Study: Baby Boomers Are "Savvy Shoppers" Who Brand-Jump More Than Younger Generations

It’s time once again to play Categorize The Shopping Public, this time using a survey commissioned by TV Land to convince advertisers that its Boomer-centric programming is relevant. If you or someone you know is between the ages of 40-59, you won’t want to miss this very important message—but to summarize it for the ADD crowd, it seems younger folks are (slightly) more likely to choose a brand based on fashion and hype, whereas Boomers are (slightly) less brand-loyal and seek greater value. This runs counter to the conventional wisdom that younger consumers are savvier shoppers, and gives Boomers something to gloat over—before they forget what it is they’re gloating about. Ha ha! Old people are so old!

In general, says the study, Boomers are usually the “breadwinners in the household,” and “make most or all of the family spending decisions.”

The study tosses out the following labels, and we toss in our own thoughts about how this could influence advertising:

Promiscuous Purchasers

40-59 spend more than three times the amount of money per month on spouses ($514) than adults under 40 ($169). Additionally, they spend nearly twice as much per month on kids ($295 vs. $158) and three times the amount per month on teen children ($494 vs. $136). With so many purchase decisions to make for the household, these “Promiscuous Purchasers” are an important marketing sector even when they are not the prime target.

[Translation: Boomers are gatekeepers, so ads targeting youth need to also secretly target their parents, or train the primary target audience to advocate for the product in Boomer-friendly language.]

Free Agent Shoppers

40 and 50-somethings are more open to new brands and less brand loyal than people under 40. Twenty-six percent of Boomers said they are not at all brand loyal versus 21% of Gen X and Millennials. In fact, Gen Y are the most likely to say that once they have made a commitment to a brand, they will stick with it, no matter what. The willingness of 40 and 50 year-olds to buy new brands carries over across virtually every product category including electronics, personal care products, restaurants, automobiles and more. And when compared to the Generation who came before them these “Free Agent Shoppers” have very different spending habits. No longer will this age group buy the same products based on lifelong brand decisions and spend less as they age. This demo is redefining brand loyalty and determining purchase decisions based on the effectiveness of products. Today’s 40 and 50-somethings stick with a product for as long as it’s good and fulfills their complex needs. They are not afraid to change for something they feel will improve their lives.

[Translation: Boomers like to shop around, and they like to self-improve. Combine the two activities and you’ve got a compelling brand.]

Savvy Switchers

While Boomers are very open to new brands, they will not switch just because something is new. Ninety-one percent of people in their 40s and 50s want the brand to provide more value versus 83% of Gen X and Millennials. Boomers will consider new brands if that brand is a better alternative—the product or service must be more useful, functional and provide the most benefit/value. Unlike Millennials and Gen Xers they are less likely to be influenced by the notion that the brand is more prestigious or the latest style; instead, their purchase decisions are based on reliability and quality. The product/service needs to have the best features, not necessarily the most features.

[Translation: Ads that focus on movements, fashions, or trends don’t work as well on Boomers—probably because they’re not as relevant.]

The study also found that newborns, or “Generation Teat,” will buy anything that’s offered to them online, provided you place the cursor over the “buy it now” button and place the keyboard next to their feet. Now there’s a demographic to go after.

“Breadwinning Boomers Responsible for Multi-Generational Brand Decisions, TV Land’s ‘Generation BUY’ Study Finds”
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. snoop-blog says:

    Baby Boomers will tell you they buy what’s on sale (or have coupons for). They don’t care if it’s coke, or pepsi, ragu, or prego. They only care about the bottom line.

  2. DrGirlfriend says:

    @snoop-blog: At first I read your comment as saying, “they don’t care it it’s coke or pepsi or ragu”. Man, that is *really* indiscriminating!

  3. Manok says:

    Baby boomers have destroyed this country. The current generation is too me oriented to care and as long as their XBOX works, they are happy. It’s up to Gen X.

