September 19, 2013

Where Do The Myths Come From?

The advertising and marketing industries have some very ingrained and persistent myths.

Having been in the industry for 40 years, I've heard some of these myths but I've never  seen data to support them or found out where they come from.

One of the common and pervasive legends is that older people want to be like young people. The result of this is advertising that is obsessed with showing us the insipid activities of 22 year-olds in spite of the fact that people over 50 are responsible for almost half of consumer spending.

As far as I can tell, older people certainly want to be youthful. But they have no interest at all in being like young people. This is a distinction that is apparently lost on the advertising industry.

As someone over 50, I think I have a pretty good idea of how my friends and I look at ourselves and what we aspire to.

Yes, we want to remain youthful. But we have our own idea of what "youthful" means and it has nothing at all to do with the lamentable geeks and bozos we see portrayed in automobile ads, beer ads, food ads, and advertising in general. In fact, we think of these people as either pathetic or ridiculous.

The truth is, the advertising industry has been using the "older people want to be like young people" crutch for years because they are too lazy and too preoccupied with themselves and their friends to find out what older consumers are really about.

"Old people want to be like young people" is just the narcissistic excuse that lazy, young people who dominate advertising use to justify their ignorance and indifference about the people who Nielsen calls, "the most valuable consumers in the history of marketing."

Here's an insight to the self-absorbed people of the advertising and marketing industries about 50+ year olds...

They want to be youthful. But they don't want to be like you.

Don't Forget...
I'm speaking this evening in Portland. Here's the info.


steakandcheese said...

Bob, can you tell us how you and your friends look at yourselves and what you aspire to? I'm asking because I'm one of those millennials they keep talking about, but I also find the way we are portrayed in ads is ridiculous and pathetic.

pensato said...

I think that's the big problem with approaching advertising from the perspective of "demographics" generally—a hangover from the 70s, when everyone thought that social science could be highly accurate and useful for advertising.

Better to think about things in terms of "people who like x" or "people who want to do y" and then approach it like fiction writers and actors have for centuries: figure out how "people who want to do y" think of themselves—it's way more specific than an age group or an income-bracket, while also being much less exclusive.

I'm likely to have more in common (in context) with people who share my interests than I necessarily will with people in my own age group, simply because our parents copulated in the same decade.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

The symptom of a larger problem. We live in (and create) a world of faux realities. Almost all advertisements I see are either entirely homogenous or ridiculously ethnically-corrected that they skirt either side of reality. Do people really want reality? That's a different question.

Knowing what a consumer wants to do/become/feel/try isn't rocket science. It just requires us to ask them. I do all the time, regardless of demographic. Stop looking at data and numbers and start talking to people. "The consumer is not an idiot. She is your wife." Have we forgotten so easily?

Rory@Rocket said...

I've always liked the way The Last Psych puts it:

"About twenty years ago I learned the marketing law that young people have all the disposable income-- because older people were saving-- and they spend the most, and you have to go after them. I don't believe that's true anymore. Hell, the fact that it was true 20 years ago means that those young people are older. They're still the consumerists they once were.
And so what we have here is semiotics, a redefining of terms. "Young" no longer means "ages 18-24." It means "old people who did not grow up."

Don't delude yourself that "40 is the new 30." It isn't, ask anyone who is 30. But that's your business how you want to be. The problem is that the actual youth have no idea what to make of aging. How long are they allowed to be adolescents? Pretty long, it appears. What's the reference point for being mature if your Dad isn't?"

sofia sana said...

Really the truth....

the advertising industry has been

using the "older people want to be

like young people" crutch for years

because they are too lazy and too

preoccupied with themselves and

their friends to find out what older

consumers are really about.

These are
extremely informative

These are