Targeting Listeners Over 35? Read This!

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip March 1, 2005

“What youth deemed crystal, age found out was dew,” wrote Robert Browning. But just try telling that to your young and youth-fixated agency buyers if you’re selling a station which targets listeners over 35, 45, or – God forbid – 50.


Lots of radio stations have audiences that skew 35-54 or 35-64. They often find that buyers are biased against their stations for this reason, regardless of how healthy their ratings are. What advice would you give these broadcasters?

“Those stations might consider coalescing into an association with a suitably descriptive name, and develop a marketing campaign to persuade advertisers that the big payoff in markets today lie with those age groups.”

“The numbers support that, but advertisers – aided and abetted by the young people in marketing – haven’t fully focused on the fact that the largest population and greatest pending power clearly lies with the 35-plus set.”

How big is this oldish market? How much money is there? Do they spend it? And if so, why don’t advertisers care to reach this audience with the same zeal they reserve for 18-49s?

– A Baby Boomer turns 50 every 7.5 seconds – As of 2005, half of all people between the ages of 50 and 74 are Boomers – The size of the 50+ population will more than double over the next 35 years – The 50-plus set makes up 35% of the population – The 50-plus set controls 77% of privately held financial assets and has 57% of the discretionary income

“Though spending peaks around age 50, the combination of stalled population growth in the under-50 population and the explosive growth in the 50 and older population means no room for sales growth in the adult under 50 age group but huge sales growth potential in the 50 and older age group.”

“As to why advertisers have been ignoring these huge and growing markets, I think it’s largely a matter of negative stereotypes of older people as consumers and a sort of Newtonian-like principle by which a belief in place, like an object in place, tends to stay in place. Most people simply don’t like to change even when by any objective reckoning they should.”

Is it possible to appeal across generations if your natural market is older? How can values-based appeals bring in younger listeners without sacrificing the base?

“Great questions. Intergenerational marketing is more important than ever before because the age groups that traditionally spend most in the consumer economy have stopped growing. By shifting to an intergenerational marketing approach you extend your brand’s reach.”

“New Balance’s spectacular growth over the past 15 years – when it moved from #12 sneaker maker to the #3 position – was fueled by its shift from age-segmented marketing to intergenerational marketing – what I call ageless marketing.”

“Certain values are age specific, such as the social values that confer on adolescents their herd-like behavior. However, other values are universal, such as self-reliance, love, fidelity in relationships, and of course, God, flag, motherhood and apple pie. The secret to intergenerational marketing is to project universal values. Hallmark has been doing this for years. Young and old alike will reach for their Kleenex when watching a Hallmark commercial. That’s what happened with one of Coke’s all-time most successful television commercials – Mean Joe Green – that ran in 1980. People remember it with astonishing accuracy 25 years later!”

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