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Marketing Matters: Getting to Know Millennium Mom

By: Donna C. Barson
Posted: September 5, 2008, from the September 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

Marketing is not a static sea but a swift-flowing river—always changing, always dynamic. However, one thing that has remained fairly constant for marketers over the past several decades is their accent on youth. Even as changes in the consumer environment have buffeted the poor marketer to and fro like a storm-tossed ship, he or she still targets younger demographics. With few exceptions, health and beauty marketers have followed this credo, and countless commercials have shown these vibrant, young men and women using toothpaste on pearly white teeth, lotion on supple skin and shampoo on thick, luxurious hair.

However, the tides have turned. This one last truth has now melted away like so much snow in July. As the popular expression goes: “Sorry about that!”

It’s not just the fact that the average age of the head of the household in the U.S. is just a few months shy of 50 that is significant, it’s that the country as a whole is as similar as oil and water. For example, the consumer in the Northeast is older, Caucasian and likely childless. Compare that to the younger, ethnic consumer in the West with children. Now try to tailor a marketing message toward both consumers. It’s pretty impossible.

And here’s the most significant statistic: More than 80% of the growth in the number of households during the next five years will be among those headed by people 55 and older. That means that by 2013, aging baby boomers will add more than one million consumers per year to the 65-and-older segment—increasing its overall number at more than twice the rate of the past five years.

As you can clearly see, the consumer marketplace is shifting. So far, at least, the attempts to reach the aging baby boomer have been tepid in most industries, beyond the obvious, such as retirement planning.