One of the most infamous advertising campaigns in the history of the auto industry was called, "This Is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile."
The premise was that Oldsmobile was suddenly a vehicle for young people. There were only three problems with this campaign:
1. Young people couldn't afford and didn't buy new cars
2. When they did, they'd rather stick a jelly donut up their ass than buy an Oldsmobile
3. The campaign insulted the people who did buy these cars - their parentsApparently, Oldsmobile thought it was a good idea to malign their real customers and flatter the people who would never buy their products. Why? Because their real customers were old, and everyone in advertising and marketing hates old people.
It may have been the first time in the history of business that a company told its customers that their product was no longer for them.
Marketers, it seems, would rather pander fruitlessly to young people than make real money selling things to old people.
The idea of people over 50 driving their cars, drinking their coffee, eating their hamburgers, and wearing their sneakers is so appalling and such an embarrassment that they willfully ignore and disparage the most valuable economic group in the history of the world.
Well, believe it or not, the Oldsmobile campaign flopped, and ultimately Oldsmobile folded.
What hasn't folded, however, is marketers' irrational obsession with young people and loathing of old people.
Today, marketers are just as likely to target people simply because they are young -- even though they have no money and cannot and will not buy their products .
Conversely, they are just as likely to ignore people who are old -- even though they have lots of money and are prime targets for their products.
As I wrote recently, automobile marketers continue their idiotic habit of targeting people 18-34 for "youth cars" despite the fact that 88% of the people who buy these cars are over 35.
Almost everyone you see in a car commercial is between the ages of 18 and 24. And yet, people 75 to dead buy five times as many new cars as people 18 to 24.
In fact, marketers are more likely than ever to ignore and insult the people who can actually buy their products and grow their businesses.
Marketers contempt for and prejudice against older people is a remarkable and fascinating story. They have volumes of data that tell them about the size and power of the over 50 market, but because of their hard-wired prejudices they are blind to it.
It is very much the story of the weapon that is hidden in plain sight.
If you could find a group
...who was responsibly for about half of all consumer spending
...who control over 70% of all the wealth in the country
...who dominate 94% of all CPG categories
...who buy almost 2/3's of all new cars
...who owned 57% of all second and vacation homes and all the stuff that goes with that
...who are far easier and cheaper to reach than other groups
would you ignore them?
There is only one type of person foolish enough to do that -- a marketing person.
If we dropped marketing people in from Mars and they looked at the data, they would immediately understand how important it is to aim marketing activity at people over 50.
Unfortunately, our marketing leaders don’t come from Mars. They come from New York and LA and Chicago where decades of prejudices and legends have overwhelmed simple, clear thinking.
I was speaking to a very smart ad agency guy recently. He made a great point:
"If I could talk to CFOs about this, they'd get it in 5 seconds. But I have to talk to CMOs."According to Nielsen, people over 50 are "the most valuable generation in the history of marketing." Yet only 5% of advertising is directed at them.
Why? Because marketers are embarrassed by them. They are afraid that 18-year-olds will, god forbid, see people over 50 using their products.
Marketers think that people over 50 are decrepit old farts. The unrelenting stupidity of marketers cannot accept the fact that Barrack Obama, Jerry Seinfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Bruce Springsteen, Meryl Streep and tens of millions of others are all over 50. They are healthy, wealthy, and wise. And, in many ways, hipper and more youthful than the marketers.
Oh, but they're dying out, right? Not exactly. Between now and 2030 the adult population over 50 will grow at about three times the rate of adults under 50. It's the young people who are dying out.
Marketers are also under the delusion that older people want to be like young people. Yeah, Steven Spielberg is aching to be like Justin Bieber, and Michelle Obama is just itching to be like the doofuses in Taco Bell commercials.
Let's be honest here. As a former ad guy, I am sorry to have to say that any intelligent business person who comes into contact with advertising and marketing people soon discovers that many are exactly what the clichés say -- shallow, glib mediocrities who have learned some dreadful jargon and buzzwords and repeat them endlessly.
When it comes to having the imagination to understand the tremendous opportunity that is staring them in the face, they are clueless. They are obsessed with people like themselves. They think that everyone is a young, big city, coastal elite hipster.
Despite their pretensions of leading-edge hipness, they are mired in beliefs and practices that are 30 years out of date.
Strong letter to follow.