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Better-for-You Brand Marketers: Don’t Ignore Boomers

In most marketer circles, it’s not sexy to talk about marketing to the Baby Boomer generation: they seem too old, stuck in their ways, out of step with modern ideas. Instead, brands chase millennials — the on-the-go tastemakers who are all over Instagram — and Gen Zers, whose world views align with mission-driven BFY brands.

Each of these cohorts has distinctive demographic and psychographic characteristics. And growing a brand with a Gen Z or Millennials is tough, as they tend to be price sensitive and fickle. So are you missing out by overlooking Boomers?

Why Brands Overlook Boomers

The “OK, Boomer” meme sparked by Gen Z to diss their elders might as well apply to marketers, too. Why do brands dismiss these consumers?

It’s human nature that we’re always looking for the new and next. In a business sense, marketers think they already understand all they need to know about the customers they’ve been talking to for years. And many companies mistakenly think that the path to growth moves beyond their current demographic into others.

In addition, millennials were just so difficult for marketers to figure out (in part because most of those marketers were likely Boomers themselves until fairly recently). Millennials are disillusioned and pessimistic: they came of age during an economic downturn and are overloaded in debt and technology. Marketers were initially taken aback by this cohort because they were so different, and it took so much research to understand them.

Here’s What Marketers Should Know About Boomers

Your brand may not be actively communicating with your existing Boomer audience, figuring you’ve already got them in the fold. Or you may not see them as a growth opportunity. Worse, your startup BFY brand may not be targeting them in any way, at all. We’d suggest that all of those strategies are misguided. Here’s what you need to know about this generation:

They’re not old. First, let’s remember who the Boomers are: Born between 1946 and 1964, the youngest of them are now in their mid to late 50s. They’re hardly old. The Greatest Generation was old at age 60; there’s a bias about Boomers—but they’re incredibly active, they’re big spenders, they’re traveling and going to the gym and even still working.

They’re the original “naturals.” Remember: Boomers launched the conscious consumerism movement in the 1950s and ’60s. At that time, teens and young adults were concerned about pesticides, animal welfare, and Big Ag. They read “Silent Spring” and started the first natural foods co-op stores. They embraced whole foods and vegetarianism. Their children, the millennials, took the movement mainstream. But if you’re a BFY brand, Boomers are your first-line audience.

Boomers are redefining aging. Nutritional supplements, expensive skincare products, gym memberships, cosmetic procedures — Boomers are embracing everything at their disposal to look, feel, and behave like their younger selves. Just as they did in the 1960s, Boomers are disrupting culture; this time, they’re disrupting age. They’re reinventing their lives so they can live another 30, 40, or 50 years on their own terms.

They are big spenders. Baby Boomers account for more than half of U.S. spending. They take between four and five leisure trips a year. They’re renovating the family home or furnishing new downsized condos. In addition to spending on health and wellness products, they’re big snackers — as empty-nesters or solos, they don’t prepare big dinners at home anymore and tend instead to snack heavily.

They value experiences. Boomers favor brands that deliver great experiences that align with their interests. And they’re willing to pay a premium for products that deliver.

Finally, Boomers behave like younger consumers do — more than you may think. The difference is that they’re not building the platform they’re going to live their life on; they’re looking to optimize the lives they’ve built. Boomers are influenced by the younger generations of their kids’ and grandkids’ age. They’ll bring home those products their kids and grandkids like, and then they’ll sample and adopt those products. Too, Boomers behave more like Gen Z on social media: They’re more plugged in because they have time, but their preference for personal interaction vs. digital mirrors Gen Z’s habits.

How to Market to Boomers

As with any demographic, you need to understand how to talk to and persuade Boomers. Here are some smart tactics:

  • Appeal to their caregiving nature — having raised kids, they’re still looking to nurture, whether it’s a pet or a relative or a neighbor. Brands can leverage the fact that Boomers are used to spending money on others.
  • Don’t call them old — Boomer consumers don’t want you to start talking to them like an older person, i.e., “Hey, Boomer, we know you need these comfy shoes …” While their Greatest Generation parents saw themselves as old at a relatively early age, Boomers don’t think of themselves that way. Speak to them honestly, but appeal to their sense of younger self and their appetite for staying forever young.
  • Play up the premium — Remove obstacles to a premium experience, even if you don’t have a premium brand. Take the friction out of the process of buying and using your product. They’ll remain loyal to brands that deliver the experience they expect.

