To what extent is the consumer behaviour of Millennials different to that of Baby Boomers in the area of leisure? Charlotte Gordon - 15621388

Demographics and Generational Behaviour

Demographics are the measurable statistics of a population which are vital to businesses for locating a relevant target market. These statistics are shown through categories such as; age, sex, marital status and occupation. Product needs and interests often vary with consumers’ ages, therefore marketers single out particular generations into subcultural groups (Shiffman and Kanuk, 2007: 48, 439). Each generation has differing generational history and values which influence their purchasing behaviours. Therefore, when businesses consider characteristics of these groups, they can create strategies in which make it easier to build trust, relationships and close business with them (Himmel, 2008).

This page will explore the extent to which the consumer behaviour of millennials is different to that of Baby Boomers in relation to the leisure activity of fitness.


Siddiqua (2016)

Millennials are a group of individuals who were born between 1977 and 1994. Their key characteristics are shown in the video below.

They are deemed to be self-centered with a strong sense of independence and born into a technological and wireless society. They expect convenience and ease of use from products (Shiffman and Kanuk, 2007: 439).

There is a great need for peer acceptance and brands which are used by peers are valued. Creating the image of being ‘popular’ on social media is important to them (Williams and Page, 2011).

Macke (2017) stated that Mintel found millennials net wealth is around half as much as Baby Boomers when they were young adults. 36% say they spent more on leisure in 2016 compared to 2015.

baby boomers

Siddiqua (2016)

Baby boomers are a group of individuals who were born between 1946 and 1964. Their key characteristics are shown in the video below.

They are a group who have defined themselves by their careers and whilst some have retired, many plan to continue working and develop their lifestyle towards an active retirement.

They have increased voluntary time and income compared to millennials, and they are less price sensitive if they feel that they are getting a product of higher quality.

This group respond to communications which presents them with facts in order to help them make a decision. Personal gratification and recognition from companies and word of mouth are deemed to be very effective in order to influence them (Williams and Page, 2011).

Baby Boomers are the second largest population in the UK and they are in a financially stronger position compared to other generations; making them a key target for brands (Mintel, 2015a).

cognitive learning theory

This page will use cognitive learning theory to evaluate the similarities and differences between consumer behaviour of millennials and baby boomers. Please watch from time 0:31 to 0:54 of the video below.

Shiffman and Kanuk (2007: 217)

Bray et al (2010) states that it explains everyday behaviours such as purchasing and consuming through looking at the ability of a consumer to choose a brand based on attitudes, wants, needs and motives.

The consumer searches for and processes information about a product (or service) by these categories which leads to information being retained and retrieved to achieve a set goal (Batkoska and Koseska, 2012).

consumer behaviour of millennials and baby boomers in relation to fitness

As health, wellbeing and energy are important to baby boomers, gyms and health clubs market to this generation by providing communications which show a range of activities and facilities for different levels of fitness and health (Morgan and Summers, 2005). This generation is willing to invest time and money into things which help to preserve their sense of youth and vitality. If a business communicates stimuli which this consumer deems to be relevant to them, information is more likely to be encoded into long term memory; resulting in their product or service being remembered (Harkin and Huber, 2004).

As a result, fitness sectors are thriving by responding to these priorities. Memberships at gyms and fitness groups have risen in baby boomer consumers who have time to exercise. As this generation want to spend their free time doing something they deem to be worthwhile, gyms and fitness groups are a problem solver for reaching this goal.

Opportunities presented by fitness-seeking baby boomers has led to a growing number of niche gym providers dedicated to the 50+ market. As communications from marketers show the health and physical benefits, individuals are presented with information in which they will process in solving how to reach their goal. These communications are likely to be via more traditional methods. It is also important that these communications use visuals as encoding information via this method is much quicker than through written information (Cochran, Rothschal and Rudick, 2009).

On the other hand, millennials view health and exercise as contributing towards being a successful individual. As perceptions by others are very important to this generation, sharing information about the fitness journey they are taking, and visuals surrounding this, is something which could be used to show peers just how ‘successful’ they are.

A fifth of millennials visit gyms or fitness groups frequently, and one of the main aspects for deciding on where to attend is related to cost. Millennials opt for lower-cost leisure activities, whereas baby boomers have the disposable income to invest if they feel the value is right (Mintel, 2015b). If a fitness product or service communicates cost as being affordable to this generation, information is much more likely to be encoded and remembered in the long term.

A Nielson survey (2013) found millennials view traditional health clubs as something for older generations. Therefore, gyms and fitness centres need to communicate to this generation that they will provide short, but effective, work outs and value for money.

