By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — 3.4 million Americans were born in 1946. 2.1 million make it to 70 this year, including Suzanne Somers, Donald Trump, Cher, Pat Sajak, Diane Keaton, Steven Spielberg, Linda Ronstadt, and Sylvester Stallone. And Bill Clinton, the first Baby Boomer president.
- Their dads marched home from World War II, and soon elected its hero, Ike; who told ‘em to buy a new car, and built ‘em an Interstate Highway System to drive it on.
- In the cul-de-sac where Boomers spent their Wonder Years, life was good…until today’s 70 year olds saw another war hero president assassinated. Then his brother, then Dr. King. Boomers were weathered by Viet Nam and race riots.
- Women joined the workforce. Today’s 70 year-olds saw man walk on the moon, and they lined-up to gas-up on odd or even days. They used to smoke weed when their parents weren’t looking; and many still do, when their grandchildren aren’t.
- Their soundtrack was The Beatles, Motown, The Beach Boys, and other acts now difficult to find on AM/FM radio.
In the next two decades, another 65 million will hit The Big Seven Oh.
WHO ARE these people?
Habitual radio users. And big retail consumers.
With the 2016 circus underway, talk radio take note:
- 49% of these older Boomers identify or lean Democrat, 41% Republican.
- 91% vote in presidential elections.
They’re increasingly health-conscious.
- They walk.
- Diet is of extreme interest.
- Boomers purchase 77% of all prescription drugs and 61% of over-the-counter drugs.
Already expecting to live longer than any previous generation, they spend on things that radio advertises well, like teeth whitening and sedation dentistry. Hip and knee replacements are common. I hear cosmetic surgery spots in various markets. Reps: prospect from ads in city magazines, and use the doc’s voice, unscripted, in ads that direct to online before-N-after testimonials.
Despite the all-thumbs caricature, Boomers DO tech. 83% conduct online research before making major offline purchases. They can afford drones. Kids adopt other social media because grandparents are all over Facebook.
There were 40 million grandparents in the USA in 1980. There’ll be 80 million in 2020. 25% surveyed fessed-up to spending over $1000 on their grandchildren in the past 12 months.
Don’t throw the baby (Boomers) out with the bathwater.
Boomers were mankind’s biggest generation until the Millennials, whose retail spending will overtake Boomers’ in 2017. So there’s plenty of interest in these 18-34s…one-third of whom have NO radio in the home. But today’s 70 year-old grew-up with AM/FM, and many make purchases based on ask-the-expert weekend talk shows.
While national media tends to sell products, local radio does real well selling services.
- Baby Boomers control 80% of all leisure travel. Agents who thrive in the E-commerce age are those who offer personal assurance that the trip will go well. As do station-sponsored excursions. Unlike a web site, travel agents and radio personalities can make eye contact. One of my client stations does two tours a year, and gets lots of repeat customers. Many are younger-end retirees, who have the time.
- There’s big demand for legal help from Boomers; and weekend law talkers I’ve coached ROI bigtime on radio. Ditto real estate agents, for whom Boomers’ life changes are big business. Those not moving are hiring remodelers.
- It’s axiomatic that busy people will pay for convenience, which conjures up the picture of Central Casting soccer mom. But the older ya get, the more ya realize how precious your remaining time is. Smart radio reps sell both age groups to lawn care companies and other chore-doers.
Common advertising misconception: Younger people are better prospects, because older people are set-in-their-ways. Baloney. Often to their parents’ horror, Baby Boomers have always been experimenters. They’ve fought for change all their lives.
Boomers are discerning consumers. Cliché-ridden radio ads will go in-one-ear-and-out-the-other. But they’ll lean-into informative, story-telling commercial copy, with lots of “YOU” and “YOUR.”
Consultant-sounding tip: Stop thinking “stopset.” Commercials are part of a station’s programming…and they’re clues to topic relevance. Those spots are there because they produce results. If you’re doing talk radio, are you talking about things your listeners are voting-for with their wallets? Hollering about Benghazi validates a format caricature. Call me (and him) a nerd, but every…single…time…I hear Clark Howard, I utter an audible “Hmmm…” and end-up quoting him.
[Sources include: AARP, Marketing Daily, Pew Research Center, USA Today, US News, Wall Street Journal]
Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant, working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.