The Marketers Still Want Me!

As I watched my 15-year-old son approach adulthood, and as I spent time talking to friends and former employees still in their 20’s and 30’s, I believed that, slowly but surely, the world was passing me by.

Especially the world of consumer marketing. So often have I read that advertisers only want to peddle their wares on media aimed at the 18- to 49-year-old demographic–a land where I once dwelled but departed with fond memories a few months ago–I figured nobody wanted my money anymore.


So I would spend the years of my dotage seeing ads for products I don’t need, don’t want, and don’t even understand. I would grow increasingly cranky as stores filled with foods that would send me immediately to the emergency room; clothing that would never fit me made from synthetics fabrics that give me a rash; and iPods with screens so small my fading eyesight would only register colorful swirls, like the light shows they used to play behind Grateful Dead concerts–only much, much smaller.

I was wrong. From, the following review of a book that dispels that myth:

In his new book The 50-Plus Market ($40, Kogan Page, 2006), Dick Stroud refers to this slightly older group as the “Charmed Generation,” the last to hail from an era of reliable defined-benefit pensions, low debt and low-cost home ownership. Retiring to relative comfort, they figure to be steady spenders for many years to come. For businesses, capturing these people is not only advantageous but imperative, Stroud argues, since the group that’s coming in behind them is so saddled with debt and future commitments.

Only 5% of all worldwide advertising budgets are geared to consumers 50 and over, while 80% is poured into the 18-34 segment–a shrinking market. That’s like Eastman Kodak putting 80% of its marketing and research and development budgets into traditional film and standing by while competitors cash in on the explosion in digital photography. The argument that the money on youth marketing is well spent because you’re “hooking ’em for life”? Forget it, he says, there’s no such thing. People of all ages try new brands all the time. A person will always leave your brand if he perceives a better value elsewhere.

Wellll…I don’t know how “charmed” I am exactly…. but the point seems valid. The reviewer continues:

Marketing strategy, (Stroud) argues, is being driven more by stereotypes than by evidence.

“Marketing theory isn’t affected by age bias, but marketers themselves are,” Stroud writes, blaming the bias on a marketing industry population that skews under 35 on the lack of an institutional commitment to break out of a comfort zone.

That includes technology, where studies show that two-thirds of Americans over 55 are now online. Few companies are selling to them effectively through the Web, though, since most Web sites are built by young people for young people. Older customers are there and ready to buy, Stroud argues. Make the design and sales process a little simpler, and you’ll get them.

I used to be concerned, when I worked at a PR agency, that as I got older, I would get out of touch. I saw examples all around me of executives even older than me, using expressions that dated back to the 1940s in pitches aimed at a bunch of 20-somethings. “We can do everything, from soup to nuts,” was the title of one of our PowerPoint slides. I wasn’t convinced that was the best title for the slide. Did these people really think the two extremes are “soup” and “nuts,” and that everything the would-be clients want falls in between? Doubtful.

But by trying to stay ahead of the times, PR and marketing people have, in fact, fallen behind the times. Young is the new old. Old is the new young. And even though I’m in my 50s, smart marketers will still try to hunt me down. I better buy some new shoes so I can outrun ’em. Maybe something endorsed by Joe Montana.” rel=”tag”>public relations


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