The folly of youth-obsessed marketing

When I turned 40 a few years ago, I embraced it. Fully. It was a coming of age that promised heightened credibility–if based on nothing more than accumulated life experience–and a milestone that entitled me to a bit of sass. I owned it, and I loved it.

As I rapidly approach my 47th birthday, I’m coming to terms with the fact that society no longer categorizes me as a “young” person. I’m well beyond that most coveted demographic that lies somewhere between the ages of 18 and 35. I’m a Gen Xer, a group categorized by generational trend specialist Ann Fishman as “cynical and self-reliant.” There are about 66 million of us. An even bigger group (74 million) is the Baby Boomers—the “me” generation that Fishman advises does not want to talk about age, but rather “lifestyle.”

but age matters when it comes to marketing. and older may be better.

We–as a society and as marketers–have largely turned our backs on these “older” generations to focus our efforts on Millennials. Modern social and cultural norms dictate that younger is better, but if you’ve diverted too much (or all) of your attention in that direction, you’re leaving a big chunk of change on the table.


  • Baby Boomers represent approximately half of the US population (2017), and control 70 percent of its disposable income. They represent $46 trillion in wealth and are projected to inherit $15 trillion over the next two decades. And yet, only 5 percent of ad dollars are targeting Boomers. (Forbes)
  • Marketing campaigns targeting Boomers are twice as likely to be successful than those targeting Millennials. (University of Michigan)
  • Millennials respond less to advertising than any previous generation. (Entrepreneur)

So while the youth-obsessed marketing industry is scrambling to figure out how to sell goods and services to 71 million Millennials with an “un-marketing” approach, 140 million Boomers and Gen Xers who are receptive to marketing and have money to spend are largely ignored. Messaging is not tailored to us, and the “one-size-fits-all” strategy (i.e. marketing to Millennials and thinking everyone else will get on board) isn’t getting it done, either.

what do you think?

I’m guessing that, with a few exceptions, your customer base includes Gen Xers (1965-1980), Boomers (1946-1964), and perhaps even the Silent Generation (1928-1945). You may be a member of one of these groups yourself. As I’ve been toying with the idea of focusing on clients who want to tap the spending power of these generational groups, I’m curious to hear your thoughts in this quick, 2-minute survey:


thanks in advance.

This is the part where I usually do my call to action, inviting you to get in touch if you have a marketing need that I can help with. Today, I just want to say thank you for sharing your thoughts on generational marketing, and helping me to be a better marketer. If you do have a need, however, or want to talk more about this generational stuff, by all means let me know.

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