What does this information mean to the seller of luxury goods and services who wants to market to baby boomers? For one, it means not neglecting this important and wealthy segment of affluent customers. Websites, marketing, and advertising must target baby boomers. Design websites that appeal to and attract affluent baby boomers. For two, it means the websites must be consistently easy to use, so baby boomers will stay on the site. This calls for simplicity of design, more color contrast and larger fonts, which boomers can see and read, because many of them utilize reading glasses.
According to the website design engineers at Mix-UnitX, the content of websites needs to be created to target the primary interests of specific age groups. The experts at Mix-UnitX offer the following guidelines:
18-35 Age Group:
45% of gen-Xers go online for entertainment information
40% of gen-Xers go online for local and national news
38% of gen-Xers go online to play games
36% of gen-Xers go online for information about shopping and products
35% of gen-Xers go online for work
31% of gen-Xers go online for social networking, blogs and forums
35-54 Age Group: this group includes younger Baby Boomers
54% go online for local and national news
45% go online to shop for luxury products
43% go online for work related purposes
37% go online for health information
37% go online for entertainment information
34% go online to shop for luxury travel
55 and Over Age Group: Older Baby Boomers
60% go online for local and national news
44% go online to shop for luxury products and services
43 % go online for health information
39% go online for international news
38% go online to shop for luxury travel
34% go online for information about food and recipes
Glancing through the above information the seller of luxury goods quickly sees vast differences in how and why each category utilizes the internet. The older and younger baby boomers do a lot of shopping online. They also go online to get their local and national news. Combining these two facts indicates national news websites might be a good place to advertise luxury products. But it is more complicated than simply placing an ad on a website. Getting rid of “hope” and working with “reality” is what targeted marketing is all about.
Luxury products must be aimed at affluent customers in only one of the affluent categories: moneyed, rich or ultra-rich customers. A shotgun strategy, trying to hit all three categories at the same time is risky. The risk is confused ultra-rich customers, who may initially be attracted, but then fade, because they do not “feel” the product is quite what they are seeking. Which means the product is not scarce enough, not exclusive enough, and does not provide status enhancement. Whereas the affluent customers in the rich category already own the product or something like it. And the moneyed customers would like to buy it, but feel it is presently beyond their means. In other words, by trying to score hits on all three targets, the bulls-eye remains untouched.
In the final analysis, too many websites do not work because their content is not narrowly defined. The websites do not appeal to the psychology of the potential affluent customer.
This leads to a vital rule of thumb: selling luxury products to affluent customers demands precise marketing based on the psychology of the target.
Baby Boomers and Semantics
Baby boomers automatically reject any type of marketing referring to them as middle-aged, mature, senior citizens or old. Any luxury product or service wanting to appeal to affluent baby boomers must find a new semantic paradigm with which to communicate. This means individuals and companies should brand their services and products with a youthful image, one appealing to the targeted age group. This, in turn, demands superior service, personalized understanding of their wants, likes, and desires, and communication.
Communication is key. The key in communicating to baby boomers is to remember they look to others to validate their sense of self. This is accomplished by emphasizing personal growth with staying active. For example, “The thrill of learning something new. A new sport, a new hobby or a new skill.” Language such as this is based on the psychology of “self-actualization.” It involves not talking about the luxury product or service, but of the image and experience the product or service carries. What it feels like to be the owner of such a product. How convenient and fulfilling the luxury service is.
The use of language in selling to affluent baby boomers is explained by Paul Fussell in his delightful book Class: A Guide Through the American Class System. According to Fussell, rich people are rich, not wealthy. So do not avoid using the word. Likewise, a drink is a drink, not a beverage.
Keeping this in mind, it is important to communicate honestly when appealing to the affluent baby boomers. Do not arbitrarily try to dress things up. Words and phrases such as active, luxurious, fulfilling, elegant, distinctive, good reputation, classy, provide status, enhance your status, and thrilling experience are just fine. For they describe exactly what the affluent customer desires.
For example, even though General Motors recently underwent a financial crisis, Cadillac sold well, and is considered a luxury automotive product. Why? Because Cadillac had the determination to re-engineer a product which was formerly seen as a car for older people. They redesigned it, and marketed it so that it appealed to the psychology of younger buyers. Cadillac targeted buyers aged 35 to 50. To their surprise, Cadillac discovered most of the people buying their new Cadillacs were in the 55 and older age group. What happened? Simply this: the 55 and over buyers had always had a soft spot for Cadillac, but refused to buy it because it was “a car for old people.” As soon as the car became a car “for young people,” the 55 and over buyers, who still identified themselves as young, began buying it.
As Joseph Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Age Lab puts it, “Companies that sell old cars designed for old men find that no one wants to buy them, especially old men.” Case in point: Oldsmobile.
Also unique to Cadillac’s equation was the way they trained their sales people to talk about the new Cadillac. It was not an “automobile” or “an automotive product” or a “luxury automobile.” It was “a car that handled like a sports car, accelerated like a sports car, and felt like a sports car.” This description was composed of action words, “handled” and “accelerated,” and a feeling word, “felt,” which described the experience of driving the car. Even the word “car” carried a renewed image as compared to the traditional sounding “luxury automobile.”
By re-engineering their car, and changing its semantic paradigm, Cadillac reinvented its product. They gave the car a new image. An image which provided youthful status and extravagance.
Part of the new Cadillac’s appeal may be attributed to what Dan Kennedy refers to as “Boomers and Nostalgia.” In his book, No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent, Kennedy defines nostalgia as an “emotional ANCHOR.” An anchor is a psychological cue, which already exists in a person’s mind. It is there because of environmental or cultural conditioning. For example, when an older baby boomer hears a Beach Boys’ song on the radio, it makes the boomer nostalgic for summer, the beach, cruising the strip, and convertible muscle cars. These psychological cues are important in marketing luxury products to older boomers.
For example, a travel agent selling vacation packages to Holland would simply target areas where older baby boomers of Dutch ancestry live, such as the Central Valley of California. Travel brochures with images of the “old country” would be mailed, describing the experience of discovering one’s roots. Simple and effective marketing, which depends upon emotional anchors, baby boomers’ desire to travel, and a rewarding experience.