Let’s Get Reacquainted, Mr. Boomer

By Gina Pagliaro

Our team collaborated with AdAge last month to discuss methods for understanding the male baby boomer (Dudes to Dads: U.S. Men’s Attitudes Toward Life, Family, Work, available for $249.00 from Ad Age Insights). And, although we approach mature markets from a behavioral perspective – monitoring the seasons of human life – we had to face a realization. Boomer males fly under the marketing research radar unlike the well-explored and developed persona of the female boomer. Newsflash, our male protagonist no longer maintains the outlook of the heavy-handed, breadwinner from the 1950s.

Who is the boomer male today?

Who is the boomer male today? Pictured: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in AMC’s Mad Men. (Image © American Movie Classics Company LLC)

This clearly isn’t a novel statement. We all know that women and men are taking on different societal roles. But as marketers, are we really considering these evolving characteristics, due to the changing zeitgeist, in our communications efforts?

Zeitgeist, “the spirit of age,” is the intellectual and cultural feel of an era. Experiences of people within a culture define the zeitgeist, which in turn shapes a particular worldview of the entire culture. As an industry, much of our cultural research is around women. During the “Mad Men” boom of advertising, women were targets for household/family related purchases. But as their business roles grew so did our attention. Focus is (and has been) on these super-human females. Ok, so I’m biased as a professional female, but what about the progress of the evolving male? Just as we reevaluated the female in our changing world, we need to do the same for male cultural influences.

Baby Boomer Men and Senior Caregiving

We’re now seeing boomer men more engaged and hands-on with family matters than ever before. Male caregiving for adults has more than doubled, from 19 to 40 percent in the last 15 years according to the Alzheimer’s Association. We attribute this drastic shift to the decreasing size of the average family, the greater geographic divide of family members, and higher life expectancies. If we continue to focus on the female audience, we’re sure to overlook the male problem-solver and dual-purchaser.

Expanding Male Household Roles and Responsibilities

Boomer men are not only caregiving for their parents and wives, but also for their children. This change in household duties also resulted from the “mancession.” Beginning in 2007, unemployment rates began to disproportionately hurt men over women. Let’s consider the effects of our economy; white-collared males with a higher salary were quickly replaced with workers who accepted lower pay, like our youth and the realistic working female. It made financial sense for fathers to stay home or share housing responsibilities with their wives.

Male Boomer Lifestyle Trends: Vibrant Healthy Living

And like their female counterpart, boomer males also focus on caring for themselves. It’s, “how can I live better,” and services that empathize with their desire to be active, vibrant and connected that give validation to their needs without calling out the silvers and grays. Trends for keeping youthful, such as hormone replacement therapy, are popular among both females and males. Despite its unconventionality, anti-aging male services tripled in recent years, resulting in $400 million industry.

Consider taking an androgynous approach, meeting the developmental needs of the male boomer, while continuing outreach to the female boomer, to maximize your audience. Traditional roles are going out the window and boomer characteristics will overlap more frequently as our culture evolves.

When in doubt, look to the zeitgeist.

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