From their ranks came the leaders of Ben & Jerry’s, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Silk Milk and Celestial Seasonings.
Their vision for prosperous businesses sprang from idealism they had embraced in the 1960s and 1970s. Their names are synonymous with Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, long before LOHAS had a name.
Cohen. Greenfield. Mackey. Schultz. Demos. Siegel.
They tapped into an anti-plastic food zeitgeist that would shatter complacency and move markets toward healthy, natural, organic, ecofriendly and socially responsible products. They were the visionaries who first grasped and then capitalized on the changing moods of a generation.
They are Baby Boomers. They are men. And they launched an industry.
That’s why farsighted LOHAS marketers are taking another look at these men, both the innovators and the legions who buy their products. Millions of men, infused with idealism and health-seeking values, constitute an enormous segment that’s only going to become more lucrative in its aging.
Steve Demos, founder of WhiteWave and NextFood, already foresees the next giant marketing opportunities to target a generation. Simplistically, they are still Boomers, and they are aging, and they are changing aging.
They’re in play for new products that deliver substantive health and chronic disease mitigation benefits. So Demos has launched GoodBelly, a line of stomach-soothing probiotic juice products developed for Boomers. He’s made a good decision, even if it’s daring.
The market rewards daring. The market rewards clarity about the market.
Why This Generation, Why Men?
Never before in the history of this nation have so many men entered the 50+ lifestage. Nearly six thousand Baby Boomer men turn 50 every day, and a Boomer male turns 60 about every 15 seconds. This generational march to 60+ will continue for the next seventeen years.
Demography by itself does not predict the future course for this generation. The idiosyncratic Boomer value set, inspired by the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960’s and 1970’s, adds dimension to future scenarios. How so for Boomer men?
First, this generation of men has experienced the consumer power that came with being at the top of the nation’s traditional social hierarchy. When they were young adults, Boomer men were favored with jobs, wage and salary advantages, and access. Social status influenced them to resonate with heroic marketing archetypes such as the Marlboro Man and the Shelby Ford Mustang. They like mythologies around conquering individualists such as Ben & Jerry.
Second, they remember standing side-by-side with female peers during long months of struggle to achieve greater economic and social equality for women. Many protested for greater racial inclusiveness. A man coming of age in the sixties and seventies learned to empathize with the underdog and challenge authority. An iconic magazine ad campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle – “Think Small” – embodied the underdog achieving celebrity status. The movement toward local growers of organic foods is thinking small but with big implications.
Third, Boomer men have a feisty history, and they’ve transformed every lifestage they’ve occupied. For example, they ushered in the yuppie and gravitated to products such as the BMW sports car and Mont Blanc pen, reflecting their well-honed sense of technology, design and luxury. Starbuck’s and Whole Foods executives understand how to create the “being places” that cause Boomer men to linger…and buy: holistic, healing, eco-green places, down to earth.
Powerful Influences of Gender on Attitude
Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), based in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, has been conducting consumer research into the Boomer generation mindset since the beginning of this decade. Boomer men and women share many core values. For example, based on NMI’s Healthy Aging/Boomer Database, 81 percent of Boomer women and 78 percent of Boomer men strongly or somewhat agree with taking responsibility for health matters: I’m very concerned about my personal health and am actively managing it.
Both sexes strongly or somewhat agree that exercise is a primary way to promote healthy aging (94% of women and 92% of men). Both sexes strongly or somewhat believe vitamins and nutritional supplements promote healthy aging (75% for both genders). Both sexes believe that maintaining independence as they age is of highest priority (98% of women and 96% of men).
However, upon closer study of NMI data, noteworthy gender differences emerge. Steve French, managing partner of NMI, believes many attitudes have distinct gender influences that marketers can use to construct and target commercial messages.
“NMI research follows the opinions of 10,000+ Boomer men and women, and our survey data is revealing surprising gender insights,” said NMI’s French. “For example, Boomer men are more likely to aspire to live very long lives, but they are less likely to embrace the behaviors that correlate with longevity, such as prioritizing a healthy diet and pursuing supportive social networks. Differences between men’s aspirations and reported behaviors create opportunities.”
When asked if they would like to live to 100-plus years old, 61 percent of Boomer men strongly or somewhat agree, while 53 percent of Boomer women hope for such advanced old age. Concerning a belief that the best years of life are still ahead of me, 77 percent of women strongly or somewhat agree while 68 percent of men share this degree of confidence in the future.
A large percentage of Boomer men aspire to long lives; yet, many do not have faith that bonus years will be so golden. A gap between ambition and outlook is an underdeveloped opportunity for marketers promoting products that empower Boomer men in their quest for self-directed health care and healthy living.
Organic products. Natural products. Nutriceuticals. LOHAS products.
Boomer men are more prone to spend discretionary dollars during the economic crisis. They are more likely to make impulse purchases than women (25% men versus 9% women). They are more apt to spend than save (37% versus 28%). They are more self-directed on investment decisions (70% versus 46%). At the grocery store, they are more willing to buy national brands over generic store labels (46% men vs. 26% women).
Research and market observations point toward a new sociological construct for maleness after 50. It's a construct that includes awareness of natural and organic products, ecological living, holistic health modalities, social accountability, and integrative alternative medicine.
Boomer men are changing the meaning of aging and masculine identity and will expect more, acquire more, challenge more, and give more than their predecessors.
Founders of the LOHAS movement, many of them Boomer men, already know this, and they’re acting on it.