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Wrapping up our short takes from new Pew Research Center data, we turn to religion.  Pew’s study says that Millennials are not as religious as the four elder cohorts – Gen X, Baby Boom, and generations Silent and Greatest.


Pew points to people’s natural “tendency to place greater emphasis on religion as they age” but notes that – when you look at how the generations felt when they were of similar ages (18-29 years old), Millennials are more like Baby Boomers than Gen X.

“[Y]oung people today look very much like Baby Boomers did at a similar point in their life cycle; in a 1978 Gallup poll, 39% of Boomers said religion was very important to them.”

We are reminded that marketing to Boomers or any other generation for that matter) cannot be based on a cohort’s label alone.  It’s what what Dick Stroud once called the “the blindingly obvious – lifestyle and lifestage trumps age.”

Attitudes about religion change with life stage, throughout our lives.   For example, AARP found that Boomers’ confidence in organized religion had actually decreased from the 1970s to 2002.

Can Spirituality be a Marketing Motivator?

While attitudes about organized religion or the importance of religion may change, Baby Boomers as a cohort have been consistently motivated by spirituality.  A 2007 AARP study found that 85% of Boomers rank themselves from either “somewhat spiritual” to “very spiritual.” This is a motivating factor marketers should consider.

In an enlightening 2008 webinar for the International Mature Marketing Network (IMMN), Dr. Carol Orsborn of VibrantNation talked about “The Intersection Between Marketing and Spirituality in the Boomer Marketplace.”  Orsborn sees spiritual buzzwords hidden in advertising.  Lotions that help you “make peace with your skin;” earphones that create “a sanctuary.”

One of Orsborn’s posts from fall 2008 tracks the “spiritual history” of Boomers.  (A 2006 Newsweek article:  “Boomers, Religion and the Meaning of Life” also offers context.)  Orsborn wrote that today, 50+ers (especially women), are looking for meaning and renewal, and they’re open to spiritual opportunities outside of churches or synagogues or mosques.

What do you think, generational marketers?  Should we, as John Lennon wrote, imagine there’s no religion?  Can we/should we tap into Boomers’ ongoing search for meaning and renewal to create business results?


UPDATE 08/05/2013: Rachel Held Evans digs deep into “Why Millennials are leaving the church” — and finds commonalities among all generations. Worth a read:

About The Author

Erin Read

For nearly 13 years, Erin Read spearheaded integrated and digital marketing programs for Creating Results' clients. She directed and co-authored four national studies/eBooks (Photo Finish and three editions of Social, Silver Surfers) and served as the principal blogger for Mature Marketing Matters. Now a consultant to the agency, Erin is leveraging her expertise in marketing to baby boomers and seniors while tackling new challenges. Find her on LinkedIn .