The year is 1913. The automobile is more than a novelty by this time. It is here to stay, and already, in the big cities, cars are beginning to outnumber horses on the major thoroughfares. Every young and growing family of any means has one of these contraptions. And the Ford Motor Company is pumping these babies out as fast as his factory will allow. In fact, if you’re Henry Ford, in 1913, you can’t imagine that ANYONE would want to be without a car, given its obvious speed, convenience and ability to vastly improve commerce.
But that same year, anyone who is over 50 has grown up with the horse and buggy and they are far from abandoning the most dependable and affordable form of transportation there is. Out in the countryside, they’re even more locked in to the old ways. Of course, they’re all a dying breed – literally – and one day, maybe in another decade or two, Mr. Ford will be right. But in the meantime, it still pays to be a blacksmith.
The year is 2013. Social Media is more than a novelty. And the digital universe will continue to play a growing role in how one makes choices in every area. But there’s a market divide here as well: those under 50 who, growing up, depended on television and now the Internet as their major information sources, and those over 50 who grew up with newspapers, books and encyclopedias, news magazines, radio and eight channels of TV to inform their world view. Those gray-haired Baby Boomers and pre-Boomers aren’t ready to give up the old medium forms or use the full potential of Internet the way their younger counterparts are. They still rely on traditional media and the power of face-to-face relationships to form their opinions. It’s how they’re hard-wired, even though many Boomers and older seniors may have Facebook accounts and smart phones.
For the visionary marketer under the age of 50, little wonder that he or she sees the future the way Henry Ford did in 1913. Soon, EVERYBODY will be wired, interactive, and engaged in the multiplicity of online touch points.
But whoa! If you’re reaching buyers over 50, which is the absolutely dominant market for health care, retirement living, destination travel, hospice care and funeral services, it still pays to know how to shoe horses!
I spoke last week to a senior services industry group, most of whom were Boomers or older, and they were very clear on the fact that for the next decade at least, Boomers and the older generations will remain the primary target audience. In fact, it was fascinating to note how many of these industry professionals struggled to understand how to use Facebook. Well, they’re over 50, just like their buyers!
If you’re under 50, you might chuckle at these old codgers and say their ways are fast coming to a close. But do remember, if you’re selling anything to Baby Boomers and older, these old-school marketers are more on-target than you are.
Young emerging marketing directors need to know how to employ the technological and social changes that are underway. But if you’re marketing to Boomers and older, automotively speaking, this is still 1913, not 1930. The changes that should be happening right now aren’t so much about how to use Facebook and Twitter but how to speak to the Baby Boomer better, understand their culture better, speak their language better and show up where they are. That means more relevant branding, more choices of products and services, adroit use of surprise, humor and respectful irreverence in marketing, and the avoidance of anything that reeks of clichés and stock or traditional messages.
Visionary thinking is wonderful, but while you’re looking well down the path, it pays to watch where your very next step will be as well.