Not All Boomers Think Alike: Finding Their Hot Buttons Can Make or Break Your Marketing Communications

News Direct – Number 53 | May 2006

Not All Boomers Think Alike: Finding Their Hot Buttons Can Make or Break Your Marketing Communications

by Carrie Hollenberg, Sri Consulting Business Intelligence

Born between 1946 and 1964, the Boomers came of age during the 1960s and 1970s. They were shaped by historical events, including John Glenn's first orbit around the earth, Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have A Dream' speech, Watergate, Roe v. Wade and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. They are characterized as embracing values of self-discovery, freedom of expression and personal fulfillment; as resisting conformity, authority figures and 'blind' nationalism; and as challenging society's norms (for example, pushing for civil rights, new roles for women and environmental protection).

But, in spite of the shared history and characterization, not all Boomers think alike. Insurance marketers looking to capitalize on Boomer markets need to pay attention. Research by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence's (SRIC-BI's) VALS' Program shows that 86 percent of Boomers fall into five distinct psychographic or mind-set categories: Boomer Innovators, Boomer Thinkers, Boomer Believers, Boomer Achievers and Boomer Makers.

Five Kinds of Boomers
Boomer Innovators ' (12 percent of all Boomers) have the most positive sense of self, think of themselves as the masters of their own destiny and resist the idea that to age means to decline. These attitudes play out in extremely active lives, health-conscious behaviors and interest in new technologies for work and pleasure. These Boomers are well educated and well read, and they travel widely, enjoying authentic cultural experiences. When it comes to finances, they are the most likely group to say that managing their finances is like a hobby that they enjoy and the least likely group to say that they look for the lowest-cost financial service.

Boomer Thinkers ' (17 percent of all Boomers) are motivated in their consumer behavior by a strong set of internal ideals rather than by impulse, status or societal approval. They are as intellectually oriented as the Innovators, but have a less sophisticated air and a quieter demeanor. Boomer Thinkers love to read, enjoy spending quiet evenings at home and listen to public radio. Sixty percent of them are satisfied with their household's current financial situation. Like the Boomer Innovators, they are not looking for the lowest-cost financial services.

Boomer Believers ' (22 percent of all Boomers) are also ideals motivated, but their beliefs are more traditional and conservative than the Boomer Thinker. Boomer Believers are more likely to see issues in terms of black and white and right and wrong than in shades of gray. They are conforming, preferring to fit in with family, neighbors and friends. Boomer Believers live relatively quiet, routine lives. They don't listen to public radio. About half of Boomer Believers are worried about 'just keeping up' financially. They prefer to do their financial business in person'almost 80 percent say that chatting with people they know at financial institutions is an important part of doing business there. They look for low-cost financial services.

Boomer Achievers ' (18 percent of all Boomers) are achievement motivated. They set goals for themselves and know how to reach them. They strive for efficiency and value structure and responsibility over risk and self-discovery. Their lives center on career and family, and they tend not to have time left over for the creative aspects of self-exploration or personal hobbies. Boomer Achievers care about outward appearance, preferring a clean-cut, professional look. They may be the group that gave Boomers the 'Yuppie' flavor in the 1980s. Boomer Achievers want a one-stop financial shop, preferring to go to just one professional for advice about investing, saving, and credit. They are also cost conscious in looking for financial services.

Boomer Makers ' (17 percent of all Boomers) are action motivated, which means that they value the physical aspects of work and recreation and choose products that enable them to build, create or physically alter. They are do-it-yourselfers and deeply value a sense of physical self-sufficiency. Boomer Makers are not impressed with social status, fame, political power or intellectualism. They are far more likely than the average American to enjoy camping, hunting, or fishing. They listen to country and rock music'not public radio. They are the most likely Boomer group to believe that the U.S. financial system is not fair to everyone. Like the Boomer Believers, Boomer Makers believe that chatting with people they know at financial institutions is an important part of doing business there. Low-cost financial services are what they look for.

Insurance Patterns Among Boomers
Boomer Innovators, Thinkers and Achievers are considerably more likely than either the average American adult or Boomer Believers and Makers to have group health insurance. The same is true for other kinds of group health'related insurance, such as dental or eye care, long-term care and disability-income insurance (See Tables 1 and 2). This predilection is likely because of the different kinds of jobs these groups have. But in spite of that preference, health-insurance marketers have the opportunity to decide whether they want to target Boomer groups that represent the largest part of their market or whether they want to target Boomer groups that are not the traditional prospects (Boomer Believers and Makers). Marketers who target nontraditional groups are wise to identify the product features and benefits that will resonate with the new prospect group and craft their marketing communications and advertising to appeal to it.

