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The youngest of the Baby Boomers turn 50 this year (2014), and as Boomers are the largest-growing segment of pet parents, it would be wise to create a marketing strategy that attracts their notice.
On May 8, 2014

Petfood marketing: Why Baby Boomers are worth a closer look

The Boomer generation is diverse and ready to spend money on their pets—here’s how you can get their attention.

The petfood industry is one with the widest of audiences to market to. Nearly every demographic that may come to mind has pet owners among it, and each is deserving of the time and effort (and money!) it takes to make its members feel like they’re being spoken to personally. But how best to use those budgeted marketing dollars, and who best to spend them on?

The Baby Boomer generation  generally refers to those born between 1946 and 1964—the first babies in this group were born in the wake of the end of World War 2. Today, the oldest Boomers are in their late 60s, and the youngest among them will turn 50 this year (2014). According to the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, today this generation makes up 28% of the US population. They are also the most affluent and largest-growing segment of pet parents.

According to the AARP, 36% of those in the US who are 50 or older own dogs. Twenty-four percent in that demographic own cats, and 7% own some other pet.

“Baby Boomers are the generation responsible for humanizing our pets, to the point that over 90% of Americans [now] consider them to be family members,” says Kristen Levine, president of Fetching Communications, PetPR.com and Pet Living. “Essentially, they helped to bring pets from a dog house or porch in the yard, to sharing all the comforts of home indoors. As a whole, they control approximately 65%–70% of the US net worth, and they have US$2.5 trillion dollars in spending power.”

The Boomers are using  that power to outspend younger pet parents and ensure their furry family members are well taken care of. Seventy-three percent of Boomer pet owners spend US$50 or more per month on pet supplies, including petfood. “The average Boomer sees their pet as an extension of themselves,” says Levine. “They may be empty nesters who still want to nurture, love and care for someone. A pet fulfils that need.

“Also, the divorce rate among boomers is 50%, so many are single or starting new relationships," she says. “Pets are wonderful companions and silent confidants to boomers going through these transitions in life. They treat their pet the way they’d treat their children. They want what’s best for their pet and they typically have the time and financial resources to do so. They are more likely to feed their pet a premium or super premium diet, give them the best veterinary care, possibly specialty veterinary care, and they are more likely to use luxury pet services such as grooming, spas and doggy day care.”

According to a 2013 Vibrant Nation (an online community for women over 50) survey, “Pet Owner Survey 2013,” 100% of respondents considered their pets to be full members of the family—a bold statement of Boomer pet interests. Pet parents who responded to the survey are interested in premium petfood, products and services, with 46% wanting better nutrition for their pets and 12% wanting better-quality petfood overall.

It’s clear that Boomers  have a market presence to be reckoned with—but what’s the best way to get through to them? According to the AARP, 92% of adults ages 50 and up in the US watch TV weekly—86% have watched cable and 15% have watched premium channels—but that’s not the only way to reach them. A full 90% of Boomers use the Internet, and 52% have interacted with a brand online. Their preferred method of communication with a brand online is through that brand’s website (98%).

On the other end of the spectrum, even more traditional media isn’t off the table when it comes to reaching Boomers. “While Boomers are the fastest-growing digital marketing audience, they are still, in many instances, more likely to rely on traditional media for information, such as print newspapers, magazines, television and radio,” says Levine. “However, 70% of Boomers use social media on a daily basis, so marketers can expect to engage with boomers online.

“Boomers like to research before purchasing and will educate themselves, often online before making purchasing decisions,” she says. “They appreciate coupons, discounts and loyalty programs. The best ways to reach Boomers include making content available online, email, television, print publications and in store merchandising/POP. Younger boomers are more digitally engaged, so there’s not necessarily a single ‘best way’ to reach them all.”

The Boomer market, like  all others, is aging. But they’re closer than anyone else to the age (70) when pet ownership begins to sharply decline. Still, the long-term Boomer outlook has potential. “Today’s boomers are anywhere from one to 20 years away from exiting the role of pet parenting,” says Levine. “This gives marketers a healthy, long-term outlook, at least for the younger half of boomers, to keep them spending in our market. But it would behoove the pet food industry and other areas of the marketplace to help to find ways to keep pets and boomers together after age 70.

“How can we make pet keeping more convenient, affordable and enjoyable as people age? The benefits of the human animal bond are so valuable as we age, so it would be terrific for all parties involved—pets, pet lovers and the pet industry—if we can find ways to keep this winning combination together, longer.”

Marketing to Baby Boomers

There are ten key ways to market to Boomers, according to Kristen Levine, president of Fetching Communications, PetPR.com and Pet Living:

  1. Websites should have a clean, simple layout in an easy-to-read font and fast-loading graphics. Extra points for being mobile-friendly, as Boomers are always on the go!
  2. Use social media to repurpose marketing content. Diversify your posts, and monitor them so you can respond and interact with Boomers.
  3. Hone in on imagery that will “speak” to Boomers—let them see themselves in the images you choose to market your products.
  4. Use video: one in five digital video viewers is a Boomer, and six in 10 Boomer Internet users downloaded or streamed video every month of 2012.
  5. Take advantage of media relations: Ensure your media outreach extends to journalists who focus on the Boomer group, and solicit reviews from bloggers in your target demographic.
  6. Leverage your experts! Baby Boomers are more likely to take advice from a professional (a veterinarian or other expert in the pet care field).
  7. Use a loyalty program to keep Boomers hooked—they are brand loyal and will appreciate being rewarded for their devotion to your brand.
  8. Provide opportunities for Boomers to gather and discuss your brand (consumer tradeshows, for example).
  9. Partner with charities. Seventy-two percent of Boomers give to charity, and 91% of global consumers are willing to switch brands to one associated with a good cause.
  10. Follow the longevity market. Above all, keep your finger on the Boomer pulse and pay attention to trends to make the most of this profitable demographic!
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Baby Boomers are the generation responsible for humanizing our pets, to the point that over 90% of Americans now consider them to be family members.
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June 2015

The June 2015 issue of Petfood Industry profiles the family owned company, CANIDAE, and how it has succeeded in carving a niche in the pet specialty market. The company believes educating retailers about its products and focusing on consumers' needs are keys to maintaining their spot in the market. Plus, learn how pet food manufacturers can use their product’s packaging as a way of branding to attract customers and why companies are eyeing Poland for market expansion opportunities.

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