I am sometimes asked my opinion about which national consumer brands are truly successful from a generational marketing perspective.
Matt Thornhill, founder of the Boomer Project and Generations Matter, sent me a recent email to solicit my opinion so he could better inform a magazine journalist about which marketers are most effective. Matt wrote:
The actual major brands that demonstrate intelligence on how to reach Boomers are few and far between. Any that come to your mind? Frankly, I'm pretty stumped.
One problem with the question is that brands shift strategies all the time. A case in point is Fidelity. I admired their 2007 campaign featuring Paul McCartney, which wasn't totally about nostalgia for the Beatles but more about "...never stop doing what you love."
The advertising strategy involved enlisting a Boomer rock music icon as representative of later life reinvention and moving forward with core youthful values still intact.
The integrated marketing campaign hit all the right notes including television, website, public relations, sales promotion, personalized direct mail, etc. The VP in charge of this campaign left the company, and Fidelity then turned toward a more predictable nuts-and-bolts approach about its value to investors as a retirement planning service.
Alas, the marketing quants prevailed over the advertising creatives.
Given that caveat, the brand I'm admiring most right now is Subaru, a perennial Boomer favorite. One could even conclude that Boomer money built the company as we turned away from Detroit's gas guzzlers during the 1970's. We started shopping for higher-mileage, 4-wheel drive vehicles with a premium on safety to protect precious cargo: all those Millennial "Babies on Board."
I like the commercial called "Memory Lane," which clearly involves a bit of stereotyping with a rather ditsy grandmother who is nostalgic about meeting her future husband at Woodstock and sharing this momentous historical moment with her family. (Kids: "Here is where I had a chance encounter with the man who would become your father and grandfather.")
Subtle Boomer humor makes this TV spot work, and I don't grow tired of it with multiple viewings. It's the perfect Boomer context for a multi-generational family road trip. Beyond the obvious allusions to hippiedom, there is something also very powerful in this brief message: generativity.
Generativity appears during the seventh stage of Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development, one of the best-known theories of personality in psychology. This stage takes place during middle adulthood between the ages of approximately 40 and 65.
Contributing to society and taking actions to benefit future generations are important psychosocial needs at the generativity stage of adult development. During this time of life, adults strive to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by parenting and grand-parenting.
Consider the relationship between Grandma Woodstock and her precocious Generation Z granddaughter, as depicted so cleverly in this Subaru television commercial. Grandma's motivations for intergenerational sharing of wisdom and family history — such as how to zip line naked in Belize — are also widely shared today among her peers, Boomer grandparents. The strategy probably even works for brand development with Generation X kids who are now the middle-aged adults and chauffeurs.
Do you admire any contemporary TV spots for some of the same "generational marketing" reasons I appreciate the Subaru TV ad? If so, share your suggestions in the comments section. I'll be watching!