Are we forgetting about baby boomers?

What is the largest demographic segment in U.S. history? Baby boomers.

What group deleveraged by a healthy 8 percent during the recession? Boomers.

In five years, who will control 70 percent of the country's disposable income? Boomers.

What age group was the only demographic that saw household income rise 13 percent during the Great Recession? Boomers . . . well, not exactly. It was actually total households over age 65, including the oldest boomers, but here’s the point: The group known to hold the largest wealth in America are those 65 and older. And, for the next 15 years, that wealth will be transferring down to . . . yup, mostly boomers.

Simply put, the baby-boomer generation is a potential gold mine for marketers, according to Beth Brady, the Nielsen Company’s global head of marketing effectiveness. Labeling them "the most valuable generation in the history of marketing," boomers are a demographic bulge in our population including individuals born between 1946 and 1964. It’s notable they will all be 50 years or older by 2014. And there are lots of them — about 79 million, according to the Census Bureau.

"The boomer market is misunderstood," Brady said in a recent webinar entitled “Boomers: Marketers’ Most Valuable Generation.” Reporting in Convenience Store News Daily, reporter Brian Berk noted thatBrady suggested "boomers are value-conscious and seek out information before purchasing items, but they don't only shop on price."

Targeting her webinar audience of convenience store interests, she went on to point out that baby boomers spend more on consumer packaged goods than any other age group. Witness that in 119 of the 123 packaged goods categories Nielsen tracked, boomers have the highest average annual basket ring of all demographics at $7,233.

After reading Brady’s insights, I can’t help but wonder if we’re overlooking the baby-oomer market for our boats. After all, when it comes to wealth and spending, the facts seem clear. Because we’ve finally recognized where boating stands — currently an aging white-man’s sport — we also know it’s necessary to change that image for future growth. Accordingly, we’re aiming our promotional efforts at younger demographics by emphasizing active water sports and featuring younger families in our cruising and fishing ads and videos. And that is as it should be.

However, in our effort to get away from the aging white-man image, we might be inadvertently failing to go where the money is and will be for some time to come. Anecdotally, I viewed 10 major boating and fishing magazines, looking for ads with people who looked, say, 60 or up. They weren’t there. Yes, there were a few photos with stories that fit the bill, but that’s it.

To its credit, the Discover Boating campaign has worked to cover all the bases from age to boating activity to diversity (a subject for another discussion). Grandparents, for example, teaching kids boating and fishing can sure send a message. And, to that end, if you are using some of the outstanding Discover Boating photos and videos that are available to you as a dealer free at www.growboating.org, it’s worth time to pick some that include a bald guy with some white hair around the fringes — like me!

Adding further to the boomer story, Brady revealed that boomers spend 50 percent of their total spend on packaged goods, but only 10 percent to 15 percent of advertisements are being marketed to them. I doubt we in boating spend even that.

But here’s something that should hit home with us in boating. Brady said companies should market their products to boomers using good old TV ads because they watch an average of 174 hours a week. It reminds us that we need to get the funding level for our Discover Boating campaign back to the level that allows us to reinstitute our national TV campaign.

"Boomers are not a needle in the haystack,” said Brady, “they are the haystack. Boomers are easy to target with a mass-media message.”

Boating is not there yet and we need to be.


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