Brother and Sister
Defining Retirement

Marketing to Older Folks

There is a conversation going on at David Wolfe’s Ageless Marketing about why advertisers spent so few dollars targeting the over-50 crowd. They must be spending their TV hours with Nickelodeon because on the channels I watch there are a whole lot of arthritis, constipation and erectile dysfunction commercials – not products aimed at the youth market.

There is an abundance of marketing targeted to older folks, although it is all generally negative, as if people older than 50 have no interest in anything but bodily malfunctions.

Ignoring those, however, older people are marketed to all day and night on television just like everyone else. Age doesn’t matter in regard to household products, automobiles, food, cruise vacations and cell phones. And for that, the advertising industry which uses models and actors from a variety of age groups to hawk all kinds of products, deserves applause.

Marketing appears to me to be one of the few areas of American culture that is age neutral and I’m not so age chauvinist as to ignore a car commercial just because the vehicle in question is being driven by a gorgeous 20-something. At the same time, I suspect that no college kid in need of a telephone service ignores Verizon just because pitchman, James Earl Jones is 70 years old.

We do a lot of complaining about ageism here at TimeGoesBy, but it’s hard to make that case against marketers; it is the products that too frequently don't suit older people, not the advertising.

Meanwhile, Other Plans deconstructs a Zogby survey she received seeking to determine older women’s interests for the purpose of marketing to them:

“One section wanted to know if we’d be interested in a ‘Women Only’ concert. Uh, no. What for?…Some of my favorite musicians and fans come with testicles. And others don’t…

“Another section wanted to know if it would be helpful to have a body/mind/spirit website targeted to women our age. My reaction to that was that it would be fine for some. For me it sounded like it would be too pastel.”

Other Plans is right; the topics selected by marketers, publishers and the media in general as women-oriented are almost always insulting. They assume women (in this case, older ones) have no interest in politics, finance, business, war, the law, taxation, etc. and by extension, that men have no interest in the “softer” subjects. Both are false…

As is the idea that older people deserve a separate marketing category. Certainly there are products designed to appeal to differing age groups and advertisers appear have mastered the art of targeting those quite well. For the rest of it – what is it they think I don’t appreciate, at my advanced age, about the Geico gecko?


Don't know if your site is trackback-enabled. I have sent trackbacks only once before. I wanted to thank you for your kind comments, so I wrote about you without mentioning your name or your web site since I didn't ask you first. I just wanted to say how nice it is when someone takes the trouble to read you.

For the rest of it – what is it they think I don’t appreciate, at my advanced age, about the Geico gecko

or the AFLAC duck :)

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