Brands target boomers

08 February 2011

NEW YORK: Kimberly-Clark, Walgreens and Sherwin Williams are among the companies modifying their approach to meet the needs of baby boomers.

Estimates from the US Census Bureau suggest the number of Americans aged 65 years old or more should surpass 80m by 2050, compared with approximately half that figure in 2010.

Ocean Spray, which makes a variety of juices, sauces and oatmeal goods, has identified this demographic as a core target audience.

However, rather than emphasising age in marketing communications, it typically discusses health benefits, according to Ken Romanzi, the organisation's North American chief operating officer.

"We don't do anything to remind boomers that they are getting older," he told the Wall Street Journal.

Church & Dwight, parent company of Arm & Hammer, has adopted an equivalent stance, after conducting in-depth studies covering this group.

"Our research shows that 60% of boomers who are near 65 claim to feel much younger than their actual age," David Cohen, vp ot its homecare arm, said.

"So you provide a solution to issues that they may have, but it's not an explicit message."

Consumer healthcare specialist Kimberly-Clark spent two years updating its Depend stable of incontinence products.

It believes 45m individuals will require such offerings by 2020, measured against 38m today, and has moved to reflect the preferences of this community.

Strategies have included modernising designs to replicate normal underwear, utilising more contemporary patterns and changing on-shelf display techniques.

Indeed, the latest TV spot promoting Depend appears closer to that for a fashion brand, and boasts a youthful cast.

"We're very subtle in that we don't have to explain the problem and solution in the ads," argued Mark Cammarota, Depend's brand director. "Boomers like seeing the confidence part of it."

"Past generations were more accepting that they had a condition, and this was the product that they have to wear … The boomers don't have that attitude. They demand and expect more."

Elsewhere, the company has reformatted the packaging for Kleenex tissues so it is less traditional, in recognition of evolving customer tastes.

"If boomers were acting as their predecessors did, we wouldn't be as trend-forward as we are today," said Christine Mau, a design director at Kimberly-Clark.

Similarly, retailer Sherwin Williams has improved many stores in its 3,400-strong network, adding better lighting, extra seats and serving coffee, alongside simplifying displays.

"A lot of boomers have been downsizing into new homes, and when you move into a new home, you need to redecorate, which is a very good thing for us," said Ellen Moreau, vp, marketing at Sherwin-Williams.

Pharma chain Walgreens is also ensuring its branches are accommodating to older shoppers, and making lines such as reading glasses increasingly stylish.

"The boomers are much more focused on enhancing their well-being versus just trying to address being sick, as the prior generation might have been," said Robert Tompkins, Walgreens' divisional vp and general merchandise manager.

"This customer is focused not just on function but on fashion."

SymphonyIRI has reported that boomers contribute around half of US consumer spending, and will heighten their collective outlay by $50bn (€36.7bn; £30.9nm) in the coming decade.

"As a generation, they're large enough that they expect to be served uniquely as they age," argued Sean Seitzinger, author of SymphonyIRI's research.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff