The Origins of Ageless Marketing

My friend and mentor, David B. Wolfe, passed away Dec. 3, 2011, after a long illness. David’s special interest was mature markets. He wrote Serving the Ageless Market and (co-authored) Ageless Marketing, Firms of Endearment, and his last book, Brave New Worldview, was completed just before his death and will be published in the near future. He will be missed.

More than 20 years ago, our firm was created based upon David’s research and the principles of Developmental Relationship Marketing (DRM). This is a summary of the foundation/principles of Ageless Marketing.

The origins of Ageless Marketing stem from the five basic premises of DRM that define the origins of behavior, and its general path across the lifespan. They increase marketers’ effectiveness in linking product messages to the hidden (unconscious) drivers of consumers’ marketplace behavior by revealing behavior predispositions in various periods across the lifespan.



Finally, the five premises contain benchmarks for testing the validity of what people report about their attitudes, needs and motivations. This is critical given that recent brain research indicates that all motivations are rooted outside the realms of consciousness. We can only speculate about the foundations of our behavior; thus overly relying on the literal meanings of consumers’ testimonies doubtlessly accounts for many marketing failures. 

First Premise:  Origins of behavior

A person’s worldviews, needs, motivations and general approaches to needs satisfaction are predisposed – not predetermined -- by her/his current season of life, and originate in five systems of motivatingunderlying values (MUV Values).  MUV systems, from which all behavior emerges, are biologically innate and constitute the basic building blocks of behavior. In effect, the five MUV systems are the DNA of behavior:

MUV Systems  

Source of Needs, Motivations

Identity Values   

Sense of Self, and differentiation, maximization and perpetuation of Self

Relationship Values  

Connections for orientation, grounding, validation of Self, and resources for help in meeting needs; includes institutions and belief systems

Purpose Values   

Commanding focus of Self’s energy output and efforts

Adaptation Values    

Skills, knowledge, for fulfillment of the Self’s potential

Energy Values    

Health and well-being of the Self in the physical, psychological domains

Second Premise:  Origins of motivations

Urges to satisfy needs arise from root motivations that are activated by tensions between five sets of bipolar forces. The first force (objective force) in each set dominates behavior in the first half of life; the second force (subjective force) in each set dominates behavior in the second half of life.

MUV Values

First half of life

Second half of life


Objective force

Subjective force


dependence vs.



materialism vs.



egocentrism vs.



novelty vs.



disengagement/escape vs.


Third Premise:  Domains of personal development

Personal development evolves in two domains of the self. These domains contain the roots of all developmental potential. The two developmental domains are:

  • Physical domain - the organic Self, which encompasses all body systems. Primary development is completed in adolescence.  Secondary development continues throughout life in order to keep body systems and functions in healthy states.

  • Psychological domain - the inorganic Self which encompasses the conscious and unconscious mind.   Broadly speaking, following infancy, the mental Self develops through three cognitive styles across the lifespan as follows:

a) Subjective style: the primary cognitive style in childhood causing children to frequently experience the products of their imagination as reality.

b) Objective style: the primary cognitive style in adolescence and young adulthood when Self is experienced as an extension of the world.  They do not experience reality as an integrated scheme of the whole.  Reality to them is unambiguous, with truth being absolute or independent of context.

c) Integrated style the primary cognitive style of people in midlife or older.  This style reflects a complex integration of subjective and objective styles. Reality is seen in terms of relationships whose elements are in constant flux.  Meanings depend on context.  This nullifies absolutism and renders reality in “shades of gray.”

Fourth Premise: Keeping information flow to levels the conscious mind can manage

The brain resolves this problem by conducting information triage. The criterion the brain uses to determine what information will be sent to the conscious mind is the relevance of information to a person’s survival scenario, a matrix of needs whose satisfaction is vital to a person’s comfort and pleasure and avoidance of discomfort and pain.

Fifth Premise: Seasons of life – stages of personal development

There are four seasons of personal development. The first two are dominated by social (psychosocial) development needs; the last two by inner (psychospiritual) development needs.


Developmental Focus Years

Survival Focus


Initial development, 0 - 22

Play (learning) Comedic mode: “everything will generally break in my favor.”


Vocational development, 18+ - 40+

Work (becoming somebody) Romantic mode: heroic – “I can do anything I set out to do.”


Shift to inner development, 38+ - 60+

Work-play (search for meaning) Tragic mode: “I can’t do as much as I once thought; who am I really?”


Integration of life experiences, 58+ - ?

Reconciliation (making sense of life) Ironic mode: “There’s good in most every bad, bad in most every good – c’est la via!”

Ageless Marketing is an excellent primer on connecting more effectively with boomers and older adults and further exploring DRM summarized above. Knowledge gained should result in a better understanding of whole brain, true-to-life models of customer behavior and consequently more effective links with targeted populations.

2 comments about "The Origins of Ageless Marketing".
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  1. Lori Bitter from The Business of Aging, March 5, 2012 at 9:45 p.m.

    Great synopsis of David's work and theory. Thank you for creating this post. It's a tribute to David's work and legacy to us all.

  2. Richard Ambrosius from Positive Aging LLC, March 6, 2012 at 2:17 p.m.

    Rather than worshiping at the Boomer alter, David encouraged us to adopt an ageless approach using the elements of DRM, which you have expertly summarized. I too lost a good friend and mentor with David's passing. He left some big shoes to fill and it will take those of us who benefited from his incredible wisdom and insight to continue his advocacy. Thanks for a great tribute and post.

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