Boomers Still Into Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n Roll – How Meaningful Is Age Segmentation?

Middle and old age are traditionally seen as times of conformity, responsibility, risk aversion and settling down. Yet instead of retiring with pipe and slippers to listen to the classics, many of the new old are still pursuing the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of their youth. So argued in this article. Here are some interesting stats from the USA:

  • 61 percent of all 60-somethings today are still sexually active according to the National Council on Aging.
  • Singles 55 and older are the fastest growing group of online daters.
  • The rate of 50-somethings’ illicit drug use rose more than 70 percent during 2002-08; marijuana is now more prevalent with them than with any other age group. Four million Americans age 50 or older are estimated to have used at least one drug illicitly in the past year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s “National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009.”
  • Two-thirds of over 50s listen to rock more than any other genre, according to the Pew Research Center. And Recording Industry Association of America data show that over 40s are the only age group whose music purchasing has risen in the last decade.
  • A quarter of Americans over 50 play video games — up almost threefold since 1999 — and the average “frequent game purchaser” is 39-years-old, according to the Entertainment Software Association.
  • The average motorcyclist is 47-years-old, according to J.D. Power and Associates, and other Pew Research Center data show that three-quarters of baby boomers own cellphones and nearly a third have created a social networking profile.

With such attitudinal and behavioral shifts, it’s time to reassess age-related segmentation. Products and services we assumed teens would never want may now appeal to them, like insurance and pensions. But those we once happily sold them may now have to be rebranded for older markets, from street fashion and alcopops to personal technology. The standard “edgy” teen-focused ad — appealing to rebellious, hedonistic or iconoclastic values — may not work with the new teen, whereas ads that appeal to traditional values might. Those edgy ads might now be better aimed at the boomers, perhaps fronted by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler or Blondie’s Debbie Harry.

Obviously not every teenager or boomer conforms to these new typologies. But statistics suggest more and more do. It’s time to start targeting the conserva-teen and the new old. I’m already talking to my clients about making radical changes to the way they target older and younger customers. That is, while I’m not indulging my aging sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

In our language, we call all this ‘ageless marketing’ and ‘inclusive communications’.

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