Hey Marketers, Age Up!

Last week I read “In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity”  in the New York Times. This smart primer on the state of our aging union examined “gray marketing” now that the first boomers are turning 65. At MIT, they’ve invented a special suit to simulate the physical deterioration. Creaky knees, anyone? Ken Dychtwald, an indefatigable advocate of rethinking aging points to all the opportunites to redub retirement as “rehirement.”

I was hit with three simultaneous reactions:

The Ego Protection Fault Line: In “What She’s Not Telling You,” we exposed five reasons women don’t always do or buy what they say they will. This article exposed one of our Whole Truths, Ego Protection: if products are overtly designed for boomers in a way that gives away their age or uncool factor, like obvious big buttons on phones, they fail. Boomers still see themselves as younger, so if a young person is turned off to a boomer feature, so are they. The GAP learned that lesson the hard way when their concept store for midlife apparel, Forth &Towne flopped by assuming ‘older’ women wanted to look well, older. The Whole Truth? They do want to look their age, but the age in their heads is about 15 younger than the age on their ID.

DejaVu All Over Again: I feel like I have read this article for years. This age resistance issue just won’t die with marketers. No matter how old they are, marketers are blind or at least averting their eyes to the reality of their aging customer base. Dare I admit that in 8 years, I could be featured when they rewrite this again in 2018? Like many women my age, I pass for a lot younger. I think young, I feel young and I like Lady GaGa’s music and I don’t wear pantyhose. But I generally keep my digits under wraps because I think that fellow marketers instantly marginalize anyone over 45…and in some environments, take that down to 40, 39, 38.. Media targets still cling to the dream team of 18-34, 25-40. Even older-suited categories like financial services and healthcare prefer to pursue the ‘peri-retirees’. Are we afraid of our own mortality? Are we in denial of our own mirrors? When will marketers younger and older, start facing the truth and chasing the big money in the marketplace?

The New Age Defiance:  I loved that the piece featured an 86 year old redhead who had her place wired to monitor every move, support her positive health behaviors and keep her at home. My redhead Mom lived at home till 82, still keeping up her crosswords, her high celebrity IQ and her calorie counting. At 91, my Dad relied on his Jitterbug phone, his Lifeline (which saved his life multiple times) and his at-home exercise bike which he pedaled while practicing speech therapy on his tape recorder. My parents were from a generation that aged with spirit and dignity. I think that our next generation of boomers will age with defiance and wishful thinking that will keep them younger longer. If it’s Ego Protection that preserves their youthfulness, so be it. I just hope that the marketers who are smart enough to recognize their power get over their stultified attitudes toward what’s old and what’s beautiful. Like her or not, Grandma ain’t going down easy.

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2 Ways to Make Me Feel Like I’m a Bad Mother in 1 Week

The New York Times ran what I’m sure was meant to be an innocous article this weekend in their NY/NJ Metropolitan section about an Upper East Side professional organizer. Basically for $450 for about 3 hours she will come to your fancy apartment on Park Ave and throw out all of your crap for you and then label what is left with a P-touch. This woman, Barbara Reich, is to thank for sentimental gems like “Everybody’s going to learn how to read and write” … “You don’t need the evidence.” as she tosses out your child’s first scribbles of the alphabet.

I don’t ideologically disagree with Reich and I will admit that the article motivated me to gather up 3 big bags of toys to donate. But I do think this article was another way to criticize moms for hanging onto toys, projects and sentimental sports equipment. Reich uses a tough love approach that must have worked well for her in her former life as a MBA management consultant. Her abrasive shtick gets her clients though and I’m sure her phone was ringing off the hook by Monday morning. The part that really bothered me in this profile though was that she makes NO attempt to recycle or donate the castaway toys. Instead she complains that “Our society is wasteful” as she fills up another garbage bag. I am far from green, to say the least, but I don’t think throwing away perfectly good toys and sporting goods sets a very good example for our kids or teaches them anything about value or charity.

The NYT article was nothing compared to the maelstrom caused by The Wall Street Journal’s article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” this past weekend. This article (really an excerpt from Amy Chua’s book that came out this week) was intentionally controversial (remember, book came out this week). The premise was that Chinese mothers raise more successful children because they don’t follow Western warm and fuzzy child rearing philosophies. While I read the article I will admit to beating myself up over my own lackluster discipline skills. I let my children have playdates and I imagine when they are in school I will “accept” an A- instead of an A+ on occassion. Chua’s superiority as a mother has caused a real blogosphere ruckus and has made me question my parenting just a little bit since reading it. (I will admit that the excerpt was a brilliant publicity move to market the book to women. It’s #6 today on Amazon).

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Forever21 Maternity: Pushing Pregnancy?

Forever 21, the retail store with clothes that typically fall apart after two washes, is finally embracing something that is forever—motherhood.  Love21 Maternity debuted in states with high teen pregnancy rates and caused a bit of a stir, but I’m having a hard time seeing the link between a maternity line in a clothing store and a company encouraging teen pregnancy.

