Digital Marketers: Don’t Forget the Boomers

Chris Horton
Chris Horton Digital Strategist, SyneCore Tech

Posted on July 16th 2013

Digital Marketers: Don’t Forget the Boomers

Synecore ChrisBlog BabyBoomerMeme

Digital marketing today has largely become a tale of two generations, the Baby Boomers and Millennials. In short, the Boomers have the dough, the Millennials have the numbers, and the digital marketers (DMs) want both. Aside from being the largest demographic in US history, DMs want Millennials because, being a digitally savvy lot, the assumption is these young Turks use technology more than their Boomer counterparts. They also represent the future of an increasingly internet-driven US economy, and by extension, the future paycheck of DMs great and small.

However, in a cruel twist of Dickensian proportions, right now the Boomers have the cash - 70% of all US disposable income to be exact. Given the massive size of both demographic groups, most DMs find themselves targeting either Boomers or Millennials or, as is often the case, both.

What further confuses the picture, and frankly makes the whole thing bloody ironic, is that much of the existing DM creative class is littered with disaffected Gen Xers holding key management positions sandwiched, like the cream filling in an Oreo cookie, between Millennials and Boomers. In fact, it’s not uncommon occurrence to find a digital agency packed with young Millennials and managed by Gen Xers serving a client roster of Baby Boomer-owned companies trying to cater to Millennials and/or Boomers.

Still with me?

Everyone Likes Digital

The good news for all parties involved is that digital is the unifying factor in this equation. For example, stereotypes aside, Baby Boomers actually are integrating digital media into their daily lives, and quickly. A recent post by eMarketer highlights this fact quite nicely. The article cites an Ipsos/Google study showing Baby Boomer/Senior tablet and smartphone users performing all kinds of marketer-friendly actions:

Smartphone and Tablet use among Baby Boomers resized 600

As it turns out, Boomers are doing a number of things that suggest a sophisticated, Millennial-esque adoption of mobile tech, including visiting websites of interest, sharing information with others, and contacting businesses found online. For me, though, one stat in particular stands out: 49% of Boomer/Senior tablet users and 40% of smartphone users made at least one purchase within the last year after gathering information on their mobile device.

Isn’t that the goal here?

Numbers like these shouldn’t surprise, given that the Boomers have money and, as the older among them reach their retirement years, time. This reminds me of an old phrase a buddy of mine’s father used to say: “most purchase decisions come down to one question - which do you have more of, time or money?

I suppose the Boomers have both.

Lest we forget, they have the numbers, too. Long before marketing to Millennials was all the rage, Boomers were the chosen demographic, and for good reason. Out of a total US population of 313 million people, Baby Boomers can claim approximately 81 million (26% of the population); by contrast, Millennials number approximately 85 million (27% of the population). According to data from eMarketer, 75.9% of Baby Boomers are internet users (61.5 million), and 59.6% are digital buyers, i.e. individuals who have made at least one online purchase via any device in 2013. That comes to roughly 48 million people.

48 million people with time and money.

Boomers Spend Online

Numbers from a 2011 Forrester Research study cited by Marketing Charts underscore the Boomers’ proclivity for online spending, finding those aged 50 and older spend nearly $7 billion per year online. Tech-savvy Boomers also use the internet as their primary means of comparison shopping for major purchases. In fact, the study found that “Older Boomers” (age 56-66) spend the most online of all generations, having spent an average $367 online in a three-month period; “Younger Boomers” (age 46-55) were the next biggest spenders ($318), closely followed by Gen Y (age 23-31), who spent an average of $311.

Apparently, the older you get, the more you spend online. Who knew? I remember a time when my grandparents sat around playing bridge and listening to Lawrence Welk. Is there an app for that?

As a final tantalizing stat, eMarketer predicts that the percentage of US Boomers on the mobile web will surpass 50% this year, reaching 28.8 million.

The Bottom Line

In the end, DMs are a practical lot- we follow the demand- and the money. It’s beyond dispute that, at least in the online world, the Millennials are everywhere, and they're young. For DMs, Millennials represent the low-hanging fruit, the long-term bet, the safe play. However, as everyone scrambles to capture Millennial mindshare, let’s not forget about the Boomers, the original uber-demographic.

I recently asked a colleague a simple but important question: how are Boomers being marketed to online? She reflexively began to answer and then paused, registering a degree of utter bafflement; it’s as if I had asked her to explain the Unified Field Theory on a cocktail napkin. After what seemed like a full minute had passed, she answered, “they're not???” Her questioning tone served to underscore the point.

The Boomers are online; they have the time and the dough. Let’s figure out how to start marketing to them.


Chris Horton

Chris Horton

Digital Strategist, SyneCore Tech

Chris Horton is a Content Creator and Digital Strategist for Minneapolis-based Integrated Marketing Agency SyneCore. An avid tech enthusiast, Chris has written extensively on a number of topics relevant to the growing Marketing Technology industry, including SEO/targeted discovery, inbound, content, social, mobile, apps, online branding/PR, and Internet trends. Chris' marketing tips can be found on SyneCore's Marketing Technology for Growth blog. You can connect with Chris on TwitterLinkedIn, or Google Plus, or eMail him at

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Posted on July 18th 2013 at 1:32PM

Mr. Horton makes all the right points here and his conclusion hits the mark. "They're not?" is a typical answer and it's usually followed by two more words "Why not?" The answer is simple, new-world marketers are stuck in an old-world to the young and you get everyone else. While that may have been true 50 years ago, it's most definitely not the case today. Especially in DM. The messaging for a millennial (one that he or she wants to hear) is very different than the messaging for todays Boomer. At Five0, we've been studying those differences for the last 5 years. We know how to reach the older target with messaging that is relevant and persuasive for them.

Something I would add to Mr. Horton's article, this is not just about Boomers versus's about stages of life. While both 25 and 50 year-olds have dreams, hopes, desires and needs, it should come as no surprise that dreams, hopes, desires and needs are radically different at 50 than they are at 25, so why would a marketer ever hope that the same messaage can reach both?.

Lastly, in the next year, Gen X starts turning 50...this will only serve to make the more mature audience larger and even more important than it is today. Smart marketers need to get on the 50+ train to avoid being run over by it.

Chris Horton
Posted on July 19th 2013 at 12:30PM


Thanks for the comments! You make an excellent point about how new-world marketers are, ironically, stuck in an old-world mindset. Great turn of phrase. 

I really appreciate the keen insight!




Spook SEO
Posted on January 26th 2014 at 10:33AM

Nowadays, everyone engaged DIGITAL. As it makes us comfortable than the usual. It ease our work and makes easy with. Less time and effort as it says.