For many years, marketers have treated Moms as increasingly irrelevant as their children grew older. Believing that children start asserting their own preferences and controlling their own purchase decisions, brands also assume they can ignore these children’s mothers. Some recent research proves both assumptions wrong.
She’s still paying the bills
We recently asked the Boomer women we gather what expenses they were paying for their adult children, and here’s what they told us:
- 59% are paying for the adult child’s cell phone (a percentage that doesn’t decline as the child reaches age 30).
- 53% are paying for insurance.
- 39% are paying their adult child’s rent – the price of an empty nest!
- 38% are paying for travel (and this does not include travel to and from school).
- 36% are paying for clothing.
- 33% are paying for cars and computers.
- 24% are paying for home furnishings.
These numbers illustrate some stark facts about the recession, but also some dramatic facts about the changing relationships between Boomer parents and their Millennial/Gen Y children. Eighty-four percent of respondents told us that they are paying for more of their adult child’s expenses than their parents paid for them. And almost 50% are paying more than $5,000 in annual expenses for their adult children, separate from education expenses/tuition.
If she’s not buying, she’s influencing what the Millennial child is buying
Gen X and Boomer marketers assume that target consumers are like them, and most of them would have died before asking their mothers for advice after turning 20. It is a different world for Millennial/Gen Y adults who perceive little or none of the generation gap that burdened older consumers. While that generation gap has generally disappeared, marketers have yet to notice that 20-something daughters and their 50-something mothers are both proud to be each other’s best friend.
Like any best friend, the Boomer mom (Rose Cameron of Euro RSCG calls her the “Untapped Solvent Advisor”) told us that she is regularly consulted by her adult children for advice on the following purchase decisions:
- Financial services (42%)
- Insurance (40%)
- Cars (39%)
- Food and recipes (34%) – 20-somethings in the supermarket are more likely to call mom for advice than their friends.
- Appliances (31%)
- And 14% even ask their Boomer moms for advice about technology!
What does this mean for marketers?
While Boomer mothers are paying directly for so many expenses for their adult children, or explicitly influencing what brand they buy, almost no brands or retailers are talking to these women, either for their own shopping dollars or those they spend on their adult children’s behalf.
Here’s what some of them could be doing:
- Cell phone providers should market a family plan that meets this Boomer Mom’s multigenerational needs
- Travel companies should speak to the interests of the parents who plan ahead, spend more, and actually want to take their adult children on their trips
- Car companies, which generally ignore the Boomer women who buy more (and more expensive) cars after age 50 than before, should talk directly to Boomer moms who are buying cars for their 20-something kids
This list could go on and on, but if marketers, brands and retailers ever needed an additional reason to engage the “Graduate Mom” with kids between the ages of 18 and 30, they’ve got it now: Win this Boomer woman’s business, and she’ll bring her adult children along with her.
Stephen Reily is Vibrant Nation’s CEO, an entrepreneur, marketing expert and VibrantNation.com Flash Forward Blogger. VibrantNation.com is an online community for the fast-growing demographic of smart and successful women over 50.