10 Things That Bother Boomers Most

By The Age of Aging Archives
Cover image for  article: 10 Things That Bother Boomers Most

The most important tenet of marketing is to know your customer. We, as marketers, start by seeking to understand what consumers want and sometimes we learn by discovering what they don’t want. If you’re marketing to age, there’s a good chance that you’re learning about this customer for the first time, so understanding what they don’t like could be a productive place to start. To that end, we polled a range of boomers and asked them to describe the things in marketing that bother them most. Here’s what they said:

1. Non-intuitive technology:Boomers have a love/hate relationship with technology. While it’s terrific for simplifying life and helping us feel vital and connected, it can also be miserably frustrating. The biggest issue? It’s not always intuitive. Get this: I was driving a brand-new car with a new GPS and as I got closer to my destination, I began searching for the Stop Route Guidance icon to put an end to the squawking nav voice.

Seeing my frustration with attempting to do this (while driving) my 11-year-old chimed in from the back seat and told me to click on the Delete Destination tab. I told him that I didn’t want to delete the destination because I wanted to save it for future use. He replied, “Don’t worry, Delete Destination is the same thing as Stop Route Guidance.” Brand-new car, first time using the GPS, and the 11-year-old understood the intuition.

Just as we’re beginning to wonder if we matter to marketers, we realize that today’s tech interface is being designed by young digital natives who are designing for themselves.

2. Miniscule type on packaging: What’s worse than trying to read the fine print on, well, anything? Reading the small print on a small package. No one’s more guilty of tiny type than the hotels that provide complimentary, small-sized toiletries. Even though we should have learned our lesson on our prior stay, we didn’t; so we get in the shower, get wet, and only then do we remember that we can’t read the teeny bottles to decipher between shampoo and body gel. You can either take a chance or get out of the shower, drip your way to your reading glasses, and start the whole process over. Note to the packaging department: This is not rocket science, can someone please figure this out?

3. Passwords: Our personal security is important, and so are passwords. The stronger a password is, the safer it is, but it’s also harder to remember. While there are password saver apps to make this easier, what happens when the password to the passwords gets hacked?  Someone should solve for this. The U.S. Government gives us all a unique social security number and services such as Global Entry issue known traveler numbers. If we can issue numbers to let people cross our borders, I’m thinking Facebook can figure out how to accept a universal personal password.

4. Clamshell packaging: Does anyone like these? They’re packaging at its worst and they’re impossible to open without slicing fingers. P.S. Don’t suggest that we can’t open them because we’re suffering from arthritis.

5. TV remotes: Why do we need three or more remotes to watch one program? It shouldn’t take 10 minutes to figure out how to start the video apparatus in the right order or to navigate a bewildering programming guide to figure out where Monday Night Football lives these days. Who’s ready to layer on the complexity of all the new streaming services?

6. Buying light bulbs: When did buying a simple 60-watt light bulb get so hard? When the lighting industry decided to switch from wattage to lumens and then from incandescent to CFLs to LEDs. Oh, and what color temperature do you want? Soft white, cool white, or daylight? Will you be using the bulb indoors or outdoors and do you want it to be dimmable? How about differences in quality by brand and price? If your head is spinning, just ask for help from a store attendant (who doesn’t know either).

7. Automated customer service: News flash: When we have a customer service issue, we like to talk to humans. Not only is it getting increasingly hard to find a phone number to call, but once you do get through, you have to navigate a byzantine, automated customer service menu. If your patience hasn’t worn-out, you may eventually get a customer service representative. Hopefully, they can actually help solve your issue. How about a chatbot instead? You’re kidding, right?

8. Complexity: The technology in our modern cars is great, and all boomers love the ease of the new back-up cameras and collision warning sensors. That said, have you ever tried to do something as simple as setting a pre-set on your radio (aka onboard entertainment system) or turning off the oil change warning light because the service guy forgot to? Once upon a time, the handy user manual in your glove box could explain everything clearly, but now you need to go back in the house and consult YouTube. By the time you get back to your car to execute the five steps required to switch off the light, you’ve forgotten step three.

9. Deliberate obsolescence: Your decision to buy an extra phone charging cord is a signal for the phone manufacturer to roll out a new phone with a new interface. While we’ve always had obsolescence as part of progress, it’s obvious that tech companies are conspiring against us.

To add insult to injury, we don’t throw away the old accessories, so every time we open the graveyard drawer, we’re reminded of how much we resent being victimized by “progress.”

10. Signing With Your Finger: And last but not least, the day we started signing with our fingers was the day that penmanship officially died.

If you’re a boomer, you’ve surely got a smile on your face right now, realizing that you’re not alone in your frustration. If you’re a marketer, hopefully, you’ve gained some insight and can see your way to some simple adjustments that could make a significant difference in how boomers interact with your products and services.

Have additional suggestions for things that marketers can do to improve brand experiences for people of age? Please send them to MediaVillage editor-in-chief Ginger Conlon (ginger@mediavillage.com). She’ll forward them along. We may add your suggestions to the next article in this on-going series. Thanks!

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