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Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in Business, Featured, Leadership, Uncategorized | 2 comments

A Boomer’s Advice to Marketers


In June I turned 67 years old. Half a century has passed since I was in high school; it feels like a decade ago. In my mind the images of the ‘60s remain vivid – the assassination of a President, a man walking on the moon, a war in southeast Asia, the civil rights movement, a long-haired band from Liverpool, a California girl, the discovery of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. I am one of 80 million born between 1946 and 1964 in Canada and the United States. I am a baby boomer.

The Baby Boomer generation changed the world, albeit not always for the better. Today, we come under constant criticism by Millennials for our history of excessive consumption and environmental insensitivity. To this, I plead, “Guilty as charged.” Yet, on the positive side, I’m proud to say that our values refused to accept injustice. We protested against war, discrimination, and censorship. Without us, America would never have elected a black-skinned President with a foreign name. England and Germany would never have elected female Prime Ministers. Canada would not have welcomed all creeds and colors into a land of liberty. Encouraged by parents who suffered the hardships of a world war, we worked hard to do better, to make a success of ourselves. In their minds, ‘doing better’ meant making a good living. So, making money became our modus operandi. But along the way, we contemplated the notion, grew independent, and blazed our own trail of social change.

The Baby Boomer generation changed the world

Today, boomers represent a marvelous economic opportunity. We dig in our heels and fight the advance of old age every inch of the way. We operate by the mantra of “use it or you lose it.” Sure, we have our insecurities. “Aha,” say the savvy marketers. The theme is familiar. As a young Brand Manager, I pounced on consumer insecurities, pumping products that solved bad breath, armpit odor, yellow teeth and pimpled skin. Those were the heydays of problem/solution brands such as Scope Mouthwash, Ban Deodorant, Ultra-Brite Toothpaste and Clearasil Skin Cream.

making money became our modus operandi. But along the way, we contemplated the notion, grew independent, and blazed our own trail of social change.

Now, our insecurities come from thinning hair, droopy skin, wrinkles around the eyes and dysfunction below the belt. The world’s best marketers are on to us. Harley-Davidson wants us to relive the two-wheel freedom of the sixties on their iconic Fat Boy. They know we can well afford it. So do Pfizer and Eli Lilly, the makers of Viagra and Cialis.

To marketers, I say this: Go ahead, make a boomer’s day by helping us fulfill our lifestyle goals. Give us the ways and means and you will have a loyal customer keen to pay premium prices for your products and services. But please . . . please don’t mention old age in your persuasion.


Photo Credit HERE

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John Bell

John Bell is a retired CEO of coffee/confectioner Jacobs Suchard, now part of Kraft. As a strategy consultant, he has counseled some of the globe’s most respected blue-chip consumer goods companies. A past contributor to Fortune magazine, he currently seeks a publisher for his first novel. John can be reached at his blog

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  • TedCoine


    I love this post! As you know, I live in Naples, Florida, where even the oldest Boomers are “whipper snappers” to a large portion of the populace (especially to the “snow birds” like my Mom during “season,” when the town about doubles in size.) I have a lot of friends much older than you, young man, including several investors and mentors involved in the local tech scene. What unites all of the retired men and women I know is, they’re active as all get-out! What I think I’m trying to say is, age is just a number – old age, middle age, and young age, too. 9 to 90, who cares? If you’re up for leadership, let’s get going!

    You make a very powerful point here, and (expensive, high-quality) Harley Davidson is a terrific example for it, too: as a group, Boomers have a lot of disposable income. Your cohort’s needs may have changed from Clearasil to Viagra, but you Boomers are not done spending yet!

    Great advice to marketers! ExchangeGain has a good number of CMOs among our readership. I’m sure they’re taking notice.

  • Agi

    From one Boomer to another, hats off for a brilliant post!!