February 1998


Part I: The Boomers

To reach this demographic bulge, keep 'em entertained and feeling young

You're preparing your advertising campaign and promotions for this year. You want to target older customers, Baby Boomers and maybe even some Generation X customers. You know from experience that each group has different buttons that push them into buying, but just what are they?

That question is answered in Rocking the Ages, The Yankelovich Report on Generational Marketing (Harper-Business, a division of Harper Collins Publishers) by J. Walker Smith and Ann Clurman. The authors, partners at Yan-kelovich, say customer buying habits are influenced more by their generation than by their income, education or gender. Because the Baby Boomers are crowding into their peak earning years, a time when jewelry sales tend to increase, this month's column will focus on them. Part II in March will look at Matures (the name the authors assign to people born between 1909 and 1945) and GenX consumers (those born after 1964).

The Boomers

Born from 1946 through 1964, Baby Boomers lived in postwar prosperity and they buy with a sense of entitlement. Trouble is, at least in the past 10 to 15 years, Boomers have started to realize they won't ever have the easy prosperity they believed in. Their answer is to "charge it" - pushing credit card debt to record levels.

Nevertheless, "whether they need to or not, whether they can afford to or not, Boomers will keep spending," say the authors. How they spend is another story. Here are the ways to attract this segment of buyers, who will be in their peak earning years (45 to 54) for the next 20 years:

  • Meet stress with easy shopping. Boomers continue to be stressed-out and yearn for simplicity and someone else to do their chores for them - even pleasant chores such as buying an important gift. Personal services, such as providing an assortment of choices in jewelry around a spouse's birthday (preferably brought to the office, chosen and wrapped there), will earn you loyalty. So will other custom services, such as keeping records of client preferences.
  • Meet distrust with information. Baby Boomers were instilled with a permanent sense of suspicion through Vietnam and Watergate and always feel there's a story behind the story you tell them. Clearly written product information will continue to be an attraction, as will your gem and jewelry degrees, certificates, out-in-the-open bench repairer and product guarantees.
  • Meet boredom with "experiences." Baby Boomers live in fear of being bored, so stress the wonderful experience they will have buying fine jewelry from you. Allow them to experience the creation of a piece of jewelry, tell them incredible stories of how precious metals and gems are mined or arrange a slide show of jewelry's colorful history.
  • Meet their aging with appeals to youth. Baby Boomers identify more with the generation below them than with their parents. They want to stay forever young, so market to them using edgier, hipper methods.

Rocking the Ages lists the following watches as special to each generation. We've applied the core values of each generation the book describes to each watch:

Matures: Timex
How it fit their values:
Conservative and conformist. Good value for the money. Inexpensive, so self-sacrificing Matures could save for the future. Durable and resilient, the Timex watch "took a licking and kept on ticking," in the words of the famous commercials with which Timex targeted Matures for 20 years.

Boomers: Casio
How it fit their values:
Digital watches set the wearer apart as an individual (even if everyone else did have one). Didn't conform to their parent's expectation of how a watch face should look. Helped Boomers to stay in control of their time with features such as beeping alarms.

Generation X: Swatch
How it fit their values:
Millions of options, because there is no one right way. Relatively cheap, because the future holds no guarantee of financial security. Irreverent, innovative, visual and interactive. It's fun for fun's sake, though it tells time too.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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