The 'Greynaissance': the rise of the baby boomer dollar
In 2018, American cosmetics giant CoverGirl appointed Maye Musk, the mother of famous Tesla CEO Elon Musk, as its ambassador. Musk was 69 years old then. “Suddenly I’m an influencer, and I’m going to be 70 in a week!” she mused. There has been a renaissance of older women in beauty and fashion since 2015, where more mature celebrities such as Joan Didion and Joni Mitchell have fronted campaigns for luxury brands such as Céline and Saint Laurent.
Musk was no accidental style icon – she was specifically chosen by CoverGirl to appeal to an older crowd. Baby boomers make up a significant part of the global consumer spend in fashion and are expected to overtake preteens in terms of population by 2047, which is ironic, since most fashion companies have been mainly focusing on serving the needs of millennials instead. According to an article by the U.S. Federal Reserve, millennials are earning less than their older counterparts, with ‘lower earnings, fewer assets and less wealth’.
In 2017, baby boomers accounted for 42% of spending in the US while millennials and Gen-Z represented only 13% . This does not only apply to the US – but to Asian countries as well, such as China, where senior-related industries represent up to $450 billion and Japan, with the oldest population in the world. It goes to show that millennials may be adept at using social media and influencing, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into big and expensive purchase decisions. There is a world of difference between promoting products, and actually having the purchasing power to buy them.
The Market Gap
While millennial consumers are important to fashion companies, it’s essential to not neglect other generations, namely by the baby boomers as they have substantial buying power. Most baby boomers are parents of millennials after all. Aged between 55-65, the younger ones have already reached the peak of their careers and are empty nesters who are ready to spend more. Baby boomers actually represent 70% of the disposable income in America. Even as we look into the future, the baby boomer market is one that is brimming with potential. According to the United Nations, the number of people aged above sixty is increasing every year by 2.6%. An AT Kearney report states that, especially in developed countries, with falling birth rates, higher life expectancy, improving health conditions and the rising minimal retirement age, the market presents business opportunities not to be missed for many years to come. Let’s not forget the Gen Xers as well, the sandwich group between millennials and baby boomers, a small but powerful population of high earners. However, the fashion industry has been slow to respond. From advertising spend to end product, fashion companies have been forgoing baby boomers for younger millennials.
The Retail Report states that only 10% of marketing expenditure across all industries is dedicated to baby boomers, whereas millennials get a whopping 50%. 89% of British female mature consumers interviewed during a study by J. Walter Thompson London feel neglected by the fashion industry. If we look at the fashion landscape today, very few brands cater to the baby boomer crowd save for a handful, such as Uniqlo with its capsule collection with 61-yearold model Inès de La Fressange, luxury brand Todd’s and Ethyl Clothing. Hardly any brands try to address both millennials and baby boomers at the same time.
While fashion companies are still struggling to get up to speed, beauty giants have already taken the necessary leap of faith. By formulating products for mature consumers and using them as spokespeople for their campaigns, they are experiencing exponential growth. Fashion insiders, however, are still trying to understand these middle-aged shoppers. What most companies don’t seem to get, however, is that with the advent of digital technology, the notion of middle age has been redefined. Stereotypes about them being old-fashioned technophobes are no longer relevant. Fashion companies need to quash these clichés and start speaking to them in their language.