Do Baby Boomer Women Want to Divorce Your Brand? Midlife Divorce Trends & Three Questions for Brand Loyalty & Innovation
Joseph F. Coughlin is director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab (http://agelab.mit.edu). His research explores how demographic change, technology and consumer behavior drive innovations in business and society. Coughlin teaches in MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Sloan School's Advanced Management Program. He is author of the new book The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World's Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market (Public Affairs, 2017).
Marketers and product developers are showing new interest in older consumers. That interest must include more than simply dusting off brands and banking on fond memories. Many brand strategists hold on tightly to an assumption that comforts them like a warm blanket – focusing brand engagement efforts on younger customers will guarantee loyalty for a lifetime. Disregard the numerous automobile, retail and consumer packaged goods brands that litter the marketplace with older baby boomers abruptly ending relationships begun in their youth.
Here is another indicator of disruptive demographics demonstrating that consumers are not afraid of changing even the most personal of brands at midlife. Divorce rates for people over 50 have doubled between 1990 and 2008. A study on ‘gray divorces’ shows that women between ages 50 and 54 years old, the chief consumer officers of most households, are initiating divorces in greater numbers and with more regularity than every before. What does divorce have to do with brand loyalty and innovation? If a woman is willing to drop her husband after decades of marriage, why would you believe she will continue to be loyal to your brand if you don’t at least meet, let alone exceed, her expectations?
Like many husbands, companies must ask, does your brand deserve renewed loyalty in the second half of life? Here are three questions and reasons many middle age baby boomer women end their marriage and why they might divorce your brand:
(1) Are You Keeping Your Customer Happy? Many women report that they are ‘just not happy’ anymore. Over time passion has declined or they are unable to overlook the little things that may have bothered them for years…even decades. Is your brand keeping her happy? Baby boomer women at midlife are caught between work, personal changes and influencing often three generations of family. Does a consumer this busy have time to overlook where your brand may have broken promises or requires her to work a little harder to justify continued loyalty?
(2) Is Your Brand Tried and True or Just Plain Boring? Does your product deliver the same level of excitement that it did 25 years ago? Her expectations have changed. Now you have to up the ante. She has experienced more, has different needs and frankly, has come to expect more – what is your brand doing to excite and delight her today?
(3) Does Your Brand Offer A Vision of a Better Second Half? At the beginning of a relationship, the future is bright. While you may have met the needs of her lifestyle in the first half of life, what does your brand offer for the second half? Her lifestyle has changed. Kids are more independent or have left home. Her career is either on-track or getting renewed focus, she may be looking to downsize, get a new look for home and even for herself. Does your brand offer a fresh vision of what’s new and what’s next?
A successful brand requires more than a continuing promise, it requires that a company innovate everyday to justify loyalty for a lifetime. Middle-aged baby boomer women are key consumers and influencers. Companies must do more than provide a product or service, they must offer solutions that respond to changing life-stage needs and desires. Older consumers demand new and different – making tomorrow as exciting as a first kiss.
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