retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There was a piece on Salon.com the other day that reinforced a point that has been made in other ways here on MNB, but is worth making yet again. It also plays into the theme explored by Michael Sansolo above - the importance of being keenly attuned to the nature of one’s customer base, and not making broad generalizations.

The Salon piece was about a new website being launched by the Huffington Post, and headlined by actress Rita Wilson (who also happens to be Mrs. Tom Hanks). The site is called Huff/Post 40, and it is designed to be for women older than 40.

The announcement of this new sit, Salon wrote, “was yet another reminder of the vast cliff we are perceived to jump off at the end of our 30s. Long past that golden 18-35 demographic, we are instead one big lumpy swarm, just eating fiber together and buying products with the word ‘mature’ somewhere on the label ... The implication is that after 39, who wants to keep track anyway? Magazines like More vaguely allude to ‘the richest years’ of a woman's life and offer tips on how to dress ‘modern’ and the best makeup ‘trends.’ Earlier this year, Moviefone paid tribute to ’40 Actresses Over 40’ - a list that put 40-year-old Jennifer Connelly right next to 64-year-old Glenn Close, and 41-year-old Rachel Weisz next to 63-year old Dianne Wiest.”

And that’s the real point - and the completely valid objection to this classification: “There's something downright silly about the idea that all of us born prior to 1972 are part of the same tribe, that we have the same experiences, interests or vitamin formulas. The 41-year-old Tina Fey, who is expecting her second child this year, isn't the same ‘over 40’ as 65-year-old Helen Mirren.”

Exactly.

Salon goes on, “We are not living in narrow times. The graying boomers and Gen-Xers are listening to the same Radiohead and Black Keys and Springsteen music their kids and grandkids are, playing the same Nintendo, and borrowing each other's ironic T-shirts.”

Precisely. And it isn’t just women.

This is the point I was trying to make not too long ago when I objected to A&P creating a discount promotion for people over 55, and saying it was for “Senior Citizens.” (I saw a sign on the door for this promotion when I walked past an A&P the other day. I kept walking. On principle. I may be over 55, but I’m no Senior Citizen. I may not think of myself that way when I’m over 75.)

Some of this is media driven, and some of it comes from people’s quite natural desire to categorize groups in the easiest possible way. It makes them easier to deal with that way. Less muss and fuss.

That’s something that marketers need to resist. Just as all women over 40 do not have the same needs, concerns and desires, not all people who fit into the Baby Boomer category are focused on exactly the same issues.

I was born in 1954, right in the middle of the Baby Boom. My attitude toward life is likely to be significantly different from someone born in the late forties or the early sixties.

This is worth keeping one’s Eyes Open about. Because of you market to the broadest common denominator, you may be marketing to the lowest common denominator. And that’s not smart marketing.
KC's View: