Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Talk to Me Like a Grown-Up

Hey, I turned 50 a few months ago, and ever since my birthday arrived, I've been getting bombarded with ads that are so off base...

Uh, no, I'm not ready to move into an assisted living center, and a free meal won't persuade me to listen to your investment pitch. I'm too busy with my family, work, career, business and life in general having fun.

And I also don't want to relive my youth. I'll let my kids live their youth...

Mediapost featured a story about this:

Excitement Or Peacefulness?
I don't have to tell you about the incredible marketing opportunity that is the 45-65 consumer in America today. You know those numbers inside and out.

And therein lies the problem. Yes, the numbers are great. In fact, the numbers are amazing and incredible and stupendous and shocking and undeniable.

So what.

That seems to be the reaction from anyone and everyone outside of the sphere of people that spends any time perusing Engage:Boomers. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a huge group with lots of money and they're going to live a really long time, blah, blah, blah blah. Tell me something I don't already know."

Okay, how about this?

That huge group with all that money? They can't hear you. They don't hear you. They're not going to hear you. And this has nothing to do with their ears.

There is a widely held misperception of the 45-65 consumer that penetrates almost all facets of mainstream marketing and communications. That misperception?

Anyone over 50 wants to be 30 again. "Everyone I know who is 45 or 50 or 60 says they still feel 30. My advertising is targeted at 30 year olds and I know that my media buy delivers loads of the 45-65 group too, so what's the problem? I'm covered."

I hear it from clients and I hear it from people in advertising. In fact, the only people I don't hear it from are the people over 50.

Why? Because the little known fact is, they don't want to be 30 again. Not at all. Not ever.

They've been there. They've done that. It was great, but that was then and this is now. And now they're not just older, they're also a lot smarter. Wiser. Hipper. Cooler. They've been around the block a time or two and they know a lot more about who they are, what they like and, perhaps more importantly, who they aren't and what they don't like.

Now, don't get me wrong. Plenty of people over 50 would like to have the skin or the knees or the hair of a 30 year old. But the one thing they would never want again is the brain of a 30 year old.

And last time I checked, marketing and advertising talks to our brains.

So all that marketing that's targeted at 30 year olds may be reaching the 50 year olds but it might as well be written in Portuguese for all the effect it has on the 50+ audience.

We respond differently, because we think differently than we did when we were in our 20's or 30's or even our 40's.

But don't take my word for it.

Last year, Stanford Graduate School of Business released a study on age and the meaning of happiness. Yes, happiness. As in, what does happiness mean to you if you're 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 or 60.

The highly intelligent people at Stanford studied 2,600 blogs. They read them looking for clues as to how different age groups wrote about the good things happening in their lives. How did they write about the things that made them happy?

The results are fascinating, but they wouldn't surprise anyone over 50. Drum roll, please.

The study found that people in their 20's, 30's and early 40's tended to equate happiness with excitement. As in "I'm so excited, I'm starting a new job" or "I had such a great weekend, I went to the wildest party with a rockin' DJ."

On the other hand, people in their 50's and beyond equated happiness with peacefulness. As in "I had such a great weekend, my wife and I had the house to ourselves, just the two of us for two straight days." Or "My new role at the company makes me feel like the years of hard work are really paying off." Or "Sailing makes me happy because it's just me and the ocean."



Two words that would most definitely change the direction of the advertising if either one was included in a creative brief.

The advertising should be exciting.

The advertising should be peaceful.

The difference is practically black and white.

And here's the most important part of this peek into the psyches of the 50+ group. That wild party with the rockin' DJ? Not only do we look at that and think, "Been there, done that," we actually look at it and say, "I wouldn't go to that party if you paid me."

The same goes for advertising. If your ad is truly targeted at the group in their 20's and 30's, you're making a critical decision. You're not just saying your brand is all about the younger group, you're also very clearly saying that your brand is not for the older group. You're saying, "Ignore this ad," to nearly 100 million consumers. You're saying, "Don't buy our product," to the group with the most disposable income on the planet.

And maybe that's what you want. The choice is yours. Just know that you are making it.

With partners Nancy McNally and David Page, Brent Bouchez founded Agency Five0, dedicated to messaging and content for the 50+ consumer. Bouchez has worked at Chiat/Day Los Angeles, Ketchum Los Angeles and Ammirati & Puris New York. He was founder and president of M&C Saatchi New York, Chief Creative Officer at Bozell New York and Founder of Bouchez Kent + Company. His clients have included BMW, Nike, Bank of America, Nikon, and many other major brand names. Reach him here.

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