Remember: Boomers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They represent 20 to 30 more years of sales for brands that can catch their attention and stroke their youthful egos. Does your brand need to take another look at your target audience? Let’s Chat.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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Confessions of a Marketer Podcast: Marketing Starbucks (2 of 2)

Featuring David Lemley

On Episode 98, David Lemley is back to continue our chat about retail marketing. This time we focus on his time early on at Starbucks, which taught him a lot. He takes that education with him today to help him current client roster. There are some valuable lessons in David’s story—plus he gives us a look at the future.

Listen on Confessions of a Marketer

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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Confessions of a Marketer Podcast: Marketing in Retail (1 of 2)

Featuring David Lemley

On Episode 97, we have David Lemley in to chat about marketing in retail—he calls it retail voodoo. David was an early employee at Starbucks, and that experience taught him a lot. His company, Retail Voodoo, does brand strategy for specialty food and beverage brands. David’s expertise in brand strategy, innovation, consumer markets, and consumer behavior is deep, so I wanted to talk to him about retail marketing, what the retail landscape looks like, and of course Starbucks (which we get to in part two). But in part one, we get the low down on Retail Voodoo.

Listen on Confessions of a Marketer

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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5 Obstacles to a Successful Rebrand that Nobody Talks About

How many times has your company rebranded? Even if you answer, “Just once,” we’re guessing that felt like one time too many. And what was it all for? Were you able to achieve your goals? This may be hard to believe even now, but most people still mean redecorating when they say rebranding. They are talking about iterative packaging changes, new logos, and advertising campaigns. No wonder rebrands fall short.

We have identified the most common but usually unspoken circumstances that stand in the way of effectively and predictably changing your company’s market position via rebranding.

This white paper discusses strategies to manage leadership and team expectations, sacred cows, and data. These insights, along with our practical how-to response for each obstacle, will enable you to perform some organizational jujitsu, the real reason to embark on rebranding.

Most people think of creative translation issues when they think of rebranding failure. The reality is that the most common obstacles to a successful rebranding are further up funnel, during brand strategy development. And frankly they are further up the management ladder. That is, unless your definition for rebranding is really just redecorating. A true rebranding gets into the why, the how, and the what behind your brand. It’s not just skin deep and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Here are the obstacles no one seems to be talking about. Identifying and planning for these unspoken hurdles will increase the likelihood of succeeding.

Leadership Dynamics

When leadership sees branding as a marketing objective rather than a business objective, their lack of engagement is a hurdle to the rest of their team. When this occurs, it is typically due to an old-school mentality with an inaccurate understand of what branding means.

Another surprisingly common problem happens when not everyone participates in the brand development meetings. These invisible influencers from adjacent functional silos in your company probably don’t intentionally set out to throw off your attempts to use branding as a driver to create meaningful change within the business. Regardless of why they’re not there — whether you skipped them on the meeting invites or they’ve skipped thinking that all you’re going to do is sit around and talk about the artwork and back of pack copywriting  — your brand has an enrollment challenge.

When leadership at any level within your organization rejects new ideas without consideration or dialogue, your likelihood of success is greatly diminished.

The Retail Voodoo Way to align leadership during the rebrand:
We require the key leadership of your brand to participate in every strategy session, complete the exercises, and voice their opinion within the context of the group assignment. We understand business (not just design) and have a bedside manner that will connect with your team at all levels.

Team Dysfunction

When companies are siloed and view each other as obstacles rather than allies, there is a persistent level of infighting and disagreement. Before you can manage the changes necessary to create meaningful change, it is important to get everyone on the same page. People inside an organization that is a prime candidate for rebranding often have conflicting agendas born out of frustration, team performance issues, and frankly a fear of losing their job. Before you know it, people translate this to mean that they need to fear compromise because the internal culture has silently declared it a sign of weakness. The root of this internal bias, whether real or implied, is the false belief that collaboration is the same as compromise.

