ComBlu has been partnering with Verizon Wireless for a little over two years now to manage a program designed to identify and invite select groups of lifestyle bloggers to test out some of the latest and greatest technology and mobile devices and share with their readers and social following their honest opinions about using them in their everyday lives.
This spring, we were thrilled to help Verizon extend the program to a group of Boomer—or midlife—bloggers for the first time. We launched the program with a kickoff event in Chicago and had a wonderful time with this group of amazing, entertaining and engaging women that were nothing less than thrilled to have been invited to participate.
One theme that emerged during the kickoff is how this segment of bloggers feels undervalued by advertisers and television programming executives, as well as in the blogosphere, despite the group’s significant size and impressive buying power. Marci Rich, a participant in the Verizon Boomer program and author of The Midlife Second Wife (honored in 2012 by the Huffington Post as one of the top seven blogs for the over-50 set), best described this scenario in her blog that introduced her involvement in the program, titled Hey Boomers—Verizon Will Hear You Now.
In her piece, she describes the Verizon program as “an important step in the right direction.” She also cites studies and articles on the power of this generation that is currently feeling ignored. In response to her blog, one reader commented by saying “as a demographic we are an economic power and it is nice to see such an important brand taking notice.”
Additional evidence of this sentiment surfaced among our group of Boomer bloggers when asked if they planned to attend BlogHer ’13. Many of them were not planning a trip to the conference because, as they described it, the conference “focuses primarily on mommy bloggers.” Again, our Boomers are feeling undervalued.
So well-spoken and passionate, I thought it would be fun to chat with Marci about this state of affairs. The following recaps highlights from my conversation with Marci.
Photo credit: Elli Morris Photography
Why do you believe the Boomer generation has been largely ignored by media companies and brands in general?
I think that misperceptions exist in the marketplace that makes it easy to dismiss the Boomer generation. I recently read an article on Forbes.com that reported on the key takeaways from a session, called “Baby Boomer or Bust: How to Market to and Influence the 50+ Consumer,” that was held at the Financial Communications Society Summit last year in New York. The Forbes piece (Five Misconceptions about Marketing to Boomers) was fascinating and stunning, but not in a good way. It highlighted some of the stereotypes about the Boomer generation that cloud the vision of marketers and brands, who believe that:
1. Boomers aren’t tech-savvy.
2. Older people aren’t cool.
3. Older adults don’t spend.
4. The “golden years” are a time of relaxation.
5. The older generation is always loyal to a brand.
So much of this is just not true. Take me, for example. I’m intrigued by technology, and was recently chosen by a technology firm (Verizon) to test out new mobile products and provide my opinions about them. My second husband and I relocated twice, buying a house with each move, so spending is something we’ve been doing! And if these are my “golden years,” they are anything but relaxing; I’ve never been busier in my life. With the economy in the state that it is, I’d bet that many of us will be working well into our 70s. Am I loyal to brands? Well maybe, although being involved in the Verizon program has shed new light on this for me. I am an Apple girl all the way. But Verizon gave me an opportunity to experiment with a Motorola phone – something I would not have done on my own – and I’m surprised that I’m finding a number of things I like more about the Android phone.
In the final analysis, it really is a numbers game. With media companies and many brands, when you hit 55, you fall outside the age range that they track and you simply become invisible.
Charts extrapolated from “The Boomer Consumer: Preparing for the Age Wave.”
What opinions and ideas do Boomers bring to the table that most brands are not aware of?
I hate to state the obvious, but by virtue of our longevity, we have simply seen and done far more than our younger cohorts. This is in no way meant to be a criticism; it is just a fact. Many of the members of my generation have protested a war, were marked by the social upheaval of the 1960s, and participated in the forefront of the women’s movement. We were true agents of change, and with this a high level of passion develops. This type of passion is difficult to replicate.
It has also been noted that the Boomer generation is generally more self-empowered than other demographics. I believe this is a result of what we lived through and is something important for marketers to pay attention to. We came of age during a time when things were not as traditional as they had been, and as a result we broke new ground. We have also had to reinvent ourselves due to changes in our lives, our fortunes, and in response to the economy. This continual reinvention has led us to embrace change and new technologies throughout our lives.
Finally, there is a certain cyclicality in life that marketers do not always consider. I expect to become a grandmother soon and will find myself once again influencing decisions on baby products. Brands who do not consider that can miss out in the long run.
You mentioned that the Verizon program is an important “first step in the right direction.” How so?
From my point of view, the fact that a huge, nationally known tech brand like Verizon cares what a group of supposedly technophobic people have to say about their products in and of itself belies the commonly held notion that we are irrelevant.
Verizon clearly recognizes our purchasing power, our ability to stretch ourselves, and our willingness to take risks and explore. This is huge, and it sends a strong message to other brands.
What can Boomer bloggers do to change this situation?
I think Boomer bloggers are already working hard to change this situation. There are a number of really dynamic bloggers in the Boomer-Midlife category that are actively romancing brands. And a number of organizations run by women in midlife are using social media in powerful, meaningful and creative ways to network and communicate with brands in order to create opportunities for bloggers of a certain age. I’m thinking, for example, of BOOMBox Network, WHOA Network and Generation Fabulous. With organizations like these in action, it is going to be hard to ignore us.
What can blogger conferences do differently to better include Boomer bloggers?
It is really quite simple. The blogging conferences need to recognize that there is room for everyone in the blogosphere, regardless of topic or content area. They would be best served by supporting the efforts of Boomer bloggers, featuring our writing and honoring our point-of-view. We have insights and ideas that others can learn from and I think we should be recognized for that.
The one stereotype Marci did not touch upon when using herself as an example to refute the traits of boomers is “older people are not cool.” I had to call that out because she most certainly is, as are all the ladies in the Verizon Boomer program. Their passion shines through in all that they do and brands and marketers need to embrace this energy. Do you have any experience marketing to Boomers? We would love to hear how your experience relates.