  4. ORPat says:

    Will you stop calling us 50 year olds, Old!!!FFS!!!

  5. SkokieGuy says:

    I think we boomers were still raised with an education system that taught us to think.

    The generations behind us were taught to memorize facts and pass tests. Where are the critical thinking skills? We are living through devastating political and economic times (oh yeah, and war), but most schools don’t have a current events curriculum.

    Media consolidation (How often is the evening news promo for a ‘news’ story about the latest American Idol Controversy, or some other programming that the same network or corporate affiliate broadcasts).

    Media, entertainment and education have very clearly raised several generations of don’t think – consume little obedient soldiers. Remember after 9/11 our Fearless *asshole – cough* Leader said our nationwide response should be to go out and shop “normally”?

    I remember consumer education segments in grammer school where the assignment was to take an ad from a newspaper or magazine and report on how it was misleading and / or making unsupported claims. We learned how to balance checkbooks, prepare a simple tax return, household budget, etc. – in GRAMMAR school (under 13 years old). Does traditional public educational systems offer anything close? How many parents do this with their children.

  6. SkokieGuy says:

    Clarification, “generations behind us” = generations that have followed us, i.e. youngin’s

  7. Mysterry says:


    I agree. Nowadays, instead of teaching someone to learn, to critically think, they are taught to memorize facts and pass tests.

    That being said, I myself am -not- a baby boomer but I do pride on shopping around and shopping for the better value. Such as needing anti-diarreah pills; what’s more important is the active ingredient in the pill! They’re all the same, might as well buy the one that costs less.

    I learned how to prepare a tax return — all by myself thank you very much. Budget? The same. Balancing checkbooks? The same.

    You’re right, my generation hardly learned how to do any of these things but we should also take the initiative in learning it.

    With ads aiming towards children and teens, no wonder name-brand things matter so much.

  8. Mysterry says:


    Old people, are old.


    Ah, I should also mention clothes. Why do people stick with name brand only clothes? I do not understand @_@

  9. fever says:

    @snoop-blog: That’s because they don’t care what it is they’re buying, they just want to have food in case they wake up the next day.

  10. snoop-blog says:

    @SkokieGuy: Common sense is something parents are supposed to teach kids.

  11. snoop-blog says:

    @fever: lmfao!!!!!!!!!!!

    funniest shit I’ve read all day!

  12. fever says:

    @Lunaped: Actually, It’s the opposite. Nowadays, kids are born, and taught, to think, and less emphasis is placed on memorization. My grandfather could easily list every state and their capitals, along with other basically useless facts, whereas today’s generation would be able to find and utilize that information, as well as utilize that information consequentially. The facts are that the average IQ has increased by 3 points every decade the last century, and there are now more than twice as many students taking advanced math classes as there were 20 years ago. Sure, maybe there aren’t as many stars, and maybe there are too many students for the best to really excel, but memorization is MUCH less emphasized than previously. Hell, I can’t tell you the capitals of every state in the U.S., either.

  13. screwtapeletters says:


    Um, I was taught in elementary school how to budget and balance a checkbook. We even had assignments on how to plan proper meals and the way bills and interest work. And I’m in my early twenties, so I don’t know that all of the “these kids today don’t even know how to eat with a knife and fork!” fist shaking is warranted.

  14. SkokieGuy says:

    @screwtapeletters: That is impressive and different than the teachers and parents of students I know.

    Where is the school system where you were taught these skills? Was it a public school?

  15. screwtapeletters says:

    @SkokieGuy: Yep, public school in suburban NJ. My teenaged sister learned the same thing in 6th grade at a small public middle school in Texas.

    I do agree that more schools should take the initiative to teach these sort of things than likely already do, but the pressure is a lot higher for schools now to eliminate some of these more practical lessons in favor of preparing for high-stakes standardized testing. Texas schools already suffer for it.

