business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There’s a big reason why marketers endlessly hunt for the large sweet spot in the population - because there’s always more money to be found there. It’s why Hispanics and Gen Y are so attractive, while other groups get ignored; large numbers mean a bigger pot of money to pursue.

That’s also why the post-World War II Baby Boomers, now hitting 65 in record numbers daily, remain so important and so relevant. My generation may be getting older, creakier and crankier, but there so many millions of us that we still matter.

That also means that this huge generation continues to need plenty of attention because in keeping with our pedigree, we keep finding ways to surprise.

There were two recent articles about my generation that made it clear that our endless battle against aging continues to rage on and I’d argue that both articles offer insights and implications for business.

First the Washington Post reported on the growing trend of older Americans getting tattoos. As the article explained, body inking now so common among the young, is finding new fans among people aged 50, 60 and older. Many of those interviewed in the article said they decided to get a tattoo to commemorate family or various life moments.

But many also said they did it to make a point about their independence or simply because they just wanted it. Some said they no longer worry about how the tattoo will look when they age or gain weight because that’s already happened. Another said the pain of getting a tattoo is nothing compared to childbirth.

The second article found a very different expression of the Boomer attitude. The New York Times reported that the number of Americans above the age of 50 who are divorced for the first time tops the number who are widowed. Fifty years ago, less than 3 percent of Americans over 50 were divorced; today 15.4 percent are divorced and another 2.1 percent are separated. By comparison, 13.5 percent today are widowed.

The Times article explained that many factors are behind this shift including the higher rate of divorce overall that continues into later years, plus the better health and life expectancy of the Boom generation. The impact is even hitting long-term married couples, who are splitting up in ever-higher rates.

Stephanie Coontz, a  family history professor at Evergreen State College in Washington State who was interviewed for the article, said, “If you are a healthy 65, you can expect another pretty healthy 20 years. So with the kids gone, it seems more burdensome to stay in a bad relationship or even one that has grown stale.”

For marketers, these are not idle trends to ignore. These are among the countless signs of possibilities and challenges beyond the impact on household size, which impacts the size and types of products people buy.

Aging Boomers are continuing to emphasize our generational attention deficit disorder. That is, we continue to look for something new, different and hopefully exciting to try. Loyalty to the past - skin and spouses included - can crumble if the experience is burdensome or even stale.

That in turn says should be cause for concern for products, stores, services and more. People willing to make life changes like opting for divorce or indelible ink in their later years are unlikely to put up with boredom or mediocrity in their shopping experiences.

But then, you didn’t need a reminder on that. Did you?


Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@mnb.grocerywebsite.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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