Boomers ‘represent one-third of New Zealand’s disposable income spending’

Baby Boomers are big business – but are marketers making the most of them?

More than 20 per cent of the population, or nearly 1 million people, are aged 55 to 74, according to Statistics New Zealand information from the 2018 Census.

The total personal net worth of New Zealanders in that age group is more than $744 billion.

Marketing expert Ben Goodale says they represent about a third of disposable income being spent in New Zealand.

“The smart brands are the ones that find ways to reach them and connect with them.”

Garth Hill is the manager of GrownUps New Zealand, an online lifestyle magazine and social connection hub for those over 50.

He said the site’s 170,000 members were frequently interested in travel, health and general lifestyle information.

“I think this generation are probably a bit smarter with their saving habits and they do their research a bit more,” Hill said.

“They like to get information before making those buying decisions.”

In a survey of GrownUps members, 40 per cent of them took two or more holidays a year, with 60 per cent going overseas at least once a year.

Besides travel, health spending is important to Baby Boomers, whether it’s supplements, healthier eating or activities.

“We’ve seen people saying they’re really active and want to keep fit,” Hill said.

Goodale said marketers had to remember that being older didn’t mean being elderly.

“The way 50-year-olds think now is a lot different than 50-year-olds used to. Seventy is the new 50. When you’re 70 you can be playing tennis, playing golf, skiing.”

Financial adviser Liz Koh said she noticed Baby Boomers wanting to “enjoy themselves and go out and explore the world”.

“A lot of them are interested in things like electric cars,” said Koh. “Most of them are waiting for the technology to improve.”

But marketers may be missing a big opportunity.

“We’ve found this generation is feeling very forgotten or ignored,” Hill said. “They kind of get put in the box of old or mature or grey.”

Hill said car advertising over the 11 years he had been with GrownUps often featured young faces, when it was the older generations who were far more likely to actually buy a brand-new car.

“Their frustration is why don’t brands talk to them more,” he said. “They may not look like a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old but they’ve got the cash to spend.”

Goodale agreed. “A lot of advertising tends to be obsessively focused on youth and that’s a byproduct that people in marketing departments generally speaking are young,” he said.

“For a lot of campaigns boomers still are the core audience – if you look at the bullseye for supermarkets they still are a 54- to 55-year-old woman, and you can often see that when you look at the ads.”

Ad agencies tended to focus on young faces, but Hill said it would pay to look closer at Baby Boomers.

“They’ve got a bit more time, a bit more money, and they influence every other generation – their children, their parents if they’re around, their grandkids.”

While Baby Boomers were still more likely to watch broadcast TV or read print media than younger generations, they were also heavily wired.

The GrownUps user survey found 82 per cent of them bought products or services online.

Nevertheless, Goodale said, Baby Boomers also still enjoyed going shopping.

“The key is where they’re provided a great retail experience,” he said, pointing to centres like Newmarket’s new $790 million Westfield mall redevelopment, or Sylvia Park in Mount Wellington.

“(Australian luxury department store) David Jones, when it opens that will be wall-to wall boomers,” Goodale said.

Goodale noted that loyalty cards such as Airpoints and Fly Buys could provide companies with more focused data they could use to target generations.

The rise in their housing values was the biggest part of Baby Boomers’ wealth.

“This is what’s made that older age group wealthier is that their properties increased in value,” said Koh.

“Along with that comes a feeling of the ‘wealth effect.’ People feel wealthier because their house is worth a lot more and it gives them the confidence to spend more money.”

Renovation, landscaping and other property improvements are frequent expenses for Baby Boomers.

“Look at the growth of cities like Tauranga, if you look at the advertising that home builders do that’s very focused on the boomer generation,” Goodale said.

Koh said Baby Boomers also often chose to share their wealth with their children or grandchildren if they could.

“Rather than waiting until they drop dead, they’re choosing to help them buy a house,” she said.

One thing that many Baby Boomers had in common was the realisation that they can’t take it with them, Koh said.

“I think the Baby Boomers saw earlier generations more tight with money,” she said, noting that their parents went through the Great Depression.

“My dad, for example, he was still saving for his retirement when he died at age 96,” Koh said.

“You have to spend it – you can’t take it with you. The big question for Baby Boomers is who’s going to spend it and when are they going to spend it?”

This article originally appeared in Stuff, Nov 13 2019. Author Nik Dirga.

Boomers marketing