Marketers Of The Future Don’t Care How Old You Are
Today – Monday 21st July 2014 – is the birthday of two of the G&I girls: Jessica and Sally-Ann. I won’t tell you how old they are – I will leave it to them to share this with you should they so wish.
The concept of ageism hit home to me during the SW11 Literary Festival 2012 when I arranged for author Isabel Losada to be interviewed by the Evening Standard. The journalist wanted the story of Isabel’s two week stint as a live mannequin, in the window of Waterstones store on St John’s Road in Battersea. Isabel sat in the window every day, all day for the two weeks of the Festival, surprising and delighting passers by, while she continued working on her new book. We called the project: An Author in Residence. I spoke to Isabel after her phone interview with E.S. had taken place, to ask how it went. “Well…”, Isabel replied, “I refused to answer the first question they asked.” My first thought was how could the Evening Standard ask a question which caused the interviewee to take the 5th? Was the question inappropriate? Personal? Stupid? “What DID they ask?” I said, my mind racing. “Guess!” Isabel challenged.
After 3 days of solid guessing and racking my brains, I gave up – I just couldn’t fathom what question Isabel had objected enough to risk irritating the reporter from the Standard (I know how much she loves the Festival – enough to give two weeks of her life to a shop window!). Before she told me what it was, Isabel said the fact I couldn’t guess revealed how little I think about this aspect of how I think about others. The journalist had asked Isabel her age. Isabel’s refusal caused the paper to do some digging – apparently they discovered she has a daughter (Emily), so the piece began: “Isabel Losada (mother of one)….”. I’m not sure what the paper, or its readers, would learn by knowing Isabel is of the age to have a child, particularly as the age of her daughter was not included in the piece. Interesting that the paper felt the need to include the number of children Isabel has – perhaps there is something to be learned by Emily being an only child – why not just continue with information about her being in the window? Isabel’s point was that it simply wasn’t relevant.
The age-old (excuse the pun!) print press tradition of including the age of the protagonist with the first mention of their name e.g. Rutter Thomas Clark (94), should be questioned. I use my father as the example as he was recently featured in a French daily newspaper, along with two other veterans of the Normandy landings of 1944, in which he took part. Dad’s age does provide the reader an instant confirmation that he did indeed take part in WW2 – his age adds a layer of authenticity to the story, whereas Isabel’s story, which carried a huge photo of her in the window at Waterstones, benefitted nothing in terms of informational value but rather continued this antiquated practice of judging people by their age.
The age range of the most engaged audience members are easily visible on Facebook brand pages (for the Admins only), but should the modern marketer draw insights from this data? The age range of users is getting wider (mostly older) and more diversely spread across the online spaces and social networks, which in turn are growing in number.
Today’s birthday celebrations in our office made me think about how much age really tells us about the audience and the importance of age for a successful, modern marketing strategy. I see the generalisations about age become increasingly faulty, as behaviours and tastes diversify, transcending the mere detail of when you were born.
The age of the majority of customers is a statistic which serves marketing managers only to select the mass media channels they wish to use such as tv and newspaper advertising. Broadcasting via social media is an all too common and fatal error made by many brands – I always tell attendees at our social media courses that “tweeting into the ether” produces very little results, whereas brands who speak like humans and specifically to individuals as well as groups, succeed in engaging their audience.
The good news for marketers is the online audience is self selecting and trackable – whatever the privacy settings. Google adword campaigns deliver intuitive, “targeted” results to millions of searchers every minute, funneling quality customers, usually with a need to fulfill, to websites in exchange for an advertising spend. Facebook advertising works in much the same way, offering brands the opportunity to select a mix of the demographics and data by which they pinpoint their target audience. The trend of tailoring individual customer journeys and communications will become a bigger part of a successful online marketing mix, as brands increase their understanding of the value of 1-2-1 interactions and learn how to harness the ever-growing possibilities of social media. The future of marketing doesn’t care how old you are and nor should you.