important.  Ms. Strauch talks about “creating a disorienting dilemma” and “shaking up the cognitive egg” to get our attention – not something usually done when advertising to Baby Boomers. Most ads pander and lull us to sleep. 

The last question asked and answered is really what it’s all about.  

Carve out 30 minutes sometime soon and listen to it all:

13 April 2010

Selling To Seniors

Libbye Morris I had a good chat today with Libbye Morris.  She’s writing a piece for the Selling To Seniors web site.

Forget about what I said (we’ll find out in May).  I asked Libbye if she was offended by advertisements targeting Baby Boomers.  She replied: No, I’m not offended. I feel ignored.

That sounds about right.

12 April 2010

Designing for Older Consumers

As usual, Dick Stroud beat me to it because he gets up eight hours earlier. (At least that’s as good an excuse as any.)

Dr. Joseph Coughlin (I’ve blogged about him a bunch of times) has a post on his Disruptive Demographics blog that should be read by everybody involved in advertising and marketing to Baby Boomers:

Personalization: The New Language of Design for Older Consumers
image Researchers and industry have spent considerable time and resources on improving the usability of new technologies. Despite these efforts, the capability and functionality of most new devices still outstrips their usability. Greater capability is often coupled with greater complexity packaged in an ever-smaller device … The cell phone provides a good example. Many phones enable users to play music, take photos, film videos, and now many mobile platforms are being designed to monitor chronic disease. However, this high level of functionality is not matched with an equal level of usability.

Entrepreneurs often approach me with products and say, “I’ve dumbed it down for Baby Boomers.”  One product had a dumbed-down GUI – but even worse: the text was reverse white on blue, the most difficult to read color contrast for older eyes.  The designer hadn’t a clue.

Dumbing-down is what you don’t want to do. You want to make the product easier to see, to hold, to operate.  That’s not ‘dumbing down’.  You can apply Universal Design principles to complex products. 

From my book (© 2005, 2007):


Apply the above to smart phones and apps, and just about any technology product.  Baby Boomers do want and demand choices, features.  They just won’t be interested in or use them all.   

Read the Disruptive Demographics blog post. (Although we’ll forgive Dr. Coughlin for his ‘Me Generation quotes.)

08 April 2010

ennu – the multimedia magazine

I saw it a few weeks ago, knew it was something exciting - but was otherwise occupied and simply bookmarked it.  Since then, colleagues Brent Green and Dick Stroud have jumped all over it:

imageArjan in't Veld, a young Dutch man, and the Future of Boomer Magazines
Sometimes it takes getting out of our own country to encounter new ways of experiencing being Boomer through media, as has this new online journal taken some very creative steps toward envisioning a 50+ magazine for the future.

This is worth 10 mins of your life
The magazine is in Dutch, not surprisingly, but you can still appreciate its excellence. Real ground breaking stuff.


What they’re talking about:



I’ve always wanted to publish an edgy, dense, contemporary magazine for Baby Boomers – eschewing the typical fodder:  grinning pod-people on beaches, empty self-help silliness, stories about how to look younger but you really won’t, medical breakthroughs that really aren’t, etc.*  Arjan has done that and more. I never envisioned the multimedia possibilities. Kudos, Mr. in't Veld.

image And I’ve never been a fan of the software used to transform print mags into online PDFs or whatever they are – with phony ‘page turning’ widgets and silly sounds.  Arjan and his crew did it right.  There is a small page-turning gizmo on the front cover so you know it’s a magazine and will be presented as such (linear, horizontal) – but after that you get beautifully designed single-page layouts specifically for the web and/or the iPad and Kindle.  Ennu would also look pristine on a flat screen TV.

Criticisms? Pure nitpicking: Maybe I’d bump up the fonts a bit, not overuse italics, and think a little about text over busy backgrounds. 

So scamper through ennu.  It’s amazing how you can enjoy something without understanding any of it. 

Then imagine if you could …

* There are a few beaches and whatnot in ennu – but I think they’re mostly advertisements.

07 April 2010

The Nothing Much New To Report Report

Good stuff, but if you’ve paid attention you’ve seen it all before.

News Flash #1

In social dealings, being older is being wiser
image … Researchers led by Richard E. Nisbett of the University of Michigan found that older people were more likely …  to recognize that values differ, to acknowledge uncertainties, to accept that things change over time and to acknowledge others' points of view.

Moldy posts of mine:

Baby boomers are smarter than you think

We have seen the future, and it is old and cool and wise.

People generally get better.

image Q: Do you find you’ve become more creative as you’ve gotten older?
Oh, yes. I’m much, much better with creative things—people generally get better. They just know more.

aarpmagQ: Your mind certainly seems to have stayed fertile.
Yes, but what’s really important is humor—the way you see through things. And I don’t mean just “Ho, ho, ho!” but real irony about the diabolical nature of things. If you don’t have that, you just collapse.

What Kind of Genius Are You?

2010: The Year of The Baby Boomer Brain

Aging Brain Less Quick, More Shrewd

News Flash #2

image Annoyed With Retail Service, Women Are Buying Their Clothes Online
by Stephen Reily
Thirteen percent buy clothes ONLY online, while 2 out of 3 do at least some of their clothes shopping there.

Crumbling, musty posts (the first from 2005):

The Very Secretive Forth & Towne
There are so many ladies I know around my age who've stopped going to malls, stopped physically shopping for clothing (they pour over catalogs and/or order online) because there isn't much out there for them.

imageForth and Towne R.I.P. Redux
There is the persistent rumor afoot that the last thing a women of a certain age wants to be is "ghettoized." 
Carol Orsborn

imageDemand for older models grows
In September, J.Crew will introduce an online section within its Web catalog that features 58-year-old Los Angeles model Pia Gronning ... The sundresses will be the same, but the styling will be more age-appropriate and sophisticated.

Chico’s and Younger Women
Spotlight blames Mr. Edmonds for the retailer's missteps, including turning off Chico's core baby boomer customers by trying to reach younger women…

image The Forgotten Market Online
All of this would be OK if it were not for the facts. 45-54 year olds spend twice as much online as their daughters. Not surprisingly the average age of an online customer at Saks.com … is 42.

News Flash #3

image Boomers: Smartphone’s Next Mass Audience
Approximately 80 million Baby Boomers, with nearly $4.6 trillion in buying power by 2015, will be the tipping point for the smartphone market.

It never had a dust jacket – but that’s OK.  Now all the copies are turning to dust.

The pull quote on the cover (Published 2005):


“It will be the Baby Boomers who will be the first to pick and choose, to ignore or be seduced by leading-edge technology marketing. There’s a simple reason for this. We have the money to buy this stuff. Experts say we’ll continue to have the money for at least the next twenty years. Write us off at your own peril.”

06 April 2010

The Obligatory iPad Post

Since everybody’s talking about it, I guess I must.  Yours Truly feels especially qualified for the task since I’ve yet to see or play with one. (I did fiddle with a Kindle, however.)

Dick Stroud has some interesting things to say about the iPad on his Mobile Apps For Baby Boomers site:

image The iPad isn't meant for software geeks it's meant for Mum and Dad
As somebody who has seen the light about apps it is plain to me that the iPad will mainly be used in relaxed mode … The iPad is the device for when I turn off the desk light, pour a beer and enter the world of semi-work. Not a total turn-off from working but those activities that are more fun to do away from the keyboard.

Used in relaxed mode…”  That reflects a lot of what I said way back in April ‘07 about the strength of magazines and why they’re not going away:

Positioning Magazines for Baby Boomers
image There are active and passive parts of our day. Without getting into too much psychobabble, as you get older the passive side needs more nourishment. It’s not really passive. It’s focused absorption. At some point you have to climb out of your frenetic digital nest and concentrate on one thing. It might be reading a book, watching a TV show or movie, listening to music, looking out the window.

Or immersing yourself in a magazine.