The Retail Voodoo Way to enroll your team in the rebrand:
We use blind surveys for all key stakeholders in order to get everyone in the organization literally on the same page. This builds bridges and overcomes personal agendas quickly.

Misaligned Expectations

Clarity is tough. All companies are impacted by relationship dynamics. Just like in life, when people don’t talk about it they create unrealistic expectations around timing and costs. And these become the barriers to rejuvenation that the organization was likely seeking through the process of rebranding.

Once the company decides that rebranding makes the most sense, it’s natural for those involved in ensuring the rebrand “sticks” to want everything to happen all at once. Then it becomes even more natural to skip a holistic plan because it needs to involve everyone in leadership – and leaders can be impatient, high concept thinkers who don’t want the minutia (except for when they do).

Lack of alignment around the time and cost implications of rebranding stems from the C-suite spreads throughout the organization. If your leadership sees rebranding as a new logo and maybe a packaging refresh, then they are likely to ask the marketing team to make critical changes without addressing the financial implications beyond the short-term marketing tactics required. Plan for 2 years of marketing and operational implications based upon a rebrand. And then add 50% of the budget and timeline for implementation.

The Retail Voodoo Way to align expectations:
Prior to embarking on the rebranding journey, work with your team to establish how you will program and finance any operational changes needed to deliver on innovation, positioning pivots, and product portfolio alignment. Our philosophy is talk it out early and often. It’s your job to budget dollars and time, but we can help plan.

Outdated Brand Equities

A product legacy has run its course and needs to be cancelled. But this is terrifying for everyone in the company if the product in question is all that the company has ever sold (or it’s the original or it’s the namesake). At Retail Voodoo, we call these outdated brand equites “sacred cows”.

Better-for-you food and beverage has become a new buzzword in the face of fast-paced evolution of consumer preferences (not to mention a playground for private equity), more single product brands, specialized ingredient-focused brands, and specialty processing brands have seen their once sustainable and market-leading position erode rapidly.

Moving away from a sacred cow is tough when you don’t see it. When your core product equity has a brand liability, and the organization responds to changing anything with phrases like, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” you may be in for a steeper climb than you originally thought.

The Retail Voodoo Way to identify, remove, and retire your brand’s core liabilities:
Innovation and differentiation require new thinking. If it were easy, everyone would be a market-leading brand.

First, we assess your culture through research and key personnel interviews and look for your company’s appetite for change before making any recommendations. Then we will identify your brand’s core liabilities, and use data to illuminate future possibilities that cross reference your brand’s past and present.

Misinterpreted Data

When your brand believes that your employees are your best customers, your team may become prone to make strategic assumptions based off internal consensus and call it data. This confirmation bias allows your brand to make up its own rules and innovate products that only you and your employees would use. When your employees and key stakeholders insist that they are your brand’s best customers, watch out – you have three years to change this before your position in the marketplace erodes.

The Retail Voodoo Way to data interpretation:
Employee and management opinions matter, they just aren’t data. To start, you need external data. We will bring in experts who specialize in authoring the right kind of survey for your brand’s unique situation. And help you curate which the off the shelf, syndicated data (like PEW, Mintel, Neilson, and a host of others) makes the best investment for your brand. Next, we question and then synthesize data into actionable insights that map to a brand strategy before sharing it out with the entire team.

Leaders, teams, expectations, sacred cows, and data. Holy hand grenades! It’s enough to send any marketer over the edge. But don’t go there. Take heart and give yourself a moment. Rebranding requires a level head, a strong spirit, guts, and some organizational jujitsu. If you are considering a rebrand and have exhausted all other, lesser involved avenues to affect change, give us a call.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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Brand Strategy Checklist 1: Strengthen Your Brand’s Body

We all agree that brand strategy is vital to your business. Profit, loss, fame, or ruin all hang in the balance. Since getting it right is critical and fortune favors the well-prepared, Retail Voodoo created our own brand strategy checklist toolkit to drive all client engagements.

Why is Retail Voodoo’s brand strategy checklist in three parts?

Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of clients evolve their businesses through brand strategy. So, we’ve learned a few things about how to make it stick. And we believe the journey of developing a comprehensive brand strategy is best broken down into three realms:

  1. The physical (external forces) that influence your brand.
  2. The mental (the psychology) of the organization.
  3. And the soul (the spirit) of the brand.

Just like people, when your organization’s brand strategy has clarity and alignment in these three realms, the outcome is strength and confidence, powerfully focused on the future. In this first installment of our brand strategy toolkit, we explore the physical, external forces that influence the mechanics of your brand. The external forces or physical aspect of brand strategy will help us see the way toward meaningful and long-lasting differentiation.

For brand strategy to be successful and lucrative, your team not only needs to understand but collectively buy-in to the ways in which the outside world shapes your brand’s reality. Let’s look at the difference between a competitive audit and competitive advantage with the goal of using both to put shape to audience mapping through the lens of trend analysis.

Competitive Audit

What is it? 
The basic version is a review of all the competing brands in your space and how they communicate. But this is just the beginning. A meaningful competitive audit also looks at offerings, events, and circumstances competing for your audience’s attention and dollars.

The “Retail Voodoo Way:”
We assess all of your competitors with this checklist. We study their social media streams, public relations, consumer-facing communication, in-store, and online experience. We then benchmark your brand against that information.

What you can do with it:
When armed with a robust competitive audit, your company’ has the power to change from emotion-based marketing to differentiation based communication. It also lays the foundation for seeing innovation from a strategic perspective rather than merely opportunistic.

Questions to ask:
1. Do we know our real competition?
2. What adjacent categories are consumers looking at when considering our brand?
3. What other businesses and products might we make if we had clarity?

Core Audience Map

What is it?
A comprehensive profile of who currently purchases your brand.

The “Retail Voodoo Way:”
A meaningful core audience map goes beyond demographics by placing the people currently buying your brand into an audience-to-be universe. We use primary research to map this and find out who is different and where things overlap.

What you can do with it:
A research-driven core audience map gives a company new power. Not only does this allow for easier persona creation in sales and marketing, but helps leadership and product development get into new businesses and get out of others.

Questions to ask:
1. What primary research are you using to build your current audience map?
2. Who else in your category shares the same audience?
3. Who would you include in an audience-to-be map?

Competitive Advantage

What is it?
Admit it, you think this one is obvious. But remember, there are 300 choices of toothpaste. But competitive advantage isn’t simply what you make, who you are, and how good you are at the 4 P’s of marketing (product, price, place, promotion). In our world, it’s much more.

The “Retail Voodoo Way:”
We look at competitive advantage as a three-legged stool. First, we determine what your company does or makes better than anyone else. Then we look at whether you have proprietary ingredients in your matrix, or not. Finally, we look at who is disrupting you – along with how and why. And when appropriate, we look at which competitors and adjacent categories your brand can disrupt.

What you can do with it: 
Once your team understands your distinct and ownable differences in the competitive landscape, your brand has a chance to move from competing on price and being in the right place to being sought out and commanding a premium at the same time.

Questions to ask:
1. What market conditions exist to give us clear competitive advantage?
2. How and why are we different than others with similar offerings?
3. What needs to change internally or externally for our brand to have a stronger advantage?

Trend Analysis

What is it? 
Trend analysis for branding is different than the financial world. In branding, history does not necessarily repeat itself. In brand strategy, trends are social proof.

The “Retail Voodoo Way:”
Since brands and branding run on the backbone of modern culture, it is imperative to anyone crafting a brand strategy to have insight into what’s coming next. But that takes more than following the Kardashians on Instagram. We believe data, shopper insights, and emerging cultural preferences are the strongest predictors of trends that brands can leverage.

What you can do with it: 
A validated trend report provides management with confidence to move boldly toward a new future, create new offerings, and stop producing items that no longer fit the cultural norm.

Questions to ask:
1. How do our products and services fit into modern society?
2. What social proof do we use when evaluating our innovation pipeline?
3. How might our business change and grow by paying attention to trends as part of strategy?

In our next installment of our brand strategy checklist, we will focus on the psychological aspects that shape your brand.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David