We live in a society already obsessed with age. Its no secret that advertising begins and ends with the “demographic” and the prime demographic, no matter what the era, is 18-35 years of age. This, quite simply, is the age of “buying things”.
Young adulthood, is the time of long sought-after independence; first jobs, first apartments, early marriage, first children. The idea is simple, if you’re ready to start building a life… you’re ready to start buying. Economically speaking, this makes sense. However, I can’t help but think that the blind devotion to this age group goes beyond the simple fact that the average 25 year old, with their first or second real job, is more likely to buy a pair of jeans than a seersucker suit. But what if I were a manufacturer of seersucker suits and want to sell ever more seersucker suits?
My research shows me that the majority of people that buy my suits are between the ages of 40 and 65. This age group is the core of my business, in today’s jargon, the “Baby Boomers”. But the Boomers are aging and people that age don’t consume, they save.
They save for oncoming medical expenses, retirement, and, yes, retirement homes and funeral services. Not very sexy…not very exciting, in fact, downright depressing. This in spite of the fact, as long as there are human beings getting older everyday, which for the most part, is always the case (how many “unsuccessful” funeral homes do you know of? ), I still want, no, NEED, a larger portion of sales to go to 18-35 years olds. This validates not only my product and my business, but ME as a purveyor of seersucker. I too am trendy. I too am cool!
After all a “demographic” is just a condensation of what was once called a “group dynamic”. Just being a “Millennial” I feel special, not just because I am young and exhuberant but because the media magic which effects me, no matter what, insists on my being special. It saves me a lot of trouble from having to create my own sense of self, or what my parents expect of me, or even what my peers and friends, expect of me. I neatly fit into a world of Bud Light Beer, Levi Jeans, Nike sneakers and my trusty iPhone in my hip pocket. I am now assured of success on my job, success in love, success in life! Its profoundly easy to live one’s dream life if that dream life is laid out before you. All I have to do is buy it. But where does the dream end and the reality begin, and vice-versa? Is there even any real difference between the two?
I hire an ad agency, they do their own research on how “Millennials” feel about seersucker suits, how their peer groups feel about seersucker, and the best ways to “reach” Millenials to share with them the merits, the coolness of seersucker. I could “reinvent” the power of seersucker through social strategies; Facebook pages devoted to seersucker, daily tweets on the latest celebrities and sports stars decked out in seersucker. Perhaps build a “Seersucker and You” app for IOS and Android, that displays numerous options and apparel for men and women alike. Seersucker can be the “Next Big Thing”!
And our “Boomer” generation? What about them? Do they continue to buy their seersucker or now that seersucker is for the “young”, do they abandon it altogether? Do I, the seersucker manufacturer, abandon the aging, unexciting, uncool Baby Boomer? After all we all know that life after 40 just becomes a vast market for American luxury cars, golf vacations and Viagra. There is no veneration of experience and wisdom and other “earthly” values because, quite frankly, there’s no money in it. This is, of course, an exaggeration, but is it really THAT exaggerated?
We are now a culture of brands. According to Wikipedia, Brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” Brands are used in business,marketing, and advertising.
We have become so immersed in the culture of brands and branding that we now routinely brand ourselves, and I don’t mean personal branding, but group branding. We are all millennials, boomers, generation X, Y and Zers, and like any other brand, carry expectations of service, quality and dependability…or not. I hate to say it, but somewhere in all this, where is good old fashioned humanity? I don’t mean the “crunchy granola” sense of humanity but more the simple human respect for those that came before us and those who come after. We now live in a world where each new generation takes credit for “inventing the wheel”, not because of peer pressure, but that’s what they are told. Is our sense of self, really our self, or what we’re told we’re supposed to be, whatever “category” we find ourselves in? Am I better off because I’m a Millennial and not a Boomer? Is my life actually better because I’m the target market? Is my life really better because of my Levi’s and iPhone? And why is it so easy to believe it is? In short, it probably is if I actually think it is. And after all, isn’t that the REAL power of advertising…not changing our minds, but making up our minds?
But the real point that no one really wants to think about, is that in 20 years, it will be the “Millennials” that become the new “Boomers” and whatever generation that comes after them, whatever their “brand”, this generation will become the new darlings, the new “It” crowd, the new Chosen, and the cycle will begin again.
More research, more strategies, ever more complex, ever more compelling ways to sell seersucker to them. And in turn, they will believe, some more than others, that they were the first to discover the “coolness” of seersucker. Remember, seersucker itself has been around since the beginnings of the colonial British Empire, a time when the average Millennial’s grandfathers’ grandfather was buying the new, the trendy, seersucker suit. I bet grandpa’s grandpa thought seersucker was pretty “cool” , too. (Yes, pun intended…)