I came upon this observation from an unnamed pharmaceutical industry consultant, so I can’t give proper credit (though it appeared in the always provocative Bo Sacks media newsletter):
“No form of advertising is a safe, perpetual source of revenue, no matter how flush the advertiser or how desirable the audience. Because advertising has to change behavior, not just look good or get attention.”
His or her immediate point was that pharmaceutical ads aimed at doctors usually try to convince the physicians to change drug brands rather than cement a brand they currently prescribe to their patients — because for various reasons that’s where the potential profits lie — and I’m sure it’s an accurate observation…in many cases.
But it struck me as not necessarily true about travel advertising — and travel advertising to baby boomers in particular.
Because for too long, many advertisers have been convinced that baby boomers were essentially unreachable once they’ve passed the magic age of 54 or so.
Unreachable, the logic goes, because once they get into their mid-50s and beyond, they’ve already settled on which brands they like to buy or otherwise give their money to — whether it’s toothpaste, cars, beer, or vitamins (for example, Bob Jones is loyal to Crest, Chevys, Bud and Nature Made, and he’s not about to change his mind now, so why bother?).
The exception seems to be in products geared specifically toward older people — denture creams, wheelchairs, liquid laxatives, Viagra — which are currently filling the airwaves as baby boomers hit their 60s and start to push 70.
But, as most boomers will tell you, this is not only stereotypical and insulting, it’s bad business.
Again, take the travel industry as a prime example.
Boomers may or may not have long-standing loyalties to certain travel brands — say, Holiday Inn or Sheraton; United or Delta — but to assume their travel needs and desires are already writ in stone, and not worth spending advertising dollars to try to change, is the height of short-sightedness.
For starters, baby boomers control 70 percent of the disposable income in the United States, and account for 80 percent of the dollars spent on luxury travel by Americans.
That’s way too much spending power to write off.
Furthermore, many baby boomers are currently undergoing the kinds of critical lifestyle changes — and I’m not just talking about the need for denture creams and “low-T” drugs — that should make them prime targets for advertisers.
Some 10,000 boomers are reaching retirement age every day now and will continue to do so for years to come.
That means boomers will be traveling more and more on vacation and for other leisure-related pursuits, and spending plenty of money along the way. They’ll be booking African safaris, walking tours through England, bird-watching trips in Costa Rica, and rafting tours through the Grand Canyon; they’ll be staying in lodges in Idaho and hotels in Rome; they’ll be buying RVs for exploring the U.S. and cruise tickets for exploring the high seas and the world’s rivers.
For many boomers, these will be their first big trips and travel purchases in some time; they won’t have brand loyalties already locked in.
For other boomers who are already well traveled, the trips will become more and more exotic, more and more geared toward fulfilling bucket lists.
This segment of boomers will be investigating new brands as well.
So when it comes to travel marketing, getting the attention of baby boomers may be just as important — or more so — as convincing them to change their behaviors.
I’ve covered a number of ways of getting baby boomers’ attentions in this blog, and will continue to do so.
And I’ve covered a variety of ways of holding their loyalty once it’s initially captured — which is vitally important for the long-term health of any travel business.
Meanwhile, I’d welcome the chance to hear from marketers who agree — or disagree — with me on these fundamentals.
Be sure to download my free report, “How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers,” available here. It’s all about the best ways to market travel to baby boomers — the biggest-spending group of travelers the world has ever seen. It’s also the easiest way to subscribe to my blog, so you won’t miss a posting. Thanks!