July 26, 2010

The Amazing Blindness of Marketers

One of the long-running themes of this blog is how the marketing and advertising world have lost touch with reality .

There are two major manifestations of this disconnection. As you might expect from an industry as confused as ours, they are contradictory.

First is the delusional religion of the shiny new object. It is a tendency to fall in love with whatever is new. It is a future-fantasy instinct.

The second is the unconscious adherence to legends and rituals. It is a reactionary instinct.

I have written a lot about the first -- particularly in reference to the fads and fantasies of digital marketing.

Today we are going to talk about the second.

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog 3 years ago was called "Aiming Low." I said...
Of all the dumb things that advertisers do, one of the dumbest is aiming their message too young....There seems to be an irresistible need for marketers to target young people despite monumental evidence that older people have far more money, are far easier to reach and all-in-all make better customers.
The post went on to say that people over 50...
  ...control 77% of all financial assets
  ...control 50% of all discretionary spending...
  ...are the target for 10% of all advertising

There are only two possible explanations for the above. Either advertisers are crazy, or they are hopelessly out of touch with...the people who economically control this country.
An article in MarketingDaily last week gives us good reason to believe that in the intervening three years, if anything, marketers have gotten even farther out of touch.

According to the piece, Nielsen says...
  • Baby boomers dominate 94% of all consumer packaged goods categories.
  • They purchase almost 40% of consumer packaged goods
  • They account for 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users and Twitter users.
  • Even in technology categories, where marketers assume young people dominate, baby boomers  "are purchasing at rates just as high as other segments, and because they are often buying for their kids, many are double-dipping.
The astounding part: According to this article, less than 5% of advertising is aimed at people over 50.

So you ask yourself, how can marketers and advertisers possibly be this stupid? 

Simple -- legends and rituals. 

The legend is that baby boomers are frozen in some universe where nothing ever changes. According to Nielsen, "...marketers continue to believe that Boomers are either reluctant to experiment with new technology and brands, or that because they've been loyal to a certain brand for a number of years, they'll stay that way." This nonsense has been around since the first 26 year-old was made an assistant brand manager.

The ritual is that you have to target the young and hip. Why? Um, because...well, that's what we always do...and anyway, um...I'm a media planner and I'm young and hip, and all my friends are young and hip... and um....

And then there's this. Once again, from Aiming Low
The worst and perhaps most pervasive rationale for targeting young people is the notion that if you get them young you’ll have them for life. This is the idiotic “lifetime value” argument ... Someone please show me one 50-year-old who drives the same car, drinks the same beverages, wears the same clothes, or eats the same food he did at 18.
I mean, besides my brother-in-law.

A Perfect Example...
...of companies witlessly marketing to young people. It's an insurance company marketing to people who a) can't afford insurance (and would have no coverage at all if it weren't for mommy and daddy) and b) are the worst insurance risks imaginable. But they're oh so young and hip.

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