The Lure of the Boomer

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I don't know much about fishing, but I do know that if I had to go out and catch enough trout to feed my family dinner, I'd go cast my line where the trout happen to be most plentiful.

This just seems like common sense to me, a novice at the art of fishing, but I'll bet there are some old-time fishermen out there who insist on going somewhere else, simply because that's just the way they've always done it.

“The way we've always done it.” Had I been collecting royalties on that phrase I'd be, well, out fishing somewhere. And I'd be damn good at it by now. But since I am not collecting such royalties, I am happy to report that corporate America seems to be displaying a greater willingness to embrace new ideas and — fasten your seat belts — cold, hard facts.

The perceived value of the baby boomer market is a perfect illustration of this New Age thinking. It wasn't long ago that marketing and media executives shunned the 25-to-54 demographic, particularly the older members of this group. Truth be told, some still do, but their numbers are dwindling as recognition grows that it's just good business sense to target this economically desirable group.

In the cable industry, for example, there is now widespread acceptance of the fact that baby boomers (the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964) pay the bills and are a primary target for ancillary services, such as high-speed data and phone. Additionally, a report by Magna Global showed that people 50 and older watch roughly 10 times more hours of television per week than do folks in their 30s.

In fact, the median viewer age for the top 20 programs on the broadcast networks during premiere week was 50.3. It's no wonder that networks targeting the boomer niche have taken on increased value as conduits to that demographic's huge reservoir of financial clout and decision-making power.

Likewise, marketers have warmed to the reality that boomers have more money, power and influence than any other segment of society. These marketers are targeting boomers because they spend more money than any other demographic group on cars, vacations, airline fares, movie and theater tickets, computer hardware and software, DVD players, cellphones and many other goods and services, according to a recent report by leading boomer expert Ken Dychtwald. It also has been demonstrated that these big spenders are more than willing to try new brands, contrary to the long-held belief that they are set in their product preferences.

As additional research studies — like the nascent Project Apollo by Arbitron and VNU's Media Measurement and Information Group — measure the impact of audience response to advertising and its relationship to buying habits, the value of reaching the baby boomer audience will be further demonstrated.

For any boats still in the harbor, it's time to pull up anchor and go to where the fish are plentiful and hungry. In the world of media, the prime spot is Boomer Lake.

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