I don’t think the girl picking out 8th grade dinner dance outfits in the dressing room line in front of me (yes, I shop there) would see the clothes and think, ‘wow, this store is so trendy, pregnancy must be in, I’ve got to get on that’, pretty sure she was just looking for a cute dress.

I am interested to see if the line does well. In research we recently did with pregnant women many admitted to not even purchasing maternity clothes, just stretching out the clothes they already owned or buying a bigger size to still feel pretty and stylish. With Forever21’s small sizing I could see a pregnant shopper just going to size L instead of buying maternity. Perhaps that will change with this new line. 

What do you think? Is Forever out of line?

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Who You Calling Elderly?

OK, on behalf of 50 plus people everywhere, I officially cry Foul! to the positioning of the new medical findings reported in the Wall St. Journal today “When Older Drivers Excel.”  The point of the article was no surprise to any parent of a teen, that ‘older’ drivers are better at anticipating and reacting to surprise road hazards, children on the street or just aggressive driving behavior while their younger, less experienced counterparts perfect the art of straight-ahead-only driving.  But as I read the piece, I was shocked to see that those astute drivers with 37 years of experience or more were termed “elderly.” That would mean, if someone started driving at the learner’s permit age of 16, they are officially elderly at age 52. You gotta be kidding!

For years, I’ve sat in my share of meetings where “older” women (those anywhere north of 39) were marginalized into the not-our-target zone. It always ticked me off and naturally, gets more annoying with each passing year. Who doesn’t hate to discover that they have moved into a new ‘checkoff’ box on an age questionnaire? When networks still count 21-49 as their demographics, what does that mean for the rest of us plunging off the cliff into death?

Meanwhile, those ‘older’ women who have the bucks to spend on everything from skin care to apparel to new homes and cars and yet they are shelved into feeling like they’ve passed their ‘use by’ date. While an economy still staggers to its feet, lurching from an uptick to another slump, you’d think it would finally be time for the media, for brands, for everyone to court the women who can save our collective bottom lines. As a copywriting friend once wrote for an article I did for MORE magazine, “Older women still kick butt…they just do it in more expensive shoes.” Elderly, my—.

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Diapers that Look Like Jeans. Yup.

As the mother of twins, I feel uniquely qualified to be quoted in the article by Andrew Adam Newman in today’s The New York Times. More than anything I love the risk Huggies took with an idea that probably sounded crazy the first time someone said it.

“We should make diapers that look like denim.”
“We Can’t”

I LOVE when an idea hits the market that probably made the internal people feel uncomfortable and maybe it didn’t even test well in focus groups (the F word!). Bravo Kimberly Clark and JWT.

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Nobody Puts Daddy in the Corner

Just read RebelDad’s post on putting Dad in the background on a recent Pamper’s Direct Mail Piece.

 I turned over the envelop to see the cover image. It shows a happy family. Two kids on the floor, coloring. One kid is joyfully sitting atop mom, who is prone, smiling at the other kid. And dad?  Dad is in the background, out of focus, on the couch.  Which — given P&G’s track record — is exactly where the company evidently believes dad is, most of the time.

I have to agree with Brian Reid. We’ve said for a while now that P&G is a Whole Truth Brand, especially with their Mom Sponsorship campaign. But this feels like Pampers may have went overboard on the Martyrdom Truth – We know that Moms generally take on more of the responsibilities, so excluding Dads from the Thanks campaign doesn’t bother me. But showing him watching from afar feels like the brand is disconnected from the family and knowing Moms, she wants to be as inclusive as possible!   I say put Dad on the floor and make everyone feel good!

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Mary Lou Reveals A Key Insight To Targeting Boomers

Mary Lou talks with Minyanville about a company that understands targeting boomers goes beyond acknowledging age.

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Is Peer Trust Dwinding?

Michael Bush reports in this week’s Advertising Age that an Edleman study reveals only 25% of people find their peers credible. At the same time, this year’s favorite Super Bowl line-up included consumer generated ads. Apparently our peers know what we like, but we’re not quite ready to trust them.   

With the proliferation of personal blogs and message boards and the ever-growing circle of virtual “friends” on social media sites, credentials matter.

In the article, Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, says it’s a sign of the times — and the lesson for marketers is consumers have to see and hear things in five different places before they believe it.  We couldn’t agree more with Mr. Edelman.

Half Truth: Women blindly trust their ‘Board of Directors’.

Whole Truth:  Women look for places where they can consistently find the blend of proven fact and informed, caring opinion.

We’ve seen the emergence of the Citizen Researcher over the last few years. There has been an evolution of research. Early on we saw a focus on research related to health, travel planning and recipe tips and now women are “researchers” of nearly every aspect of their lives. They are watchful of consistency and look to see what fits with their own common sense. And in the end, a woman’s gut will tell her who and what to believe.

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Adweek: Targeting Moms in the Big Game

Want to know how advertisers scored with moms on game day? Check out our Thursday Morning Quarterbacking in our Adweek article posted today!

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The WHOLE Truth about Mommy Tracking

My second blog as a Working Mother Magazine Thought Leader has been posted. The institutionalized Mommy Track may have faded away but is the remaining covert (and often inadvertant) Mommy Track keeping women from advancing their careers?

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January 30, 2023
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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