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How to market cannabis to boomers

How to market cannabis products to boomers

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series by generational marketing expert Chuck Underwood. It began with an introduction to how to apply generational marketing strategies to the cannabis industry. This week’s article is focused on how to market cannabis to Boomers, and may be of particular interest to retailers who operate in areas with large populations of older people.

The Baby Boom Generation

Born: 1946 through 1964

Current age in 2021:  57 to 75

Cannabis:  enormous opportunity with both medicinal and recreational markets

The Boomers.  Their core values have transformed America at each life stage.  Here is their value to the cannabis industry:

  1. They are the largest US generation ever.   
  2. They possess the greatest purchasing power of any generation ever.
  3. In their youth, they embraced recreational drugs at unprecedented levels. As a result, Boomers are typically at ease with cannabis.
  4. They will live to be older than any previous generation.  And because they are the celebrated “forever-young Boomers,” they will want to live every year vigorously.  So if you market your products to them generationally, “connect” with them, and emphasize health and wellness, they will almost surely be huge consumers.

Boomers’ formative years: 1950s through early ’80s

Boomers were America’s first-ever youth-empowered generation.  And with their empowerment, idealism, and massive population, they pushed forward six major social revolutions:

  1. civil rights movement 
  2. women’s movement 
  3. war protest movement 
  4. environmental movement 
  5. drug revolution
  6. spiritual revolution 

The drug revolution: Drugs were not a new thing. But in the 1960s, with Boomers still in their school years, they achieved an unprecedented level of popularity. Youth culture was inundated with pot, hash, mushrooms, uppers, downers, coke, heroin, and relatively new hallucinogens like LSD. 

Most Boomers were naïve kids when these drugs hit and, like all children, they were certain they were invincible and would live forever.  And so their generation mainstreamed drugs. Lives were damaged and lost. But from the beginning, Boomer thinking DID separate cannabis from harder drugs; pot simply didn’t cause the same harm.  And unlike beer and booze, it was a high without a hangover. Cool!

Boomers’ lives: today and tomorrow

To Boomers, full retirement is not a “reward.” Without a burning reason for waking up each day, retirement is a glide path to death. So Boomers are reshaping still another life stage. In massive numbers, they will work as late in life as possible, perhaps in new disciplines. Their continuing paychecks will give them even more purchasing power. They’ll ride the wave of anti-aging medicine and science to keep their bodies and brains pain-free and healthy.

They will spend money on their wellness. 

How to market cannabis to boomers

The Boomers’ forever-young mentality is quite real, which is why I include in my marketing seminars “the seven dirty words you can never say to boomers”:

  1. senior citizen
  2. retirement/retiree
  3. aging
  4. golden years
  5. silver years
  6. prime time
  7. mature

As with Silents, you should educate the Boomer masses about what cannabis is today, especially medicinal, with good literature in your store. Target Boomer-friendly periodicals with stories on the medicinal value of cannabis. 

Many of the strategies you read in the Silent Generation article also apply to Boomers. Some are repeated here verbatim. In my next article about GenX, this list will change quite a bit. 

  1. Boomers are “forever students.” They love to learn. So teach them.
  2. Some Boomers’ sight and hearing are diminishing. Use largest-possible type on your product containers and store signage. Choose a font that is plain, not fancy. Use strong color contrast so the type clearly “pops.” Shelve key products at eye level and make sure your store is well lit.  
  3. Boomers have an exceptional passion for the music of their youth – ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Play it in your store music for atmosphere. But…
  4. When you’re talking to Boomers, be prepared to kill background music or other competing noise. Boomers were the first arena-rock-concert generation; many Boomer ears are damaged.  
  5. Look at them when you’re talking! It connotes sincerity and honesty. And people with diminished hearing become very skilled at reading a speaker’s facial expressions and lips. So don’t turn your head from them while talking; let them read your face. 
  6. Boomers are the final generation to whom common courtesy is IMMENSELY important. Gen-X store clerks: the courtesy Boomers seek from you will be at a much higher level than the courtesy your generation grew up with during a more time-starved, less courteous America. This generational difference is a significant part of my training content in generational customer-service strategies.  
  7. Boomers launched the hippie look. The long-haired, peace-and-love, earth mother look is “theirs,” so they’re comfortable with it. But store clerks with tattoos/piercings are post-Boomer and can be alienating. 
  8. Like Silents, Boomers love to read hard copies. Offer them pamphlets and other takeaways that will educate them further on your products.  Let’s work together to prepare generation-specific pamphlets. Imagine a Boomer customer seeing a pamphlet entitled “Boomers and cannabis.” How about a special event? A Boomer Cannabis Night at your store if there’s space, or off-site if there isn’t. Teach them!
  9. This generation is giving its best to fight off the aches and pains and mood swings of aging. They’re trying so hard. So help them. And win.

Chuck Underwood has been the keynote speaker at two international cannabis conferences. He is a pioneer in generational study; he wrote the book “America’s Generations In The Workplace, Marketplace, And Living Room” and hosts the PBS television series “America’s Generations With Chuck Underwood.” He trains American and Canadian business, government, education, and religious organizations in generational strategies.

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