Shocking news: Boomers are brand-promiscuous!

An advertising executive recently called us baby boomers “brand-promiscuous.” It’s like being labeled a slut, but in a good way. Let me explain…

According to an October 2014 article in the AARP Bulletin, most of Madison Avenue – that bastion of creativity in advertising – is ignoring us boomers in favor of a younger demographic. Their rationale is that we, like our parents and grandparents, are fiercely brand-loyal.

In other words, they think we choose a particular brand when we’re in our teens and twenties, and stick with it for life. That’s a big reason why traditional adthink focuses on the youth market – advertisers want to get ‘em while they’re young and malleable. Plus, a lot of the folks creating the ads are in their 20s, 30s and 40s – and apparently clueless about the over-50 market.

What’s more, the advertisers who do specifically target baby boomers seem to take us for granted, investing little to get or keep our attention. In fact, according to social media expert Anna Bassham, advertisers gear less than 5% of advertising toward us.

Some of them even insult us, perpetuating stereotypes of older adults as stodgy old codgers who are averse to trying new brands, resist using technology and aren’t interested in new life experiences.

That’s a big mistake. First of all, there are nearly 78 million of us boomers, and we have more discretionary income than any other age group. Notably:

  • We control 70% of today’s disposable income ($7 trillion!), representing the generation with the greatest buying power in our country’s history
  • We spend more money per person than any other age group
  • We account for 40% of total consumer demand
  • Online, we outspend younger folks 2:1 on a per capita basis
  • We own 80% of all money in savings and loan institutions

Second of all, we’re not as brand-monogamous as advertisers seem to think. Recent research from PR/communications firm Ketchum found that 89% of women aged 50-plus are open to trying new brands. Only 45% belong to a brand-loyalty program, and almost one-third said they’re “always” looking for new brands to try.

Another study found 70% of boomer respondents would switch home appliance brands and slightly more would switch clothing preferences. Ironically, in other research, 24 percent of millennials (generally those born from 1980 onward) indicated more brand loyalty than their parents.

As a result of our openness to shopping around and trying new things – the consumer equivalent of being hot to trot – an ad agency founder decided to call us boomers “brand-promiscuous.”

So, yeah, it’s like being called a slut – in a retail kind of way. But I don’t take offense, mainly because it’s true. I’ve owned or leased eight cars in my lifetime, and never the same brand twice. Our kitchen appliances are all different brands. I switched from a PC to a Mac two years ago. In the eternal quest for younger-looking skin, I’m always switching skincare products. And when clothes shopping, I bring home what I like (and usually what’s on sale) versus whose name is on the label.

That said, here’s a haiku for you marketing types who think I’m a one-brand woman:

I’m a slut for good value
and I shop around.

So if you want a piece of me, Madison Avenue, wise up. Don’t ignore me, take me for granted or insult my intelligence. Treat me with some respect. Show me that you understand my needs, why what you’ve got to offer is the right brand for me, and that you value my business.

I can’t promise that we’ll be together forever, but maybe we can at least hook up. And if you continue to make me feel good about choosing you, who knows how long we’ll be together?

What do you think? Are you loyal to particular brands, or do you shop around? And what do you think of the advertising that targets us baby boomers?


Roxanne Jones

About Roxanne Jones

By day, Roxanne Jones is an award-winning freelance copywriter specializing in health and medicine. She launched Boomer Haiku, a humorous blog about life as a baby boomer, in 2015, and a Boomer Haiku greeting card line in 2016 (available at 6 Maine stores; visit to learn more). Born and raised in Brunswick, she left Maine after high school (Class of 1971) and, after living in Massachusetts and California, came screaming back to her home state in 2006. She enjoys chardonnay, laughing at the foibles and frustrations of getting older, and contemplates plastic surgery to get rid of the wattle on her neck.