Review: "The Old Rush"

Is targeting the 18-49 demographic still rational? Are marketers missing out by shifting the focus from baby boomers, instead of capitalizing on their spending drive? 

According to Peter Hubbell, author of "The Old Rush: Marketing for Gold in the Age of Aging" and founder/CEO of BoommAgers, an ad agency dedicated to the aging consumer, the answer is an unequivocal yes. His book, a primer for marketers, is about selling brands to a golden demographic: 80 million baby boomers.

Today, boomers purchase 94% of consumer packaged goods and have 70% of the disposable income. No other consumer may ever generate the per-capita value of the baby boomer generation. And by 2030, about one in five Americans will be older than 65.

While intended as a book on the marketing opportunities inherent in aging, "The Old Rush" draws a parallel with the Gold Rush. The primary lesson? Act quickly. Those who will gain the most will be those who get there first. Marketers wanting to capture the fast-growth potential must abandon misconceptions about marketing and aging. This means overcome a built-in bias about marketing to the boomers. 



"The Old Rush," from LID Publishing, offers insights and advices on marketing to the over-50 consumer. Hubbell claims marketers need to up their game; tools and processes used for younger consumers won’t be helpful with aging consumers.

Instead, he proposes a new targeting model called Generation Marketing. Unlike traditional age- and stage-based targeting models the generational model focuses on marketing to consumers’ generational values, which are personal beliefs that are preserved regardless of t age or life stage. These generational values affect behavior and brand choices. Once you understand and tap into them, you’ll be able to make authentic connections between consumers and the brand.

In other words, it’s less about the age and more about the shared experiences, especially those from youth.

A boomer himself, Hubbell provides an example of how some established brands address the 50+ boomers — those born 1946-1964. He praises Budweiser’s balance in appealing to youth (Super Bowl ads) while still speaking to the boomers (“For all you do, this Bud’s for you” campaign).

Conversely, he can’t get over his disappointment with Levi’s new campaign displaying “an off-putting, intertwines young couple that looked like an oversexed pair of jobless vagrants who didn’t have enough money between them to buy a pair of jeans, let alone the two pairs of Levi’s they were wearing.” 

"The Old Rush" doesn’t provide many specific tools; it's a great quick-read that helps recognize the opportunities that shouldn’t be missed by marketers. Hubbell’s questioning of the status quo — marketers’ blind dedication to 18-49s — has a pretty sobering effect. But for companies hoping to woo the lucrative boomer audience, it's a helpful inside scoop.

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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 3, 2014 at 9 a.m.

    The vast majority of TV time buys use 18-49 or 25-54 as their "targeting" focus but this is very misleading. In reality, when upfront corporate buys are made, reflecting the "needs" of a variety of brands, 18-49 or 25-54 is nothing more than a compromise, creating an umbrella "demographic" for the buyers to work with as the basis for their guaranteed GRP audience delivery. It is understood that in almost all cases, the GRPs that such buys attain for 50+ audiences will be higher than those for the stated "target group" as older persons are, by far, TV's most frequent viewers. Also, the audience guarantee system that has been in place for decades, is based on what the sellers are willing to go with. In most cases, they will refuse to guarantee audience tonnage for more selective segments on the ridiculous grounds that the ratings are less stable for such demos. This is nonsense, as the guarantees are not show- or telecast-specific but, rather, apply only for the entire schedule, across many shows and telecasts. Audience targeting aside, the more relevant issue is how the ad campaigns approach their targets and here, the sad fact is that even though older consumers represent a large share of the users for many products or services, they are often taken for granted as "set in their ways" and "brand loyal" while it is assumed that younger audiences may be more easily swayed by a brand's TV sales pitch. This is true to a certain extent, but not as true as is commonly thought. So, to play it safe, many 18-49 targeted commercials will insert an "oldster" or two in several scenes, often acting like props for the other players or behaving in a silly, "youngish" manner. To be fair, however, it should be noted that because it is impossible to direct specific TV commercials to specific people, it is inevitable that many old people will be exposed to younger slanted brand messages and the reverse is also true. That's why advertisers are so reluctant to craft their TV ads depicting "realistic" older folks scenarios. They are afraid that young consumers, who regard oldsters as---I'm sorry to say it--- not terribly smart or "with it" may have such feelings rub off on the brand if it tries to be an "old folk's" brand in older targeted commercials.

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