59% of Boomer Moms are buying cell phones – and more – for their adult children.

October 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm in Other Topics by Stephen Reily - VN Founder

I spoke last week at the vibrant Marketing-2-Moms Conference, where I shared some results from our recent “Vibrant Moms” survey. The audience seems even more surprised by those results than we were.

The “Graduate” Mom (and we don’t mean Mrs. Robinson)

For many years, marketers have treated Moms as increasingly irrelevant as their children grew older. Believing that children start asserting their own preferences and controlling their own purchase decisions, brands also assume they can ignore these children’s mothers.
As a result, by the time a child has graduated from high school (much less college), most marketers treat his or her Mom as an invisible, “mature” woman who sits around in a house dress and waits for the occasional call from her busy children.

Is that stereotype was ever true for what we’ll call a “Graduate” Mom, it certainly isn’t true now. The vibrant Graduate Mom is doing all the things we celebrate at Vibrant Nation; she might be starting a business, or going back to school herself, or traveling the world with her backpack.

The assumption that her adult children assume responsibility for their own purchases – and their own purchase decisions – is false as well.

She’s still paying the bills

We recently asked the vibrant Boomer women we gather at VibrantNation.com what expenses they were paying for their adult children, and here’s what they told us:

• 59% of Boomer women are paying for the adult child’s cell phone. Shockingly, that percentage remained consistent whether the adult child is 19 or 30. (The women of VibrantNation.com have had a lot to say about this result specifically.)
• 53% of respondents are also paying for insurance.
• 39% are paying their adult child’s rent – this is what I call the price of an empty nest.
• 38% are paying for travel (and this does not include travel to and from school).
• 36% are paying for clothing.
• 33% are paying for cars and computers.
• 24% are paying for home furnishings.

(For more information about our survey results, click here.)

These numbers illustrate some stark facts about the Recession, but also some dramatic facts about the changing relationships between Boomer parents and their Millennial/Gen Y children. 84% of our respondents told us that they are paying for more of their adult child’s expenses than their parents paid for them. And almost 50% are paying more than $5,000 in annual expenses for their adult children, separate from education expenses/tuition.

This purse has a mind of its own

When a mother is paying directly for so many expenses for her adult children, she has a direct influence on what brands are bought, and what stores are shopped at. If she likes the brand, she’s more likely to buy it for herself and her children. If she doesn’t like the brand or the store (and I’ve written about the strong feelings Boomer women have about retailers) she’s certainly not going to spend time or dollars there buying clothes with her adult child.

Yet almost no brands or retailers are talking to this women, either for her own shopping dollars or those she spends on her adult children’s behalf:

• When will cell providers wake up and market a family plan that meets this Graduate Moms needs?
• When will travel companies speak to the interests of the parents who plan ahead, spend more, and actually want to take their adult children on their trips?
Car companies ignore the Boomer women who buy more cars (and more expensive cars) after age 50 than before; when will they recognize that these women will also buy cars for the 20-something kids?

The list goes on and on, but if marketers, brands and retailers ever needed an additional reason to engage the Graduate Mom, they’ve got it now: Win this Boomer woman’s business, and she’ll bring her adult children along with her.

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