Generation X, Whole Foods and Logan’s Run

Gen X alumnae of The Logan’s Run School of Marketing are invited to enroll in the remedial Willie Sutton PhD Program

Starting in 2015, four million Gen Xers will turn 50 every year. At the stroke of midnight, gratefully clutching their benefits-laden AARP invitation packets, they shuffle off into the void from which no exile from the 18-49 demographic ever returns.

Gen X aged 50 and above 2015_2020By 2020 a total of twenty five million Xers will have fallen out of favor with brand strategists. Still in their peak earning years, they will take their bulging checkbooks with them.

It’s all due to the old-guard Madison Avenue meme that consumers are unadaptable after reaching fifty, and no longer warrant targeting. We call it the Logan’s Run School of Marketing.

The 1976 sci-fi movie Logan’s Run is set in an idyllic, hedonistic future regulated by a silky-voiced 23rd century super-computer with a seriously bad attitude. Everything is, like, groovy until the inhabitants turn thirty, at which point they are terminated. Even at her grumpiest, Siri is never that hostile.

In the modern enlightened version, fifty is apparently the new thirty; but our two decade reprieve still ends with a merciless fade to black.

Willie Sutton_Where The Money WasHowever, as the 50-year threshold looms for Gen Xers in the marketing and advertising industry, we sense willingness to rethink the rules and enroll in our Willie Sutton PhD Program.

After Willie was nabbed for highly publicized string of 1930s bank robberies, he was asked why, and famously replied: “Because that’s where the money is.” 

When it comes to consumer buying power, the 50+ space is where the money is – around 80% of America’s private net worth. There is no better place for disruptive brands to grab market share from sleepy competitors.

Ageless MarketingThe only requirement for Willie Sutton PhD Program candidates is a clear understanding that age-restricted targeting wastes brand opportunities.

All that matters is a clear-eyed focus on increasing profits and the interests and values that unite consumers at any age. It’s a simple pass/fail course.

Okay, full disclosure: this is actually the basis of David B. Wolfe’s Ageless Marketing (2003). It’s far more informative than our Willie parable, but hey, we tell stories here.

Whole Foods, cute little cars and teachable moments

Whole Foods has an awesome track record in the health and wellness grocery store space. So, no doubt, careful strategic thinking is behind news that the company will target Millennials with a new chain of stores offering lower-prices. Hmm … low prices at Whole Foods – now that’s news!

The Washington Post discussed it in terms of the Millennials’ renowned lack of spending power, quoting the chain’s CEO John Mackey as saying “It will offer a convenient, transparent, and values-oriented experience geared towards millennial shoppers,”

The decision also offers a teachable moment in street smart marketing. Actually, not so smart marketing. Boomers. duh, greeted the news with excitement – we can’t wait to switch from our regular, expensive Whole Foods outlet to one with lower prices and a cool, youthful ambiance.

Here at VizioNation we figure the outcome will mirror the experience of automakers who launched affordable funky little cars for cool 20/30-somethings. Instead, (HT IHS Research) median buyer ages for three econo-fun cuties looked like this in 2013:

smart car_Club Monaco

  • smart car: ooh là là – croissants at a Parisien bistro … 55.3 years
  • Fiat 500: Volare on a transistor radio … che bello … 50.8 years
  • Scion: Toyota’s “youthful” sidekick … cowabunga! … 49.1 years

Add the homely-but-cuddly Honda Element to the list. A “dorm room on wheels” (Fortune Magazine) that, although diligently researched at college kid venues, was actually bought by “old” buyers with active, youthful values and – especially – the ability to pay. When it comes to new vehicles, dealership sales staffs can be quite inflexible on the matter of payment. Who’da thunk it?

  • When the Element was finally discontinued, the median buyer age was 52 years

YumNo wonder auto industry wags dubbed these practical little vehicles geezer pleezers.

But it’s unfair to blame the products. Older buyers were just obeying ageless marketing principles: core values do not respect arbitrary barriers such as a fiftieth birthday.

Jim Gilmartin, ageless marketing expert and founder of the Coming Of Age advertising agency, summarized it best in a November 4th, 2014, blog:

The alternative to age-based is ageless marketing – marketing based not on age but on values and universal desires that appeal to people across generational divides. Age-based marketing reduces the reach of brands because of its exclusionary nature. In contrast, ageless marketing extends the reach of brands because of its inclusionary focus.

Disruptives are slowly recognizing the wisdom of Willie Sutton. The 93 million Americans born as Baby Boomers plus slightly older sibling born 1940-1945 – the Boomer-Plus Generation™ – own over 70% of U.S. household net worth. We’re where the money is; learn how to get your share.

Opportunity_Willie Sutton

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