2006 MaD Section Meetings and Conference Calls: 

  • Thursday, January 26, 2006, 10:00 AM Central, Teleconference
  • Thursday, March 9, 2006, 9:00 AM Central, Face-to-Face Meeting O'Hare (Rosemont)
  • Wednesday, May 23, 2006, 3:00 PM Eastern, Tentatively face-to-face; in conjunction with Life/Annuity meeting in Hollywood, FL if enough members are planning to attend.  Otherwise, via teleconference at usual 10.00 am Central
  • Tuesday July 11, 2006, 10:00 AM Central, Teleconference
  • Tuesday, September 12, 2006, 10:00 AM Central, Teleconference
  • Sunday, October 14, 2006,  3:00 PM Central, Chicago IL in conjunction with annual meeting, Face-to-face meeting and dinner
  • Tuesday December 12, 2006, 10.00 AM Central, Teleconference

Other 2006 Conferences, Meetings and Events:

  • May 24-25, Life Spring Meeting, Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa
    Hollywood, FL
  • May 31 - June 2, LIMRA Marketing & Research Conference, Las Vegas, NV
  • June 20-22, Health Spring Meeting, Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa
    Hollywood, FL
  • June 26-27, 6th Annual Product Development Actuary Symposium, Hyatt Lake Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • July 27-29, PIMA Summer Conference, Napa, CA
  • September 11-12, Insurance Direct Marketing Forum, TBD
  • October 14-18, DMA Conference & Exhibition, Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, CA
  • October 15-18, SOA Annual Meeting and Exhibits, Sheraton Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • October 15-18, PIMA MarketTech Symposium, Chicago, IL

MaD sponsored sessions at the SOA Spring Life Meeting:

Marketing Critical Illness Products in the U.S
Presenters: Hank George, Sheila Matheson, Jim Helton
Moderator: Rodney Hill
Distribution Trends
Moderator: Rob Stone

Preliminary MaD sponsored sessions at the SOA Annual Meeting:

  • How Virtual Can Your Firm Be'  Distribution Channel Risks and Outsourcing
  • State-of-the-Art Distribution Channel Modeling ' Quantifying, Assessing and Modeling Operational Risk
  • Voluntary Insurance Market and Product Update
  • Voluntary Product Nuts & Bolts
  • Impact of Distribution on Underwriting, Pricing & Reinsurance
  • Indexed Products: Distribution and Suitability

Boomer Makers and Boomer Achievers are more likely to say that they would obtain financial products through face-to-face meetings only. Using the Internet for buying or obtaining information about insurance, investing on the Internet, or doing other kinds of financial-service activities such as filing tax returns or accessing online account aggregation services is still rare among U.S. households. (See U.S. HH column in the table below). Nevertheless, Boomer Innovators and Boomer Thinkers lead the pack in Internet use for these purposes. Boomer Innovators are more than twice as likely as the average U.S. household to have invested on the Internet, used other kinds of online financial services such as filing tax returns or accessing online account-aggregation services, and purchased insurance on the Internet. So it is important to match the product-delivery channel with the selected Boomer target as well. 

Speaking the Language of Your Target
Each Boomer group has a unique communication style. In marketing communications and advertising, this style translates into different kinds of words and images, as well as the overall look and feel of a piece. Effective marketers use different styles depending on whose attention they are trying to attract. The communication styles of three Boomer groups are below.

Boomer Innovators prefer communications that are sophisticated: complex and worldly or elegant and simple. Artistic designs and new or unusual colors attract them. Images of culture, being in control of one's destiny, strong individuality, leadership, multiculturalism, lifelong learning, innovation and change resonate with them. A recent print advertisement for life insurance from Prudential Financial exemplifies the Boomer Innovator style. It shows a Boomer-age woman in top physical condition doing a yoga pose in a spacious, uncluttered, light room. The copy is forward looking and upbeat, stating, 'With life expectancies rising, you may be planning on a good long retirement.'

Boomer Thinkers have an information-intensive communication style. They like to know the background and history of issues and appreciate the printed word. Copy with an editorial style can be effective with them. Boomer Thinkers want to see the functional benefits of the product being presented. They are not overly influenced by peers depicted in advertising (they don't care who uses the product as long as its functionality meets their needs), but if people are in the ad, Boomer Thinkers want to see 'thinking' people. A 2005 print ad from CSFBdirect, A Credit Suisse First Boston Company, is a great example of the Thinker style. It shows Dr. Brown, former director, Palo Alto Research Center, sitting with a book in his hands, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The copy reads, 'I know that I'm not content with only one scientist's opinion. I know that I seek the views of three programmers before forming my own. I know that access to seven of the best financial research sources is better than access to one.'

Boomer Makers are straightforward, down-home people. They are energetic in a physical way, like the idea of making an active contribution to their local community and embrace the rugged pioneering spirit. Communications that use images like these motivate Boomer Makers. A 2005 print advertisement from VISA makes effective use of Maker imagery. Slightly more than half the ad is a photograph of a fireman in his heavy fireproof jacket; other firemen are in the background. Copy pointing to the fireman's jacket states, 'Layers of Protection,' and below, another phrase points to an outline of VISA's Security Program reads, 'Layers of Security,' making the point by a straightforward analogy.

Successful financial products and services marketers can improve their effectiveness by: 'Selecting the Boomer segment(s) they want to target.' Identifying the product-benefit set that resonates with the target. 'Choosing a product-delivery channel the target uses. 'Designing advertising that is in sync with their target's particular communication style. Editorial contact: Linda Barba, Project Marketing, Inc., 610.889.2036;