Maybe the iPad should position itself as more of a passive device that helps you relax, placing it far from the ‘digital nest’.  That’s how I would approach it when advertising to Baby Boomers.

Mr. Stroud might be correct. Pretty soon, the iPad could supersede paper mags and other forms of passive entertainment. You’ll be reading your Oprah on an iPad.

imageI won’t be getting one soon, however.  I’ll wait for the model that won’t shatter when you drop it and can be rolled up to swat flies.

Update 15 Jan 2013:
Now you can swat flies with your tablet:
Tablets Redux

05 April 2010

Boomer helps older adults bridge technology gap

Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 8:18 AM
To: nyrenagency@gmail.com
Subject: Hello. I've started reading your book and I'm fascinated.

Hello Mr. Nyren,
I’ve just started reading your book Advertising to Baby Boomers … and have found this market to be extremely difficult especially with a new product. I wanted to thank you for your insights and tell you that your book is helping tremendously. I never thought such a niche market would be easy, however I also didn’t realize how broad this “niche” market is. I wanted to reach out and thank you for being such a valuable source.
C. M.

If you send me a sweet email you get something in return! (Even if it’s not quite as sweet …)

image I checked out the product: a medical-alert device.  It’s a good one.  Most of the marketing is fine - maybe relying a bit too much on scare tactics.  On the web site there are videos explaining all about the product and how it works.  That’s great.

Although one piece made me wince: a twenty-something walks into a living room with the product still in its packaging.  She happily shows it to her youngish Boomer mother who’s sitting on the couch doing absolutely nothing, contentedly staring off into the ether.  The product is a present for the mother. The daughter opens up the package.  It’s obvious that the mother is helpless, completely lost.  The twenty-something has to unwrap the package, take out the device and all the documentation and accessories, and explain everything to her.

This is the type of insulting advertising scenario I see all time. Even if true in certain circumstances, you don’t want to offend potential consumers by portraying them as too dumb to figure out how to use your product.

I’ve talked about this for years.  Some blog posts:

My Favorite Cyber-Myth (2005)

Baby Boomers Burst Online (2006)
"Later, I'll show you all how to set it up."

AARP & Microsoft: Technology & Baby Boomers (2009)

I would’ve cast this marketing video a bit differently. Not that older-than-baby-boomer folks are all tech luddites, but a more realistic scenario would be a Boomer-age daughter buying the product for her eighty year old mother.  After seeing how easy it is to use and set up, the daughter might  buy one for herself. 

Baby Boomers, now in their fifties and sixties, do not think of themselves as helpless old people.  They may or may not be – but you certainly do not want to portray them in marketing campaigns as dependent, confused, or technologically ignorant.  Most are not.

You’ve also accomplished two collateral goals:

  1. The potential customer is the hero(ine) of the story.
  2. The scenario implies that it will be easy for the customer to understand, set up, and use the product.

Today I read this:

Boomer helps older adults bridge technology gap 
image As Beane was helping her father learn about his new computer, he said to her, "You really like dealing with fogeys and geezers, don't you?" This comment helped Beane realize she had found a new calling. Beane started her company at the beginning of 2010.

Ms. Beane looks to be about the same age as the mother in the medical device marketing video.

If Ms. Beane wants to purchase one of these medical devices, I sure hope she has a twenty-something daughter around to unwrap it and explain to her how the thing works.

01 April 2010

The International Mature Marketing Network

IMMN (International Mature Marketing Network) has buffed its site:

image IMMN is a non-profit consortium of marketers, advertisers, agency execs, manufacturers, publicists, media, academics and researchers focused on the 40+ consumer, a market of growing size and influence around the world.

I’m an Advisor – and in pretty good company.  A surprise is that I’m also a Thought Leader

Thought Leadership
image All of IMMN’s Board Members and Advisors are hugely active in the 40+ marketing space. Not only are there books in the making, speaking engagements to hold, business consultancies happening, television appearances being taped, and tweets being tweeted, but there are many popular and informative blogs being updated as we speak.

Your Thought Leader’s Thought For The Day: Think about joining.