Death By Demographics


It’s like hitting a brick wall: doomed to suffer death by demographic.

You’re asked to fill out a survey and reach the age section. A typical survey might have the following categories.

  • 18 – 24
  • 25 – 34
  • 35 – 44
  • 45 – 54
  • 55 – 64
  • 65+

According to this list if you are 65 or older your thinking processes and brand decisions are the same as an 80-, 90- or 100-year-old. Did you feel an awful twinge when you realize you’re only represented by the last category? My friends and I fall into this final void. A label which apparently limits us to brand choices like bathroom apparatuses for the aging or worse, a casket or urn.

As a television producer I was once told not to bother submitting any ideas on programs for people over 45. Advertisers were not interested in anyone over that age. The guiding rationality is that age groups define consumers with fixed brand preferences and are not likely to change.

Okay, maybe I have had the same hairstyle for the past 25 years but that doesn’t mean I don’t switch it up or venture into the unknown. In fact, the older I get the more likely I am to try new things. I can still be swayed by a good commercial or fall for the promise of achieving laundry bliss.

I would argue that numbered categories in surveys don’t reflect what the real world has to offer. How can you determine a marketing strategy based on numbers when there are so many variables? There are 25-year-old couch potatoes who survive on a steady diet of video games and junk food while 75-year-olds run marathons. I know some 30-year-olds who are set in their ways and some 90-year-olds who are game to try anything new and vice versa.

Do marketers think old means static? I beg to differ. My mother climbing on monkey bars at 55 probably rebelled as a role model for typical aging, thank goodness. I have one sister who, between 52 and 59, travelled the world, on the way – bungee jumping and hostel surfing – to a new life in England. . My other sister is 78, an internet-savvy, part-time office manager, making buying decisions for her company daily. I am a 69-year-old freelancer, and my only brand loyalty lies firmly with one chocolate manufacturer. Everything else is fair game. Here are four women in the same family who are profitable people to market to.

Think of all the others out there who have been written off because they fit into the 65+ cohort; relegated to death by demographic when in fact they are strong, healthy, open-minded, adventurous people with purchasing power.

Let’s throw out the numbers and go back to our ABCs to understand our audience, where age can fit into any category. Not only does the alphabet allow for twenty more categories, it gives a sense of who those shoppers are. Here are a few tongue-in-cheek category suggestions to help marketers better target their consumers.

A. Arthritic but Adventurous: starting to age but willing to try new things.
B. Buy Buy Baby: loves to spend money buying the most expensive brands.
C. Coupon Queen: loves to spend money but loves a good bargain.
D. Dull and Listless: doesn’t care about shopping or personal appearance.
E. Energetic Eco Fan: buys eco-friendly products at any cost.
F Fiscal Philosopher: carefully thinks through every purchase.

And the rest of the alphabet offers endless possibilities.

A very savvy marketer told me it’s important in the digital age to be very specific when it comes to your target market. My alphabet suggestion opens 26 new ways to categorize consumers. I am sure the marketing gurus can come up with sexier and more entertaining names. Let’s hope they jump on this opportunity.

Biography – Adrienne Sharp

Adrienne Sharp is the founder of Silver Warriors: an initiative recognizing people over 65 who inspire others to live an active and healthy lifestyle. These Silver Warriors are engaged members in their community either through work, volunteerism or physical activity.

Adrienne’s background is in journalism and communications. She has 40 years of experience as a producer and writer in the television and video industry with numerous broadcast and corporate clients. She started as an anchor and reporter at a small TV station and has spent the last 36 years as a freelance producer in Toronto. She has also completed a Mastery of Coaching Program; spending time as a seminar leader at Landmark Education. Adrienne is also an avid hiker and last year completed the West Highland Way, 150km in 8 days.

You can visit her website