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Article Review: Consumption Patterns Among Baby Boomers

April 16th, 2008

baby-boomer-consumers.jpgThis is the first of a series of three article reviews related to various aspects of marketing and consumer behavior. In our first installment, Marilyn Knox presents an analysis of older consumers from the “baby boomer” generation and gives reasons why this market cannot be ignored.

Article Reviewed:

Abdel-Ghany, M. & Sharpe, D. L. (1997). Consumption patterns among young-old and old-old. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 31 (1), 90+

Purpose of article: On January 1, 1996 the first of the babies born during the Baby Boom turned 50. Maturing consumers are the biggest spenders. They are the wealthiest, best educated and most sophisticated purchasers. Baby Boomers are forming the most extraordinary middle-aged generation of all time – one that presents the most complex set of challenges to product and service providers and marketers in the history of modern marketing.

Summary of article: For several decades, the study of advertising and marketing has taken a historical approach. We have studied what has worked in the past. Unfortunately, this past does not resemble the immediate future. The youth-dominated markets of the past 30 years are slowly but surely being replaced by an America that has never been old before. To plan for tomorrow’s maturing marketplace using standards developed and tested in yesterday’s objective, youth oriented markets is as dangerous as driving using only the rear view mirror.

Conclusion: Marketers will be required to develop relationships with consumers that allow a marketer to “go with the flow” of consumers’ free will choices. This converts the often-heard slogan “customer driven” into today’s reality. New science has caused scientists to adopt new assumptions about the behavior of matter and energy as well as new investigative techniques. New marketing will likewise cause researchers and marketers to make equivalent changes to their thinking regarding consumer behavior.

Implications: The message for marketers is that the tidal wave of Boomers turning 50 will only intensify the trend toward youthfulness among the mature population. Boomers have changed every stage of life they have lived through so far, so they are likely to create a second middle-aged market, thus altering the very nature of maturing consumer markets. Understanding what distinguishes baby boomers as a group from the present mature population will be the key to planning for successful marketing to the maturing consumers’ population in the coming decades.

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