The Invincible Blindness Of Advertisers
by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay Sometimes it is hard to overstate the cluelessness of the advertising and marketing industries.
We are exquisitely sensitive to every little gimmick or fad that pops up, and completely oblivious to dramatic, powerful change when it occurs.
The largest consuming group in the history of the world is moving into new territory and marketers are paying no attention. This change is vastly more important to business than mobile strategies or social media or content creation, or any of the other bonehead sideshows we are obsessed with.
The youngest members of the baby boom generation, the generation that changed marketing and essentially invented consumerism, are now turning 50. The oldest members are now over 65. These people are the financial powerhouse that drives our economy.
They control over 75% of the nation’s wealth. They account for 50% of all consumer spending. They buy 62% of all new cars. They dominate 94% of all CPG categories. They are the target for 5% of all advertising!
Between now and 2030, while the drooled-over 18-49 segment is expected to grow 12%, the 50+ segment will grow at 3 times that rate.
Nielsen says “Boomers are the most valuable generation in the history of marketing.“ Yet the marketing industry essentially ignores them.
When it deigns to talk to them, it treats them as if they are a bundle of maladies that need remediation.
How can this be? The answer is simple. Marketing “leaders” are mostly mediocre lemmings who live on the fumes of fads and on leftover legends.
80% of all workers in the professional and business services sector are under 55. They are completely out of touch with the reality of who the consuming public is. They cannot see beyond their own noses and their own narcissistic vision of who buys things and why.
These people are frantically pissing away money and resources developing mobile Facebook apps for the .1% of the population who might ever use them and completely ignoring the people who actually buy the things they sell.
They operate under a set of fictitious beliefs about people over 50.
- That they are more (or less) brand loyal than younger consumers. Nonsense.
- That they are more price-conscious than younger consumers. Also nonsense.
- That they spend less money than younger people. Major nonsense.
But of all the delusions that are summoned forth to justify their out-of-date, ossified addiction to youth, perhaps the most pervasive and ridiculous is the idea of “lifetime value.” Or, as the legend goes, if you get ’em young you’ll have ’em for life.
Every time someone with a functioning brain points out that people over 50 are a way better target for most advertisers, some knucklehead drags out a variant of the “lifetime value” fairy tale. Last week, the stupidity of this argument was exposed in a study published by the journal Science.
According to The New York Times a team of psychologists released a study which discredited what they call “the end of history illusion” i.e., the illusion that things will remain as they currently are and we will stay like we are now.
“..when asked to predict what their personalities and tastes would be like in 10 years, people of all ages consistently played down the potential changes ahead… People seemed to be much better at recalling their former selves than at imagining how much they would change in the future.”
Why? According to one of the authors of the study we simply do not realize “how transient our preferences and values are…”
The “end of history illusion” is the intellectual fallacy behind the “lifetime value” fantasy.
The idea that someone who is 20 today will be wearing the same clothes, driving the same car, drinking the same beverages, shopping in the same stores in 20 years is absurd. Yet this is the rationale marketers use to justify the vacuous strategy of chasing young people and ignoring the people who have and spend most of the money.
The marketing and advertising industries have feasted on the 18-49 group for several decades. What they do not yet comprehend is that the people who made the 18-49 group so valuable have left the building.
That game is over. A new game has begun. And today’s dopey marketers are too busy admiring their “likes” to notice it.
– The Ad Contrarian is Bob Hoffman, ceo of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St. Louis. Hoffman is the author of The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. Reprinted from his blog The Ad Contrarian.
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