An article in this week’s Bloomberg BusinessWeek on health care jobs makes an interesting case for businesses – which have traditionally focused on younger generations – to continue marketing to baby boomers as they have always done since the 1940s.
Typically, as a generation ages, marketers shift their focus to the generation’s offspring, adapting their advertising messages to the needs and likes of teenagers and twentysomethings as they grow into adulthood. This continues to, and should be, the case today. However, given the unusual demographics of the current U.S. population, with 25% of this country represented by people between 47 and 66, the heart of the postwar baby boom, businesses ignore this market segment at their own peril. Perhaps this is why Madonna, not Rihanna, headlined yesterday’s Super Bowl halftime show.
In the Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, health care jobs as a share of total employment increased from 7% in 1990 to over 11% in 2011. When the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that 1 in 4 Americans will be 65 or older by 2050, there is little question that more health care jobs will be created in the next two decades in response to increased demand for medical care, assisted home care, nursing, and surgery.
With 80% of U.S. personal financial assets controlled by baby boomers, the purse strings are held by people who make buying decisions on where to travel, where to live after their kids grow up, and what products address their growing list of age-related disabilities, not by those who are buying their first home or tuning in to contemporary music performers like Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.
This creates a dilemma for marketers today: do they invest in those businesses with the highest customer lifetime value (teens and twentysomethings) or those with the highest revenue potential in the next two decades (those between 47 and 66)? The decisions will be based on the types of products the businesses sell, their position in the marketplace, and whether their products appeal to a specific generation, or across different age groups.
As more people work in health care jobs to accommodate up to 25% of the U.S. population through 2050, issues of medical care and quality of life inevitably come into play in the national discourse, influencing everyday Americans by keeping these issues top-of-mind as they work, shop and play. That is one aspect that businesses would do well to monitor as they market to the everyday American today.