Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Overlooked Generation

I was feeling left out and now I know why. Marketers are ignoring me and my over-65 Baby Boomer age group.

Baby_Boomers_with_Thumbs_UpEven though Baby Boomers account for as much as 70 percent of disposable income and 45 percent of spending in America, marketers have trained their sights instead on twenty-somethings. Their marketing goal is to win brand loyalty 40 years from now, when twenty-somethings have paid off their student loans, put in an offer for their first home and planned an online buying spree.

Doubt what I’m saying? Watching television advertising for the proof. Beer ads with crazed looking young people scrambling in a maze, chased by video game villains. Cheesy-looking jewelry to give to the love-of-your-life on the third anniversary of living together. Tiny cars driven by overgrown hamsters. Eyelashes extended so long and garishly that would make a clown blush through greasepaint.

Young man with viagraEven the erectile dysfunction ads have deserted the Boomer set. Now enticing women slink around the screen explaining that many men “over 40” suffer from some degree of malfunction.

This is all so wrong. We expected to be better off than the The Greatest Generation that spawned us. We demanded a lifestyle of luxury. We invented self-absorption. And for these achievements, we are now the Overlooked Generation.

Boomer consumers buy second homes, sailboats and new furniture. They travel, shower gifts on grandchildren and dote on their appearance. This generation expects to live longer and be healthy until they drop dead. This is not a cohort to take lightly, let alone shun.

Finding Boomers is not that hard. They are everywhere. Online. On beaches. On front-row seats at sporting events. On the couch watching HGTV shows. On the go checking their smartphones.

A few brands are recognizing the overlooked potential of Boomers. Proctor & Gamble, for example, launched a  line of makeup designed for older women so they can try to look like they did when they were in their 20s. Catering to aging vanity works.

I don’t mind being bypassed when it comes to advertising. It frees up a lot of time for other important activity, like napping in front of the TV.

One marketing expert called Baby Boomers the biggest, most obvious target hiding in plain sight. I can relate.The only time I turn heads any more is when I drip mustard from my hotdog on my Tommy Bahama shirt.

Alas, whining about not being noticed will inevitably lead to being noticed. That will mean a flood of ads pushed in our direction, disrupting our serene detachment from everyday life. We will be inundated with miracle cures for ailments we never knew we had, dream vacations to destinations we never knew existed and unimagined luxuries we never knew we needed.

When we indulge in all this self-pampering, we will feel swells of guilt. We will rue that we failed to put a flew extra thousand into savings, give more encouragement to our adult children still living in the basement or donate more time alongside Jimmy Carter building homes for Habitat for Humanity. (I didn’t on grounds that the only thing worse than having no home is living in a home built by someone like me.)

big-birdOut-of-sight, out-of mind hasn’t stolen the joy of life from Caroll Spinney, who has spent nearly 50 years on Sesame Street as the effervescent Big Bird and the irascible Oscar the Grouch.

Almost everybody knows Big Bird. Hardly anyone knows Caroll Spinney. He is the perfect symbol of the Boomer generation. Beloved, but buried beneath a bunch of feathers. Who would have thought the soul inside an 8-foot, 3-inch yellow bird with 6,000 feathers and a falsetto voice could be overlooked?






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