Enough Already About Millennials


June  16,  2016 by Robin Russo , President in OTC PR & Social Media

Frankly, I’m over the constant obsession with millennials – in particular, how brands can reach them. The generation of the moment, we know most millennials can’t find good jobs, aren’t earning as much as their parents did when they were younger (the national average is $31,000 – $35,000 annually) and therefore don’t have a lot of money to spend. They are seriously self-focused (what younger generation isn’t?), technologically advanced (they grew up with technology) and are heavily involved in social media (the perfect outlet for their self-promotion). When it comes to brands, they rely on reviews and recommendations from those who share their opinions and lifestyle versus what brands tell them. So why all the fuss and obsession with reaching millennials when they aren’t even such big buyers of most of the products we market and sell – OTCs?

Millennials’ attention span is all over the place – as long as that place is online/on their mobile device – and the reality is, the average CVS or Walgreens customer buying OTCs and nutritionals, in many categories, is more likely to be a baby boomer or a senior than a millennial (it’s the boomers who produced the millennials). I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a drug chain – and even more so – an independent pharmacy, the customers I see around me look more like me than my daughter, a millennial.

Not too long ago, marketers were obsessed with reaching baby boomers like me – and for good reason: they represent 26% of the population. Boomers are between the ages of 52 and 70, nearly a third have graduated from college and another third have attended college, two-thirds are married, 80 percent own their own home, and more than half are helping support their adult children financially (a majority of these children are millennials).They are a largely educated and involved group looking for the OTC products we are selling — because they need them.

Here is some additional food for thought when thinking of putting at least some of the focus back on boomers:

  • Baby boomers are active and want to stay that way.They are living longer than previous generations (the longer they live, the more health conditions they likely face). Many are still working, working past their official retirement age, working part-time (65%) and even full-time (7%). They are active people trying to take care of themselves and are more focused on their healthcare, because they want to stay healthy.They think about staying healthy and feel vulnerable (as opposed to millennials who believe they are invincible). They are willing to purchase products that promise to help them do this – even if the result takes time (think vitamins, supplements, probiotics, etc.), vs. immediate relief.
  • Baby boomers are technologically savvy. Yes, this is true, despite the jokes and innuendos aimed at them from, uh, millennials. They may not be as focused or reliant or fluent with technology as other generations, but they do know how to use it in ways that work for them: 82% have used the internet, they own and know how to use computers, tablets and smartphones. Are they glued to these tools? Probably not in the way millennials are, but they Skype and Face Time with their kids and grandkids and spend time on Facebook (Global WebIndex survey), carry their phones with them nearly all the time and use them to text, search, listen to music and connect in social media. Roughly a third use YouTube, Google+ and Twitter. They may be less attached to their technology than millennials, but they can be reached through social media and digital targeting, because they are participating, just in different ways than millennials.

Personally, I believe some of the fascination with millennials on the part of many marketers IS the technology itself, with each new platform being the latest shiny object to attract attention and potentially answer marketers’ quest to reach this group. And let’s face it: These technologies are more interesting than planning a traditional campaign. Digital is new and exciting and ever-changing. And while I, too, embrace this, experience shows that these new technologies can be used effectively in OTC marketing to target ALL generations – not only by age but by – more importantly – the specifichealth conditions they suffer from.

So enough about millennials: Let’s talk about boomers again, who actually need many of the products we sell.Then we can throw out the old marketing rules and start focusing on generation Z.