Marketing to an Overlooked Generation: Grandparents


Millennials. It's a cohort that is included in nearly every research proposal we write today. Even if the connection is tenuous, the feeling is 'we gotta attract Millennials, and listen carefully to them!'

However, there is another cohort that doesn't have the contemporary pizzazz of Millennials, but is, nevertheless, powerful and ripe for many products and services. I'm talking about what I have termed the Generation-Skipping Spenders (GSS). These are the folks who are at the end of Boomerdom and even well beyond that segment. Specifically, I'm talking about the 70 million grandparents in the United States -- often 65 years old+ who, according to the US Census, spend $52 billion annually on their grandkids.

So, why set your sights on the GSS?

  • Many have had a good run, professionally and financially. For those with an advanced degree, when they graduated from college the question was 'who should I work for?' not 'will there be a job for me?'
  • The stock market performed very well the past 35-40 years, so many older folks are well-set, financially - showing that 75% of the country's wealth is controlled by this group.

Now, they could, of course, simply behave traditionally, write their wills and be done with it. But that's not appealing to a lot of active, healthy seniors. In fact, 60% of grandparents hold either a full or part-time job and account for $2 trillion annually in spending.

This is where Generation-Skipping Spenders come in. Rather than leave money to heirs, they want to "give with a warm hand rather than a cold one." And, at least in part, they want to give more than money. They want to have decision-making power NOW over how their money is spent on future generations. This includes nicer gifts, investments, and also experiences.

So, marketers would be savvy if they targeted more of their efforts against this target, with examples that go way beyond classic gifts of toys, for example:

  • Companies that structure vacations-in this case, vacations geared to grandparents and grandchildren
  • Financial companies and investment professionals educated on ways for grandparents to invest in the grandchildren's future
  • Children's clothing labels and outlets
  • Memberships in appropriate activities, and places (e.g., zoo)
  • Restaurants
  • Sports activities
  • Etc.

As the old saw goes, "I love my grandchildren so much, I should have had them first." There are a lot of ways for this active, financially-stable cohort to engage with their grandchildren. It's up to marketers to think creatively about how they might provide appealing opportunities, and research can certainly help point them in the right direction.

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