There are approximately 79 million baby boomers in the U.S., and it’s a pretty even split between men and women. From now until 2030, roughly 10,000 of them will age into Medicare every day. Normally, when we market Medicare to this audience, we imply that retirement is a golden age. We play up to their inherent optimism and suggest that the right Medicare plan can help them stay healthy and active so they can get the most out of life.
But as John Lennon observed: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
The current pandemic has changed everything. Now the idea of working past 65 takes a back seat to living past 65.
To ensure your marketing communications are as effective and persuasive as possible, it’s good to understand this target’s backstory, how the pandemic is currently affecting them emotionally and mentally, and how to write content in a way that motivates and resonates with them.
The Formative Years
Baby boomers were born during the postwar prosperity and population explosion that took place between 1946 and 1964. They were into Little League and organized sports. They came of age during turbulent times—the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution and drug experimentation. And they grew up glued to their TV sets. TV was their connection to incredible changes like political and campus protests and moon landings.
This generation stood in stark contrast to their parents, many of whom grew up during the Great Depression or fought in WWII. Boomers had a lot more advantages and grew up focused on self-fulfillment.
Hippies Evolved Into Yuppies
Many boomers were radicals in the ’60s and then yuppies in the ’80s. Early on in their careers, boomers were driven to succeed and became workaholics (180 degrees from today’s Millennials). Their self-worth is tied to their professional achievements. This is why boomers like to be respected for all that they have accomplished over the years. And they stayed active and engaged, despite their aging.
COVID-19 has been tough on this generation. Self-isolation is always challenging, but for this group a lack of activity can lead to serious illness, including depression and dementia. Being alone and isolated is also a common fear. With all the recent protests around racial equality and police brutality, boomers are probably having flashbacks to the ’60s. And it has ignited their sense of fairness and justice. Their media consumption is definitely up. Baby boomers are using social media more to keep in touch with friends 30%. Forty-two percent of boomers are consuming more broadcast TV compared to 24% of Gen Z. And just over one in five boomers are spending more time on online TV. Online videos could have the greatest staying power after the outbreak ends. And while they tended to be overachievers in their careers, boomers were looking forward to their retirements.
Now it has been projected that 10% of the boomer workforce is considering postponing retirement because of all the financial upheaval and job losses due to COVID-19. So it’s not surprising if they’re anxious about retirement and resentful about postponing it.
What Traits Do They Display?
As a whole, baby boomers tend to be:
- The kind of people who will roll up their sleeves to get results
- Collaborative and inclusive
- Educated and curious about the world
- Rebellious and skeptical of authority (especially about marketing claims)
- Still interested in changing the status quo
Levels of anxiety and depression are high. As the seclusion continues, boomers are likely to be irritable and frustrated. Expect a prolonged emotional and psychological impact from the pandemic.
What’s The Best Way To Communicate To Them?
After sitting through numerous Medicare focus groups, I can tell you firsthand that baby boomers are resentful of manipulation. They want straightforward information, not marketing fluff. They respond to a conversational tone that’s genuine and respectful. The minute they feel snowed, condescended to or stereotyped, you’ve insulted and lost them. And whatever you do, don’t refer to them as seniors. That’s a term they hate, because they think of themselves as vital and active.
And now, with all the confusion and misinformation around the pandemic, this isn’t the time to sound institutional or impersonal in your communications. They’re looking for trusted advisors they can count on. Be straight with them and responsive.
If you’re messaging to current members who are aging into Medicare, nurture this relationship and build on it. Speak to this audience as you would a friend you know and care about. And personalize their materials beyond their name. If they’re a member, you should know what plan they’re currently enrolled in. That shows you really know who you’re speaking to and makes a stronger connection. Explain how you’re going to make it easy to transition to Medicare. With everything that’s going on in the world, the last thing they want is to be flummoxed about how to enroll.
When you’re communicating to non-members, be empathetic and relate to what they’ve been going through during the pandemic. Overall, your messaging should be conversational and easy to understand, and instill confidence and comfort. “We are all in this together. We are here for you. We will make Medicare easy and something you don’t have to stress about.”
How Comfortable Are They With Technology?
The older end of the baby boomer spectrum is less comfortable with the Internet and smartphones. But the middle and younger segments are quite engaged, going online to look up information or to enroll in a Medicare health plan, texting away on their smartphones and posting regularly on Facebook.
What Are The Most Important Things To Remember?
Boomers are coming to grips with their aging and can’t quite believe they’re Medicare age. So don’t patronize them or talk to them like they’re over the hill. For the most part, they’re still vital and active. And while they’re often skeptical, baby boomers are still optimistic at heart. COVID-19 is testing that, however. And they’re right to be wary and protective right now.
Boomers changed the world in ways not many other generations have. So your content should appeal to their aspirations. Write in a conversational tone that’s genuine. Don’t presume you’re buds yet, though. You have to earn that privilege and respect. Write in a clear and simple manner, and shoot for an 8th-grade reading level.
If your writing is genuine and honestly identifies with their feelings and concerns, you’ll win them over to your brand.
Global Web Index – Coronavirus Research | April 2020, Series 4: Media Consumption and Sport
Aging and active: What the baby boomers mean for Medicare marketing
About Boni Peluso
Boni Peluso is an ACD/Medicare Specialist at the KERN agency. She leads the Medicare creative development team at KERN Health.
KERN is a full-service consumer marketing agency with a specialty focus in the health insurance vertical. Backed by a proven foundation of expertise in healthcare and multiple industries, KERN brings healthcare insurers a powerful agency partnership for large-scale health insurance member acquisition, engagement and retention.
To learn more about the acquisition of the baby boomer generation and KERN Health’s integrated, omnichannel, direct marketing approach to healthcare, please visit KERN-health.com or contact Tim Hinds, Senior Strategic Marketer, Health Insurance Acquisition, Engagement and Retention at 818-444-4208.