The End Of Age-Based Campaigns

Get any two marketers together and they’ll start talking about Millennials, the holy grail of marketing. They’re cool, tattooed, culturally savvy, social to a fault, and account for a whopping 24% of the U.S. population. On the flip side, they don’t make a lot of money, have significant school-related debt and are much less likely to be married or own a home. So, why does it seem that every campaign is aimed at Millennials?

The answer? Old school marketing and thinking about targets for campaigns. Just using the word “target” puts you back in the pre-social era. For decades, target marketing was how things were done in the advertising world. “Get me women 25-54” or “I need to reach men 18-34.” Then there was the dreaded 18-49 demographic, which consigned those over 50 to the marketing dustbin, unless you were selling catheters on Fox News to the afternoon crowd.

There are many age-related products and services that exist. For example, items geared towards going to college, becoming a new mom, and getting ready to retire. However, I would argue that these are more about life-stage changes than actual age. As society changes, the age at which someone goes to college, starts a family, and retires has become more elastic. 



Given the wealth of consumer data we have to work with, it’s time to forget about age for many products and services. People no longer categorize themselves by age. More importantly, classifying by age is not how people associate themselves with communities or explore information. Targeting by age, no matter what the advertising medium, will likely slice off millions of potential customers. Especially Boomers. 

As has been oft noted, the consumer decision-making process has changed and education and awareness happens on the web in a self directed search and journey. The wealth of content and channel choices has presented new opportunities and interests to consumers. They now see what their friends and colleagues are sharing on social media, which further spurs interest. 

Business to consumer (B2C) marketing needs to act a little bit more like business to business (B2B). In B2B marketing, they focus on the empowered buyer who has the desire and ability to purchase, rather than getting caught up in title and function. Consumer marketers should think this way, too. By using content marketing, social media, email, search and retargeting, you can focus on consumer’s interests, behaviors and actions. To engage and activate a prospect, the key is tapping into their motivation and needs. This is the rub when marketing to Boomers. So many Boomers are written off because they have gone past a chronological milepost. Companies are leaving money on the table by excluding older people when they create media plans that set artificial age limits.

It’s time to rethink campaign management. Persona-based marketing is the new demographic. To be successful, market to motivations and emotions, not birthdays.

3 comments about "The End Of Age-Based Campaigns".
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  1. Laurie Tema-lyn from Practical Imagination Enterprises, January 13, 2015 at 1:12 p.m.

    This is so right on!

  2. Pete Healy from gyro, January 13, 2015 at 2:31 p.m.

    Brilliant post! As a Boomer (and a veteran marketer in both the B2C and B2B realms), it frustrates me to see lazy marketing that reduces Boomers - or Millennials, for that matter - to a simplistic caricature. Marketers who settle for that deserve to fail. I have a close friend of 40 years who recently showed me a kayak he's building; I never would have imagined him doing that, and I was as delighted as I was surprised to learn this new thing about him. As long as people continue to grow, whatever their age, your call to "market to motivations and emotions, not birthdays" will hold true for smart marketers.

  3. Gordon Plutsky from 21 Advisors, January 13, 2015 at 6:42 p.m.

    Laurie and Pete - thanks so much for the comments. Appreciate it.

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