The survey also found that new forms of fitness are becoming popular with this generation. This is due to the cost-conscious Millennials using technology to save them money and that they may have less time to, or lack the transport to, travel to and from the gym compared to baby boomers.

Millennials have created a shift towards smartphone fitness apps, which have been developed by brands such as FitBit and Nike, which incorporate both the communal mindset (via sharing information on social media) and the active lifestyle of millennials. Baby boomers, although technologically able, are much less likely to use technology in this way (Mintel, 2015b).

In relation to this as millennials are not brand loyal, they react to brands which are convenient and their peers are using. Whereas, baby boomers are much more likely to want to stay loyal to one brand which has a well-established reputation and has values which they can relate to.

Lenhart et al (2010) found that 31% of millennials get fitness information from the internet. Baby boomers are more likely to gain knowledge on fitness through word-of-mouth or promotional emails. Cognitive learning theory states that if individuals already have knowledge surrounding a certain topic, they are more likely to retrieve the information already stored and apply it to encoding the new information received. As millennials and baby boomers gain knowledge around fitness, if communications are relevant to their needs they are much likely to respond to it (Shiffman and Kanuk, 2007).

limitations of cognitive learning theory

Solomon (2016) state that by using cognitive learning theory to explain consumer behaviour, it presumes that the consumer is rational, logical, discerning and active in the decisions which they make. This assumption has been criticised by many academics.

Some theorists also state that it is impossible to objectively study unobservable behaviour. McLeod (2015) state that only external stimuli should be studied as they can be scientifically measured, whereas the information processing theory is something which can only be subjectively researched.


In conclusion, if a business considers characteristics of both generations, they can communicate stimuli which is relevant to the consumer. Baby boomers react to stimuli which shows a product or service which caters for a range of levels of fitness and has been recommended to them through word-of-mouth or traditional forms of communications. Millennials react to stimuli which communicates a sense of ease, effective work outs and low costs.

Both generations will encode information quicker if visuals are shown which represents to them an individual which they can relate to and which makes them feel that if they picked that particular product or service they would attain an end goal which resulted in them looking similar. Baby boomers are more likely to store information if the individual in the communications looks to be of similar age, youthful and healthy. Whereas millennials want to relate to someone who deemed as successful in both being physically fit and looking good to others.

Both generations are likely to encode information from communications if they already hold some knowledge surrounding fitness.

Therefore, although it is important to take into consideration the limitations of this model, cognitive learning theory can be applied when explaining consumer behaviour in terms of both millennials and baby boomers, but also gives insight into the difference in how they make purchasing decisions.

Reference list

Batkoska, L. and Koseska, E. (2012). The Impact of Cognitive Learning on Consumer Behaviour. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 44, pp.70-77.

Bray, J., Johns, N. and Kilburn, D. (2010). An Exploratory Study into the Factors Impeding Ethical Consumption. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(4), pp.597-608.

Cochran, L., Rothschadl, A. and Rudick, J. (2009). Leisure programming for baby boomers. 1st ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Harkin, J. and Huber, J. (2004). Eternal youths; how the baby boomers are having their time again. 1st ed. London: Demos.

Himmel, B. (2008). Different Strokes for Different Generations. Rental Product News, 30(7), pp.42-46.

Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A. and Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social media and mobile internet use among teens and young adults. Washington: Pew internet and american life project.

Macke, D. (2017). Millennials worth less than Boomers at the same age. [Blog] Mintel Academic. Available at: [Accessed 18 Mar. 2017].

McLeod, S. (2015). Cognitive Psychology. [Blog] Simply Psychology. Available at: [Accessed 27 Mar. 2017].

Mintel, (2015a). Marketing to baby boomers- UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Mar. 2017].

Mintel, (2015b). Leisure Habits of Millennials- UK. [online] Mintel. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Morgan, M. and Summers, J. (2005). Sports marketing. 1st ed. Southbank, Vic.: Thomson, pp.88-89.

Nielson, (2013). Les mills global consumer fitness survey. [online] Available at:’s-biggest-sport/ [Accessed 15 Mar. 2017].

Schiffman, L. and Kanuk, L. (2007). Consumer behavior. 1st ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, pp.48, 439.

Siddiqua, M. (2016). Gen X vs Y- Factors shaping consumer behaviour. [Blog] ThinkDesign. Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

Solomon, M. (2016). Consumer behaviour: A European perspective. 6th ed. London: Pearson.

Williams, K. and Page, R. (2011). Marketing to the generations. Journal of Behavioural Studies in Business, 5(1), pp.1-17.


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