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Identifying cultural trends: from market research to strategic implications [white paper]

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Baby Boomer Lifestyle Traits & Trends

2006-08-22

Marketers and the media seem to have a certain bias for demographics and lifestage as ways to segment consumers. There is good reason for this as different cultural, economic and age-specific events will influence a person's behavior and how they purchase products. Lifestage, however, doesn't tell the whole story. Lifestage is just what it sounds like: a time period in a person's life. The way a person lives his or her life, now that is the rest of the story.

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Baby Boomers: Changing Food Consumption Among Baby Boomers

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Lifestyle: It's not just well-being, but "being well"

There is, perhaps, no more pervasive lifestyle in our contemporary marketplace than the desire among Baby Boomers (consumers born between 1946 and 1964) to lead active, healthy lives. The pursuit of healthy living is hardly unique to Boomers. The fact is that most every consumer is involved with some form of health and wellness. Three out of four (76%) consumers are doing things to lower their health risks and prevent disease (Source: Wellness Lifestyle Insights, 2005. The Hartman Group, Inc.) Boomer consumers, however, are not to be ignored: There are about 77 million boomers (the largest single generation surpassing children) in the U.S. today accounting for approximately $2 trillion in marketplace spending clout (Source: Brandweek, March 2006.).

As Boomers turn 60 this year, it is important for marketers to understand that these consumers do not subscribe to a single type of lifestyle. They move in and out of various lifestyles depending upon the occasion (habit, celebration, convenience). Most consumer participation in the health and wellness arena reflects a pragmatic, piecemeal approach, integrating products and services in some sectors of their lives and not others. Boomer-consumers tend to pick and choose what makes sense for them based on their individual filters, experiences and lifestyles.

Boomers are creating a way of living. While this aging population has a broad array of products from which they choose items that best fit their individual needs, they are also looking for more from companies than just the product or service they are buying. They want the experience of the purchase to satisfy mental, emotional and spiritual needs as well. In this sense, aging consumers are branding themselves by creating a way of living. They don't stick to precise industry product categories, but customize personalized regimes from many categories that make them feel empowered.

Lifestyle Traits that Influence Purchasing

There is an important historic component to this generation of aging consumers. The spirit is as strong today as yesterday for consumers in their 50s and 60s. This is the generation of movers and shakers that not only have witnessed all of the dramatic changes of the last 50 years but were the visionaries, innovators and inventors that gave us the personal computer, mobile communications and the World Wide Web, as well as brought social consciousness to the mainstream. Their "mindset" is informed by having matured in the context of social upheaval, consumerism and the rise of mass marketing and the expansion of communication forms like television, radio and telephones.

While many are "set in their ways" they are also willing to try new things. Their willingness to do so is highly correlated to a specific health condition or "potential" behavior that they have monitored for long periods of time (years) through various media. At some critical juncture (doctor, confluence of headlines, friend's urging) they decide to take action and will, for example, try Tai Chi, go to the health club, cycle off of white flour, try herbal tea, etc. As all of this indicates, aging consumers do not transition rapidly into new behaviors or products, unless triggered by a serious condition.

Lifestyle Trends Affecting Boomers

Aging consumers are not done living. Boomers are now busy redefining how beyond 60 is to be lived and how to get more out of life. The following table shows seven trends affecting today's Boomers with direct implications for shopping and purchase decision-making.

