While investors and Yellow Pages pundits continue to bang the drum telling everyone that the “younger generation” isn’t using print Yellow Pages to the degree it should, and that without this younger demographic of users the book can’t deliver value to small and medium-sized businesses, they may in fact be ignoring the book’s greatest strength. The usage habits of 18- to 30-year-olds are of concern, but the reality is that this younger generation may not in fact be a significant contributor to the financial success of local SMBs.
Are we saying the Internet generation with its desire for new technology and penchant for name-brand merchandise isn’t the main driver of the local economy? The simple answer is — not to the degree that most people and marketing organizations seem to think. The real controllers of spending and the influencers of spending are the baby boomers.
According to the Generation BUY survey conducted by Viacom and TV Land:
“Not only are 40 and 50 year-olds spending more on themselves per month than Millennials and Gen Xers but more interestingly they are spending twice as much as their younger cohorts on others in their lives. With so many people to shop for, Boomers are making several multi-generational purchase decisions at once and — contrary to common assumptions — they are far less brand loyal than Millennials and Gen Xers.”
With boomers in the sweet spot of Yellow Pages’ current usage, the value of this audience is being overlooked not only by investors and pundits, but by Yellow Page organizations as well. The traditional sales message of Yellow Pages focuses primarily on the massive local audience the book delivers based on the total distribution of the book. So as fewer people keep the book, particularly younger Internet consumers, popular logic assumes it must be less influential and drive less value to local SMBs. However, when demographics are taken into consideration, the book is in fact drawing in the largest block of income and spending influencers in the market. As Larry W. Jones, president of TV Land, points out, “Knowing that this generation has so many dependants, the means to buy the products that appeal to them and the willingness to try new brands is powerful information to share … ”
Many boomers waited to have children and more often than not have teen children in their households, which significantly influences their spending habits. Add to this the fact that many boomers now also care for elderly parents and you can begin to see the influence this audience has in the local economy.
“With the large amount of purchase decisions they are making for others spanning multiple generations, they are ‘Promiscuous Purchasers.’ The Generation BUY study found that people 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.”
While educating and winning over the next generation of local shoppers is important, the Generation BUY study suggests that the Yellow Pages’ prime user continues to wield significant financial power in the local marketplace. Given this new supporting information, it would be prudent for Yellow Page marketers to focus their print marketing and R&D efforts with boomers as their main focus and the younger generation as their developmental audience rather than the other way around. Using demographics to market the print directory would focus even more of the sales conversation on the value and influence of the directory, further bolstering its position as a major local media vehicle delivering ready-to-buy customers who are also significant influencers of additional purchase considerations. While marketing to the Internet generation is popular and sexy, the smart marketer goes where the money is.