    The public schooling system is far more strained now than it was in the budding days of the boomers, and so much legislation was (and still is) written purely for that population bubble’s benefit. So I often grow weary of hearing how much better they were at being an upstanding and well-rounded citizen when they were my age.

  16. Skiffer says:

    Damn whippersnappers and their music!!! Get off the lawn!!!

  17. SkokieGuy says:

    I’m delighted you both had the benefit if this basic life skill training.

    But if you’re in your twenties you are far too young to grow weary of anything.

  18. Propaniac says:

    I learned the same stuff about dissecting advertising in elementary school in northern Virginia. It’s a fun unit because you get to look at magazines in class (…while keeping your eye out for GLITTERING GENERALITIES or other menaces, of course).

  19. Mysterry says:


    Then it might just be how I was taught. I’ve remembered states, capitals, continents. Maybe it’s the way I’ve remembered them.

  20. dragonvpm says:

    I find it interesting that TV-Land commissioned the study and found that “Hey our primary demographic is the one that spends the most money AND you have a better chance of wooing them with your advertising that promises greater value!”

    As with all surveys, I’m more interested in the reasons why they were commissioned and what questions were asked than in their “results.” For instance, is TV-Land going to use these results in the hopes of increasing advertising revenue and demand on their network? (I’m thinking, probably so)

  21. Smitherd says:

    @snoop-blog: This is certainly true. Watching my father shop around, he always goes for whatever’s on sale, regardless of brand.

    The only exceptions to this are bread [Sara Lee] and lunchmeat [Oscar Meyer’s.]

  22. theoretical says:

    In defense of Gen Y, when I stay with brands it’s because I like the services and products they provide. I do my research beforehand and everything(!)
    It’s not that I won’t change brands or shop around for a deal, it’s that I know who I like to do business with unless I find a better option.

  23. GeoffinAround says:

    This is an interesting discussion. It’s strange that the boomer generation complains about the quality of education that younger generations seem to possess, since the modern educational system was developed & is still managed by these very boomers. Boomers are still parenting too, so blaming the mom & dad seems like an incomplete explanation.

    I had the fortune to attend five separate school systems in four different states as I grew up (Charlotte NC, Pittsburg PA, York SC, Rock Hill SC, & NW Indiana). The best teachers I had were spread across all of these schools & all shared this same piece of advice to me: a good education is something you achieve on your own as a student. Education is not given by teachers, not regulated by governments, not even tested by exams.

    So I guess my point is that the newer generations have had an easier time than older ones when we’re talking about taking initiative to learn (internet vs. school library). But this has also had an equal effect on how lazy the school experience can be… instead of reading we check out Sparknotes; instead of spending hours in a library researching old tomes, we cozy up at a Starbucks with a laptop & Wifi.

    As education is a mostly public institution, it will be slow to adapt. It was only 8 years ago for me when we were printing our reports at school with a dot-matrix.

  24. GeoffinAround says:

    Wow, what a tangent. From a branding survey to the evolution of education. Sorry about that.

  25. resonanteye says:

    Wow, big news. Older people are more frugal.

    Of course they are seeking “better value”…translate this to “cheap”. Young people look for better quality, older people look for lower price.

    It’s always been that way. you can blame it on lean times in the past (like my mother used to say about my grandmother, “she was raised during the depression”) or you can blame it on insecurity (boomers don’t trust the government to take care of them with social security! they want to save money NOW!) but it’s the same thing, really- older people will buy anything if they have a coupon for it.

  26. ChuckECheese says:

    Brand-jumping. Could this explain why my father married his secretary?

  27. Tiber says:

    I must have missed hearing about how this generation is so much more savvy when it comes to spending. Being rather conservative with my money, I noticed people left and right buying stuff in college (most of whom had living expense loans too). I know impulse buying is not the same as shopping around, but they are usually related.

    I think with older generations, it’s not always as much about value as price. My grandmother is a serious hollander, and I don’t think quality is one of her considerations as much as price. If item A costs half as much as item B, but item B has 3 times the lifespan, is A a better value? Yet there are many who would take A in a heartbeat, and I personally see that more in older generations.

