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Marketers Shift Tactics to Lure Baby Boomers

The eldest members of the baby boom generation turn 60 this year, but that doesn't mean they're slowing down. Today's middle-aged Americans are more active than preceding generations, and companies are trying to find new ways to market products to baby boomers, without making them feel old.

Seventy-six million Americans are baby boomers -- people born after soldiers returned home from World War II. And this year, the oldest baby boomers turn 60. People over 50 have three-quarters of a trillion dollars in spending power. Traditionally, companies have marketed to a younger demographic, to establish brand loyalty. They are now trying to tap into the vast wealth of the baby boomer generation.

Wendy Liebmann is the president of WSL Strategic Retail, a marketing consulting firm. "Here is this audience that is waiting to be plucked. They have a lot of money to spend, so they are a really big deal," she says.

Melanie Ulricksen is 53. She says she's fed up with products that try to make her look younger. "I don't want to be 55 trying to look like I'm 35. Give me something that makes what I have look nicer."

One company trying to do just that is makeup giant Revlon. It has come out with what it calls the first mass make-up line specifically for women over 50: Vital Radiance. The packages have bigger print, the brushes reach under eyeglasses and the make-up is designed for older skin. Revlon Chief marketing officer, Stephanie Peponis says, "We want to make her look her best today. That's different from turning back the clock."

Marketers are finding that the challenge is to market products to baby boomers without mentioning their age. Baby boomers may be pushing 60, but a lot of them are still very active, with no intention of slowing down. Companies are taking that into account, but are still offering products that fit boomers' needs.

Louis Amendola, vice president for the clothing company Brooks Brothers, says, "Sometimes we talk about slim or fitted and people are like, ‘Oh, God, I have to sausage myself into that particular shirt.’ That is not what our slim shirt is about."

Even the technology industry, traditionally dominated by younger consumers, is reaching out to baby boomers. Many music download web sites feature artists with boomer appeal, like Beach Boys, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. A consulting group, Deloitte, predicts baby boomers will dominate the marketplace by 2008.