I’m 62 and I have a friend. I know, both facts seem unlikely but they’re true. He’s an ex-motocross racer, a black-belt at Taekwando and runs a tattoo shop here in England. He is of course heavily tattooed, muscular and slightly abrasive to put it politely. He’s about my age but when he hit 50 he rang me to say:
“Guess what I got in the post today, on my 50th birthday. A brochure for a Stannah effing Stairlift”.
I have removed most of the expletives. Some simpering young marketing exec thought that this man at 50 would welcome a brochure that inferred he couldn’t walk upstairs on his own.
Even those of us who perhaps look more our age switch off from this sort of approach. I remember reading a retired marketing man talking about his own industry’s shortcomings:
“I see an ad for a ship’s cruise, with this grey-haired man in a cardigan, sitting on a deckchair smiling at the sea. And I get it, I’m meant to empathise with him, that’s meant to be me. But I instead recoil, and go the other way.”
If I had to summarise what’s wrong with all of the above it’s that none of it displays the slightest suggestion of adrenalin, danger, sex, risk, or testosterone.
Why is that? One reason is that simpering marketing executive I mentioned earlier. Look at them. They’re 12. Now, far be it from me to be rude about GenerationZ, after all, they’re a cohort I focus on professionally, but think about it this way. On a hillside a fair distance away there are two people standing, one nearer, one further. Through binoculars it’s actually quite difficult to see what sort of distance is between the two figures, they both seem to be roughly equidistant.
So it is with a young person looking at someone much older. Whether you’re 58 or 75, the gap from their young perspective is quite hard to see. As Paul Long pointed out in an earlier post, not only is ageism rampant in marketing offices, only 19% of the workforce is likely to be over 55. They can’t see that far ahead.
And, anyway, if you’re, like, 65, and retired, what’s the difference between that and dead? It’s not like, eeww, you still have sex, at least not with anyone else.
So they think they’ll attract our dollars by showing us a grey-haired chap dead-heading his roses (oh the symbolism) or polishing his classic car (yes, old car with a curious charm, yet slow, not very reliable, and with an embarrassing tendency to break down and leak).
And, if you’re in the USA, they’ll also bombard you with adverts that tell you that your dick doesn’t work, your teeth are falling out and your ass is an unexploded bomb.
We don’t have to take this. We don’t have to accept the views and judgments of those who may be in charge of marketing but who are barely old enough to be in charge of their own shoelaces. They’re nice people, and one day they’ll be like us, but in the meantime, we need to find some adults in the room to take our readily offered money, time and attention. If not it won’t just be our asses that explode.
Graham Scott has been a professional award-winning writer and author for 40 years and has run his own agency and so understands the complexities of bringing motivated new talent into the marketplace – and retaining it. He has rough-travelled extensively and has a penchant for axe throwing and single malt whiskey, although ideally not at the same time
Graham Scott is Head of Content at GenZ Insight. www.genzinsight.com
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