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Ageless and timeless: packaging for boomers

As the Baby Boomer population grows, brands relevant to their demographic use youthful packaging that highlights health and wellness, without emphasizing age.

CROSS-GENERATIONAL. With its bright, sunny colors and modern ‘Meta’ font, a redesign for the Metamucil brand feels totally of-the-moment and makes fiber a cross-generational product.
CROSS-GENERATIONAL. With its bright, sunny colors and modern ‘Meta’ font, a redesign for the Metamucil brand feels totally of-the-moment and makes fiber a cross-generational product.

In early September, Apple introduced the highly anticipated Apple Watch. Naturally, the world was buzzing with the news, but what exactly is the defining difference? The Apple Watch helps consumers manage their health, which is of particular interest to aging populations like Baby Boomers. Even disruptive brands like Apple are seeing value in expanding their target audience to include Baby Boomers, in addition to Millennials. With its youthful ad campaigns and cutting-edge products, Apple doesn’t feel like a Boomer-centric brand, but it does make consumers of all ages feel cool and intentionally included in their tribe.

It is estimated that from 2010 to 2050, those aged 65 and older in developed regions will grow from 197 million people to 337 million people. And with people living longer, older generations are trying to hold on to their youth and vitality longer than ever before. How many times have you heard a 60-year-old say, “I feel like I’m 35”? It’s no surprise then that this generation is concerned with things like maintaining their appearance—hence the success of brands like “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans,” which applies youthful styles to older body types, and Eyebobs, a line of fashion-forward reading glasses that offers products called Peckerhead, Geek Girl, and Style Guy with designs reminiscent of Warby Parker.

This is proof that Baby Boomers are trying to stay on top of trends even as they enter their so-called “twilight years” (a phrase, by the way, that you’re unlikely to hear uttered by a Baby Boomer). This consumer segment is looking for brands that will help them take care of themselves and better their lives, without constantly reminding them that they aren’t actually as young as they think they are.

Packaging is a strategic tool that brands can use to connect with this audience. After all, this demographic still likes to touch actual products (as opposed to younger generations, who are more comfortable with online shopping), and the right visuals and copy can nab these consumers right there in the aisle. Whether a brand is trying to appear more youthful, reinventing a product commonly associated with aging, or subtly conveying that they just happen to tackle the issues that are relevant to this age group, there are a variety of ways to go about reaching this growing audience of older consumers.

Following are a few strategies that are proving successful in garnering brand loyalty from this target.

Be modern and relevant
Let’s face it: None of us is excited by the prospect of purchasing incontinence products. But in all likelihood, we’ll have to—so why should we feel embarrassed about it? Brands like Poise are doing their part to make their packaging more appealing to Baby Boomers. The new logo feels younger and more approachable than before. The pack is sleek and fresh, and uses bright, rich, youthful colors. It fits in right next to the pantyliners targeted at Millennials. The tone of voice is straightforward and inclusive. The graphics are feminine and approachable, clearly conveying the product’s purpose without suggesting a medical problem that comes with age.

Some market leaders, such as Metamucil, benefit from their longevity, but can also feel old and tired because they have been around for so long. In an effort to seem more relevant in today’s wellness era, Metamucil recently changed its packaging to highlight “Meta,” shifting its focus from a fiber additive to whole health. Now, Metamucil’s line up includes Metabiotic Probiotic Supplements, Meta Health Bars, Meta Fiber Wafers, Meta Fiber Capsules, and Meta Fiber Singles, in addition to their original Metamucil Powder. The new packaging clearly communicates the product’s health benefits, which are important for Boomers. With its bright, sunny colors and modern “Meta” font, this redesign feels totally of-the-moment and makes fiber a cross-generational product. People are even willing to keep it out on their countertop.

Bring them along
We’ve seen examples of brands modifying their packaging structure to accommodate consumer needs. Retailer Target developed easy-open prescription bottles, which influenced a trend stretching all the way to Maxwell House coffee’s EZ open grip. But we’ve noticed some less obvious adjustments too. Without calling attention to it, Arm & Hammer has been slowly increasing the font size on their packaging to make the labels easier to read, therefore maturing with their consumers.

In addition, Crest is working on maintaining their broad-based appeal while also catering to the evolving needs of their older consumers…without making them feel old. The packaging for Crest Pro Health, a toothpaste geared toward these consumers, includes many familiar cues such as the Crest logo and blue background—so that it’s clearly still Crest—and adds a few distinctive touches to set it apart from the other blue tubes that are used by the rest of the family.

Stage a role reversal
Lots of movies depict young kids fast-forwarding ahead to adulthood, à la “Big” and “13 Going on 30.” But what if you were 65 going on…5? That’s the way One A Day’s gummy vitamins, called VitaCraves, make Baby Boomers feel: Like they’re sneaking one of their grandkids’ gummy vitamins. Offered in several varieties, including Men’s, Women’s, Adult, and Immunity, the packaging features bright colors and illustrations of fruit that reflect the fun VitaCraves flavors. The gummy facet of the offering is called out in the same size font as the product name, without alluding to the fact that there’s anything childlike about them.

Brands realize they must find ways to connect with boomers or risk missing out on huge sales opportunities. Packaging is clearly a key vehicle for doing so, whether it makes products seem less stodgy, expands a brand’s essence, or retains familiarity with a new twist. Importantly, in doing so, brands must speak to boomers in their language— realizing that they think of themselves as still being in their 40s, rather than in their 60s, living full and active lives. They must know that certain products will help them deal with some effects of aging and new conditions and maladies, but they don’t want to be made to feel feeble. After all, this is the “Woodstock generation,” and they still rock and roll!

Nancy Brown is Managing Partner of brand agency CBX.

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