Why franchises may be missing a beat by not focusing on baby boomers

Franchises are constantly being urged to splash their marketing budgets on targeting millennials instead of the more affluent baby boomers. However, this may not be money well spent

Why franchises may be missing a beat by not focusing on baby boomers

When Gaby Lixton and Caroline Sparks co-founded and launched Turtle Tots, the baby swimming franchise, they quickly realised that parents weren’t the only ones interested in bringing kids to the classes. While plenty of mothers and fathers signed up for weekend waterpaloozas, they were rarely able to take time off from work during the week. Instead, the toddlers who attended classes between Mondays and Fridays were often accompanied by their grandparents. Not only that but the seniors often paid for their grandchildren’s swimming lessons even if they themselves didn’t join them. “So that’s how, even in the early days, it became apparent that we needed to market ourselves to grandparents too,” says Sparks.

And the Turtle Tots co-founders aren’t the only ones to notice how reaching out to people born in the 1950s and the 1960s – the so-called baby boomers – can provide a healthy influx of money. In fact, Brits who were born in the post-war era accounted for 47% of all UK consumer spending in 2015, according to research from Saga, the insurance company, and the Centre for Economic and Business Research, the economics consultancy.

So why do businesses seem determined to keep marketing their products to millennials when there’s a more affluent age group out there? “It’s because marketing has historically been very youth-focused,” says Tash Walker, founder of The Mix, the human-behaviour research agency. A reason for this is that businesses tend to associate being young with being switched on to what’s new, whilst being close to the age of retirement is equated with being old and frail. “The stereotype was that within two or three years after you retired, you wouldn’t matter,” says Walker. “That’s a very misplaced belief.”

She believes franchisors must erase that idea from their minds as an increasing number of people are working beyond the age of 65, resulting in baby boomers rapidly accumulating more wealth. More importantly, they’re not afraid of spending that money, with baby boomers splashing out £10.6bn each year on travel, according to research from the Institute of Customer Service. In comparison, the people born between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, so-called millennials, annually spend £8.4bn. “Baby boomers have much bigger disposable incomes, own houses and are interested in going abroad – all luxuries younger generations cannot afford right now,” says Walker.

However, that fact is one companies are seemingly struggle to get their heads around, the consequence of which is that UK businesses waste £27bn each year by targeting millennials over the more affluent baby boomers, according to the Institute of Customer Service. “In other words, millennials are getting too much marketing attention,” says Amy Shaw, digital PR executive at Curated Digital, the online marketing agency.

Given that baby boomers are more affluent and willing to spend money, it makes sense that franchises should change their focus and aim their marketing efforts towards this generation. But saying you want to target British seniors is easier said than done. For instance, a common mistake is addressing them as if they’re old people, especially considering that they spearheaded the concept of teenage rebellion as we know it. “They may look older on the outside but they were rebels, radicals and innovators on an unprecedented scale,” says Lynne Rawlinson, brand manager at Business Doctors, the SME consultancy franchise. “In their heads they may well still feel 15. Patronise them at your peril.”

Seeing how easily that mistake is made, it makes sense that franchisors need to draw a map to guide them on their journey. “Begin by doing in-depth audience research,” says Shaw. “Dig deep and figure out who you’re actually targeting.”

Additionally, franchisors should look for variations in their desired target audience in order to help franchisees to get the marketing right in their area and engage with local baby boomers. “It’s important to acknowledge that they are individuals with different attitudes and opinions,” says Walker. “They may be from the same generation but they all have varied interests, states of minds and personal commitments worth considering.”

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson