Understanding Female Boomers Drive Sales

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Marketing campaigns today too often address younger consumers, blithely ignoring the 40 million Baby Boomer women born between 1946 and 1964. These supposedly no-longer-lucrative, over-the-hill 40- to 60-year-olds, however, spend more on consumer goods than anyone under 40. What’s more, they initiate 80% of all home improvement purchase decisions, especially kitchen cabinets, flooring and bath fixtures.

Even if marketers do address this most powerful consumer segment, they often do it in ways that patronize and fail to connect emotionally.

“If the brands and services aimed at this consumer continue to rely on the stereotypical notions of older as an uncool, has-been demographic, they’ll perish,” warn the authors of a ground-breaking new book Boom, which is all about the complexities of marketing to Baby Boomer women.

“Stereotypes are particularly resistant in organizations led by younger marketers who are emotionally attracted to targeting members of their own or younger generations,” they caution.

A POWERFUL SEGMENT

Marketers who ignore or misunderstand Baby Boomer women are missing out on the largest, most powerful and fastest-growing consumer segment today – one that is just now at its peak earning years.

Reach them not by “shrinking and pinking” your product and promising eternal youth, but by understanding their motivations, emotions, values and life stages.

Boom authors Mary Brown and Carol Orsborn, Ph.d., provide insights on the mindset of Boomer woman, along with a fascinating series of case histories about companies that have effectively reached this segment, including two from the kitchen and bath industry – BSH and Be Jane.

There are two subsets of Boomers. Leading-edge Boomers, born between 1946 and 1954, are in their early 50s to early 60s. Trailing-edge Boomers, now about 42-51, were born between 1955 and 1964.

Leading-edge Boomers are non-conformists who seek personal gratification and are idealistic. They desire new experiences and are more concerned with spirituality than material items. They are focused on health and comfort. They are likely to spend money on things that will enhance or add value to their lives, or that help simplify their lives.

Younger or trailing-edge Boomer women are status-conscious, individualistic and confident, with a strong work ethic. The authors portray a typical trailing-edge Boomer woman as having a trendy stainless refrigerator that confers status, but layered with a “spontaneous hodge podge of magnets and personal messages” that reflect her individuality.

Regardless of age, Boomer women are going through certain identifiable life stages. One is caring for elderly relatives. This could mean adding an accessible bath to her house, or to a parent’s house. She, not her parents, is the target market for grab bars, hand showers, improved lighting, slip-resistant flooring and any other kitchen and bath modifications for people with special needs.

“Target the Baby Boomer woman with the information she needs to provide her parents with products and services that will make all of their lives easier,” advise the authors of Boom.

Another typical life stage is the empty nest. Almost 30% of soon-to-be empty nesters anticipate downsizing or simplifying their lives, according to Boom. This could mean converting a bedroom into an office, closet or spa bath that still works if the nest fills again. Or it could mean choosing kitchens and appliances that work for smaller meals, yet still accommodate larger events.

TARGETED BRANDS

In the book, Michael Bohn, director of brand marketing, BSH Home Appliances Corp., explains how two of its upscale brands are targeted to different psychographic segments of Boomer women.

Thermador “is designed to appeal to leading-edge Boomers with empty nest concerns like connecting… finding new passions… and redefining the role she plays in life,” says Bohn.

The recent Thermador campaign resonated with Boomer women, he says, because rather than showing kitchens, it “emphasized the heritage of the brand, and pictured glamorous, iconic women of ageless sophistication.”

The Bosch brand, he explains, “is geared toward trailing-edge Boomers who find themselves sandwiched between elder care, child care and their own careers, constantly multi-tasking. What she needs is not a hobby or a means of socializing, but a highly efficient problem-solver in her kitchen. Bosch marketing emphasizes convenience and ease of use.”

Overall, Boomer women are looking for the emotion, not the product. The kitchen may connect them to their now far-flung family and reconnect them with friends. It’s where they stay healthy, prepare good food and protect the environment by practicing recycling. It may also be the headquarters of their new business.

The bath is where they restore their physical and mental well-being. It could be where they exercise for their health. It could incorporate meditation spaces, aromatherapy or chromatherapy fixtures.

Boomer women desire products that provide simplicity. Interior storage aids, a well-lit pantry and a second dishwasher may all make their lives easier.

When marketing to her, what’s most important? Web? Ads? Brochures? Word of mouth? The answer is all of them, because she will consult each one as she makes a purchasing decision.

“Her decision-making process… takes a layered and cyclical path, where subtlety, details, research and word of mouth play influential roles,” Brown and Orsborn explain.

One reason she consults all of these sources, often multiple times, is that she is searching for the ultimate solution – not just a “good-enough” solution, but the very best one. So she’ll come close to a decision, then circle back and re-consult her sources before moving ahead, the authors explain.

During this process, she wants – and notices – details. She’ll notice the paper in the brochure, the images, the type font.

And while she wants lots of information, she also wants you to help her filter and organize it. The authors point out that 30% of women say a bad Website can make them less likely to buy from a company. Boomer women want a site that is simply designed and easy to use, not necessarily one with cool bells and whistles.

Overall, they want to know about benefits rather than features. The founders of Be Jane – a media company that provides content, community, products and services for women DIYers – market a project or product by emphasizing “the overall change it will make in their lives, such as making their kitchen more functional.”

Women like to buy in a community, too, as evidenced by the success of Tomboy Tools, with its popular Tool Parties featuring in-home demonstrations.

Overall, Brown and Orsborn emphasize that when communicating to Boomer women, “…marketing and creative directors need to be well versed in the art and science of interpreting, translating and delivering information.”

For more on this topic, see also the February 2007 Editorial.

Read past columns on Consumer Insights by Leslie Hart, and send us your comments about this story and others by logging onto Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Website at www.kitchenbathdesign.com.

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