The Marketer’s Problem
It is time to think differently about age. The reason for this change may not be noble, but are you willing to take a gift in whatever form it happens?
The story begins with a new problem in the market place. There is mounting frustration about how to deal with Boomers. Apparently we are rebelling against being labeled “old”. Boomers don’t want to be called older, seniors, the elderly, or older adults. Marketers don’t know how to address us. Ms Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, a research marketing firm in New York, said, “For heavens sake don’t call them anything. You can talk about their interests their values or what they do but don’t label them.” She meant don’t put them in an age block.
You see this is serious. The marketers probably know that 50% of the countries wealth is controlled by boomers. This means Boomers are responsible for over half of all consumer spending. (See Baby Boomer Statistics on Google if you want to check it out.) We are an economic force that is difficult to ignore. They want to do anything but alienate us as a group.
But there is an odd twist in all this concern about how to address us. They are really stuck, because they don’t realize the depth of the problem. How do they let go of using age to distinguish us? Thinking in terms of age is so deep and habitual. For over 100 years our culture has used age as a convenient way to categorize the population. The downside of this is that people have become hyper-focused and identified themselves as an age. An older age means, who we are has become negative, bad, old and worthless.
Thomas Cole, director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston wrote: “The culture’s problem is that we split aging into good and bad. We’re unable to sustain images of growing older that handle the tension between spiritual growth, the good, and physical decline, the bad. In the Hebrew Bible, aging is both a blessing and a curse. But our culture can’t achieve this kind of synthesis.” Are we being too black and white? Is our thinking too simplistic, as a culture?
Open Your Mind and Think Again
I think it is possible for Boomers to change this story. If you can’t call a Boomer anything related to being older, why not forget about using age as a criteria for talking about them at all. Ms Fishman is right but for different reasons. She is calling attention to it to avoid irritating Boomers. Why not take a lesson from colonial times in America. People were labeled by what they did. Can’t a retired golfer be a golfer? Can’t a student, old or young, be a student? Can’t a grandmother be a childcare provider, if that is what she does? My hope is it will loosen, if not dissolve, our habit of thinking about how old we are. Who we are is different from what we do. It should help to separate age from how we identify ourselves. I could identify myself as a vital and passionate person who is interested in modern art without even referencing my age.
The marketers will help us out here, just because avoiding age references pays them in the long run. This works for me. I’ll take whatever help I can get. I love the idea of not being put in an age box. How do you imagine it would be to take the focus off how old or young we are. For me, it gives room to breathe and be myself instead of my age.