  28. dangermike says:

    I don’t understand why these results would be surprising. I would expect younger people, in general, to be more idealistic, and hence more supportive of a brand label regardless of cost while I would expect older people to care less about what basically amounts to fashion and be more interested in value. Generally speaking, anyway.

  29. 40-59 spend more than three times the amount of money per month on spouses ($514) than adults under 40 ($169). Additionally, they spend nearly twice as much per month on kids ($295 vs. $158) and three times the amount per month on teen children ($494 vs. $136).

    So, isn’t this just kinda stating the obvious? People in their 40s and 50s are more likely to have children, teens especially, than those in their 30s. Plus, in general people have been waiting longer to start their families. Not to mention that they have more money than people 1/2 their age.

    The guys I work with all tell me how much college was for them back in the 70s and 80s and I just die. It cost me more for my most recent semester tuition (as an in-state student) than their entire college careers. And I’m in the process of getting a second B.S. and my tuition has more than doubled in the 6 years between.

  30. Dustbunny says:


    Advertisers on TV don’t care about viewers over 49, the assumption being that those old farts are too set in their buying habits to be affected by ads. So if TV Land can show that’s not true, they can attract more advertisers and charge more $$$$ for ads.

  31. Cliff_Donner says:

    As an absolute, tag-end, perhaps at-the-very-end-of-the-line baby boomer, one who understands that “loyalty” promises such as pensions are not to be depended upon, this news only seems fitting.

    BUT, EXCUSE ME — posting only to say . . . I’ve heard of “GEN-X’ers” . . . but “millenials”??? WTF???

    G** FREAKIN’ DAMMIT, I’ve never even heard this term before!! You mean to say I’m ANOTHER generation OLDER???


  32. fever says:

    You’re also forgetting the generation between X and Y…

  33. aphexbr says:

    @Cliff_Donner: they’re media-assigned labels to help them keep referring to things in terms of stereotypes instead of facts, so don’t worry about them.

    Seriously, I’m in my early 30s, which should in theory make me an “X” person. But, my life and therefore my decisions are completely different to many of my peers (for example, I’m not married, don’t have kids or a mortgage, don’t have a lot of debt – many people I know my age have all four).

    As for me, I agree with a few comments above – I research things (especially electronics or cars) before I buy them so I’m rarely disappointed afterwards. I’ll stick to brand I know most of the time if I like the look and feel of the last product I bought from them, unless another brand has a compelling advantage.

    I’ll try new things and sometimes buy different items on special offer but I’ll stick to what I know most of the time. I’m too busy living life to worry about which pasta sauce is cheaper this week or whether a different toothpaste will clear up an extra 0.5% of plaque, or whether I can save an extra $5 by going to a different restaurant. Maybe by the time I’m staring retirement in the face and my kids have grown up, I’ll think different but that’s a long way off yet…

  34. reiyaku says:

    this article is funny and sad at the same time cause there is truth to it but i give props to SkokieGuy. todays generation have no clue of whats going on around them. theyre basicly brought up to nod their heads to what the government or whoever has authority tells them to do. im not a boomer, but a youngin. a youngin who was brought up being whacked by my parents for not having common sense and just generally acting stupid. dang it, im damn proud of it.

  35. dragonvpm says:

    @Dustbunny: I was familiar with that general thought, but I find it interesting that they commissioned a survey that discovered what they hoped it would (albeit barely).

    Then again, I distrust surveys in general since choice of wording can make a huge difference in the outcomes. For instance if they had a question about video game systems (PS3, Wii, Xbox 360), someone older who didn’t play might see them as completely interchangeable (and only be concerned with price etc…) while a younger person who had familiarity with them might be more likely to stick with one type vs another. Same goes for any number of things where familiarity could be partially age specific (e.g. generic medicines, luxury vehicles, athletic equipment, etc…)