young shopper

28 January 2019

Why Marketers Should Think Older — And Why They’ll Continue To Aim Younger

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Dude Now Definitely In The Older Demo; photo by Jomjakkapat Parrueng on Unsplash

A running gag in my marketing classes was that every student-crafted plan consisted of “using social media to target Millennials.” Then the business world finally acknowledged that organic social media doesn’t really work.

So my savvier students started creating multichannel marketing plans… targeting Millennials. I would respond by making them question their demographic targeting:

  1. Why limit your reach if consumers of all ages can use your product?
  2. If you still want to target Millennials, which ones? “The Millennial Generation” is a massive, global, and arbitrarily drawn “segment” of incredibly diverse individuals who vary in age by as much as 15 years. If you “target” all of them, you might as well advertise to the entire market.
  3. Have you considered that older consumers on average have higher incomes, assets, savings, and credit, not to mention little to no student loan debt? And some of them are hip influencers themselves, such as Instagranny Baddiewinkle.

I then noted that targeting Millennials before they had good jobs (or any jobs) likely prolonged the recession that started in 2008 — especially since marketers abandoned what was working (traditional media) for what didn’t work (social media).

Yet the fixation with younger customers continues in the marketing world. Now that many Millennials finally have good incomes, assets, and credit, some marketers are starting to hype the value of Gen Z! The delusion continues.

So I was happy to see this article in Adweek that talks about the value of older consumers. Every marketer should read it. But, sadly, I doubt it will have much impact beyond the pharmaceutical industry.

For older marketing execs threatened by ageism in their workplaces, creating flashy campaigns with new technology, attractive young people, and the latest music is not about achieving sales; it’s about looking young themselves. What’s the ROI of those campaigns? Keeping their jobs.

So perhaps the only way to get sensible demographic targeting is to persuade younger marketing execs to initiate it. Yes, that means getting Millennials on board. And I heard the best way to reach them is to use social media.

Gee, I feel younger already…

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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