We’re not all the same

I have this girlfriend who's a month older than me. We grew up together, spent countless hours hanging out as tweens, during high school and into our early 20s. We had similar upbringings. So, both being educated women in our mid-thirties, you'd assume we'd have the same lives right?

I have this girlfriend who’s a month older than me. We grew up together, spent countless hours hanging out as tweens, during high school and into our early 20s. We had similar upbringings. So, both being educated women in our mid-thirties, you’d assume we’d have the same lives right?

Not even close. She resides in the same small town we grew up in, whereas I make my home in Toronto. She vacations in Orlando, and I prefer Europe, even though I can’t afford it. She dines at the Mandarin, and I frequent that quaint sushi joint in my neighbourhood. As a marketer, do you really expect your message to resonate with both of us?

It’s a mistake a lot of companies make when going after a broad demographic group. Especially boomers, a population segment that marketers have largely ignored in the past. With over half of the country’s discretionary spending at their fingertips, firms are beginning to realize the potential in speaking to the baby boom demo, as this issue’s Where Next feature ‘Boom goes your brand’ (starting on page 33) indicates. However, as Robert Mason, co-founder of Toronto-based consultancy Boomers Marketing points out, one of the biggest myths about 45-64s is that they are all alike. Judging by the ads, they are all grinning, denture-wearing, silver-haired freaks.

DaimlerChrysler didn’t make that mistake. Both its Chrysler 300 series and Dodge Charger brands chase boomers, but very different boomers. For instance, the Charger customer participates in motor boating, while the 300 driver has a penchant for sailing. The former is a spectator at football and hockey games, whereas the latter would rather attend a tennis match. Obviously, each model’s marketing strategy reflects that. And it’s worked: In February, the automaker sold almost twice as many units of those brands, combined with the Dodge Magnum (also geared at boomers), than it did in the same month the previous year.

A similar learning came out of my research for the Youth report, which begins on page 45. Although it won’t come as a surprise, not all teens are the same. Some are jocks, others are geeks. Some like rap music, others like punk rock. Just like high school. It’s obvious, sure, but many marketers try to be all things to all kids, jumping on every trend that enraptures youth, although mostly when said fad is no longer hot with the cool kids. It would be smarter to pick a segment and stick to it.

That’s what our cover guy Sam Baio, founder of West 49, consistently does well, and it’s exactly why he’s so successful. He knows skateboarders well and supports their culture exclusively. That means he avoids rap and urban influences, because ‘it isn’t who we are.’ It also means turning his back on fads that could up sales, like the scooter frenzy from a couple of years ago. Baio estimates he could have made hundreds of thousands of dollars peddling scooters, but he stayed away because he knew it wasn’t true to his brand.

Joanne Fletcher from Puma shares that philosophy. (See Who to Watch, page 22.) She turned down a placement on Canadian Idol, in order to keep her fringe youth target (consisting of urban bike couriers, among others) from balking. Would you do the same?

Lisa D’Innocenzo

Editor