TRENDTREND CHARACTERISTICSIMPLICATIONS & OPPORTUNITIES
"Balance" will deepen as a dominant health and wellness ideology.
  • Balance helps reconcile healthy ideals with the everyday realities of life.
  • "I'll have to go for a long walk or run later to work off this Whopper and fries I'm having for lunch."
  • Balance allows for indulgences, instead of more restrictive behaviors.
  • We predict interest and participation in indulgent products will continue unabated.
  • It is not necessary to downplay or otherwise compromise a product's indulgent qualities for the sake of being or appearing more healthy.
  • The foodie/gourmet category is perceived to have a unique combination of health and indulgent attributes and will continue to grow in importance.
  • A declining reliance on external sources of "Authority."
  • There is little respect for those companies speaking at them, Boomers respect those who speak with them.
  • They rely primarily on their social networks (friends, family and colleagues) for information.
  • To speak with Boomers, you need to use their language.
  • Promote words and phrases that tell and sell the product story.
  • Speak to them like a peer.
  • Utilize boomer narratives in advertising and promotions.
  • Give an aging population an opportunity to speak to one another.
  • Seeking symbolic and practical expressions of "Simplicity."
  • Simplicity is an antidote to the perceived complexity and stress of modern life.
  • Increasingly impatient with, and mistrustful of, complex product offerings.
  • Reliance on simple, symbolic logic to associate products to their functionality or inherent benefits.
  • Promote whole and unprocessed ingredients, short ingredient lists and ingredients they can understand.
  • Stay positive and straight-forward with your health and wellness messaging.
  • Create "rituals" around your products that help ground the Boomer and harkens back to a simpler time. The ritual is a way to mark time and keep "sane" in a chaotic environment.
  • "Vitality" will increase in importance as a measure of overall health and wellness.
  • An aging population seeks to maintain and recapture fading levels of vitality.
  • Over-taxed workers orient toward vitality in the health and wellness regimes.
  • Contemporary focus on obesity has led to an attendant focus on energy and exercise, domains where vitality plays a critical role.
  • As meal occasions continue to blur, Boomers are intensifying their desire for solutions that deliver the "right" balance of fullness and energy.
  • We believe there are few brands even competing in the vitality space. This is wide-open territory.
  • "Mobility" will continue to be in demand for all eating occasions.
  • A modern reality is that mealtime is no longer a respite from the time pressures of work, household chores and other leisure pastimes or pursuits.
  • As traditional meals become more fragmented, snacks, small meals, beverages and portable foods take their place to satisfy the need to combine meals with other activities.
  • "Companion" products that can easily go along while traveling, exercising or playing are desired.
  • Mobile products that can be stashed in a briefcase or purse can act as a "shield" to unhealthy eating.
  • Unique, mobile delivery forms that demonstrate relevance with the complexities of everyday life will resonate the most.
  • "Authenticity" will be the deciding factor to gauge the value of products and experiences.
  • Authenticity naturalizes otherwise arbitrary distinctions between comparable products and experiences. It is a sense that the distinction in question is justified because it represents the "the natural way, the way things are supposed to be done."
  • There is also significant - and always intensifying - cynicism with regard to conventional marketing tactics.
  • Reappropriated elements from the past are interpreted and integrated into today's world.
  • There will be an increased reliance on authenticity claims to differentiate between comparable products.
  • Notions of place, people and community will be critical to establishing authenticity claims.
  • Credible authenticity claims willbe able to justify substantial price premiums.
  • Rich narratives forge emotional bonds that position products to surpass conventional product features and benefits.
  • Take back "Control" of diets and daily food intake.
  • To maintain control of every aspect of life is a daily struggle.
  • The when, where and how of eating seems increasingly out of control.
  • Ongoing fight for control over eating habits in a world where such control is increasingly perceived to be up for negotiation.
  • The perceived "obesity epidemic" plays into these fears of a loss of control.
  • Demand for customized portion control will increase.
  • We see opportunity for brands able to best assist with "food control" needs.
  • Companies that provide nutritionally superior choices can become a much-needed partner in a lifestyle proposition that leads to purchase and repurchase.


  • What this means for business

    Boomers tend to focus on certain values related to consumption depending upon the situation or occasion. To understand and effectively market products and services to today's aging population marketers must understand how they LIVE, SHOP and USE products in the contexts of their cultural lifestyles.

    Consumers' behavior and purchase decisions are shifting to reflect what they feel is most important, what products and services they put a value on and what they are most willing to pay for, invest in and, consequently, alter lifestyle behavior patterns short- and long-term.

    People are always on the lookout for ways to better themselves or improve their situation. The shift toward healthy living is driven by a deep cultural longing to find a more "soulful" way of living. To keep pace with aging consumers, marketers would be well advised to focus their attention and energies more on understanding the forces that are changing and moving aging consumers and less on monitoring and anticipating competitors' activities.

    OOO, what's he gonna do next??...


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    Trends, Health and Wellness, Demographics Analysis

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