September 01, 2007

Blind to the facts

Advertising and marketing people want to believe that everyone is young, urban, and hip -- just like them. That's why so much advertising is misguided and irrelevant to the people who actually buy things.

The idea that every product must be marketed to a young audience is so baked into the DNA of the marketing community that they can't see beyond this counterproductive, crippling prejudice. Two recent experiences brought this point home to me.

I recently went to a conference at which a company explained its "youth" strategy. Because this company sells expensive products, their young buyers are defined as 18-34 year olds.

They showed us video made by people they are targeting. The videos were about the new and different ways these 20-somethings use media (by the way, anecdotal video like this has zero value as research, but that's another story.) Then they made the point that they will be using non-traditional media and creative strategies to reach these people. Only one problem. The average buyer of this product is 53 years old. They skipped over this fact so fast you'd think it was radioactive. In spite of the fact that their average customer is over 50, they have convinced themselves that this is a "youth" product. Not one person raised his hand and said "wait a minute."

Second, I was privy to some research done for a financial institution. The key fact to know is that 77% of financial assets in the US are controlled by people over 50. In the many focus groups that were conducted to study the behaviors and beliefs of customers in this category, there was not a single person over 50.

For more about this, see Aiming Low.


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